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UNRWA Under Fire

Michael Sharnoff

The United Nations Works and Relief Agency (UNRWA) reported that Hamas stole food and blankets destined for Gaza Strip civilians during Operation Cast Lead, al-Arabiya reports. UNRWA, an organization devoted entirely to the Palestinian refugee problem, condemned the Islamist organization for seizing its aid supplies and has demanded their return.

This conflict between Hamas and UNRWA is an unexpected one. Analyst Asaf Romirowsky observed in the winter 2008 issue of inFOCUS Quarterly that UNRWA and Hamas have a history of close cooperation. The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has also carefully documented this relationship.

A recent monograph released by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy by former UNRWA official James Lindsay, Fixing UNRWA: Repairing the UN’s Troubled System of Aid to Palestinian Refugees, confirms these and other problems. Rather than dismantle UNRWA, as some advocate, Lindsay advocates for sweeping UNRWA reform.