Israel’s Dossier Reveals Even More UNRWA Ties to Hamas 

Below the Sky /
Below the Sky /

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency was recently implicated in the October 7, 2023, Hamas attacks on Israel, leading to multiple countries withholding funding from the organization and the firing of twelve employees. As some of these countries resume funding UNRWA, however, more revelations of the organization’s involvement with Hamas are coming to light through a dossier used by Israel to lay out their claims against UNRWA and Hamas. 

According to these reports, 17% of the 8,300 teachers and 20% of the 500 school principals and deputy principals within UNRWA are affiliated with Hamas. The documents contained parts of textbooks from the agency’s schools that praise martyrdom and contain antisemitic ideas. These textbooks feature maps that depict one unified region labeled as Palestine without distinguishing between Israel and the Palestinian territories. 

The textbooks featured math problems referencing “the number of martyrs” from the initial and subsequent periods of rebellion. It also mentioned religious decrees about Allah’s expectations for “hypocrites in fighting against infidels” and how to honor martyrs properly. 

The dossier contains an analysis of satellite imagery indicating the presence of tunnels, believed to be associated with Hamas, beneath two boys’ schools, namely Maghazi Prep B Boys School and Zaitun Prep A Boys School. Despite UNRWA’s denouncement of these potential breaches of impartiality, reports suggest that these tunnels were still operational as of 2023. Additionally, Israel has located multiple schools in the Gaza Strip situated adjacent to areas used for launching rockets and mortars. 

Per the documents, 10% of UNRWA’s 1200 health services workers and relief staff in the Gaza Strip have affiliations, predominantly political, with Hamas. A smaller group of these employees is connected to the militant factions of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.  

However, the dossier may not be as factual as Israel wants the world to believe. 

Senior congressional adviser to the Washington, D.C., branch of UNRWA, William Deere, observed that the Israeli government initially disclosed only the identities of twelve employees involved in the first wave of attacks. It was only through international media coverage and a subsequent press briefing by an Israeli representative that UNRWA became aware of the broader allegations involving a more substantial number of its staff members allegedly linked to Hamas. 

Deere also warns that Israel’s assessments of UNRWA may contain distorted facts because of how the country views UNRWA. “Another section of the report notes what it says is Israel’s long-standing dislike of UNRWA and how Israeli bias serves to mischaracterize much of their assessments on UNRWA, resulting in distortions,” Deere cautioned. 

An initial investigation In February suggested that some UNRWA staff were probably involved in the attack. However, U.S. intelligence couldn’t confirm the broader claims of connections between UNRWA and Hamas as alleged by Israel.  

Earlier this week, survivors and relatives of those killed on October 7 filed a legal case against UNRWA. The lawsuit states that while most nonprofit organizations contribute positively to society by providing food, financial aid, and shelter to those in need, “on some very rare occasions, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization finances an international terrorist plot that kills over 1,200 innocent people.” 

The United Nations has not officially labeled Hamas as a terrorist organization, unlike certain countries like the United States and some members of the European Union. The UN has a different process for designating terrorist groups, and some officials consider Hamas more of a political movement.  

Resolutions related to Hamas have faced challenges passing in the General Assembly due to member states’ veto power or lack of agreement among members, and Hamas’ control in Gaza complicates the delivery of humanitarian aid by organizations like UNRWA. Deere noted that although UNRWA might need to engage with Hamas on a technical basis to provide humanitarian assistance in Gaza, this interaction does not imply that UNRWA is cooperating with the militant faction. 

Investigations continue amid deepening global division on the exact role of UNRWA in the October attacks. Australia, the European Commission, Sweden, and Canada have reversed their decision to withhold UNRWA funding, with other countries expected to reassess their positions as more details emerge. 

The United States has not reinstated its financial support for UNRWA. An agreement between U.S. congressional leaders and the White House will extend the prohibition on U.S. funding for UNRWA until March 2025.