Israel Institute of New Zealand co-director, Dr David Cumin, is calling for a moratorium on any further Kiwi taxpayer funding of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) until serious issues of corruption, antisemitism and extremism within that agency are resolved.
UNRWA was established in 1949 and is the UN agency tasked with delivering relief and works programmes for Palestinian refugees. It is almost entirely funded by voluntary contributions from UN member States – including New Zealand, which recently committed a further $3 million to support core UNRWA programmes between 2019 and 2021.
However, Dr Cumin is calling for this payment to be reversed and further funding withheld until serious issues within UNRWA are resolved.
“UNRWA doesn’t work toward addressing the Palestine/Israel conflict – it perpetuates it. UNRWA school textbooks have recently been found to display extreme anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments; UNRWA staff have posted antisemitic material and supported terrorism on social media; and UNRWA schools have been used to store weapons for terror groups and as cover for the entries to terror tunnels”.
Dr Cumin says that, despite these issues being well documented, the New Zealand government has never raised public concerns about any of them.
“The United States withdrew funding for UNRWA in 2018, labelling the organisation an ‘irredeemably flawed operation’ – yet New Zealand continues to provide funding as if all is well with the agency”.
“Sending millions of dollars to a corrupt organisation that works against peace does not seem to be in keeping with the MFAT commitment to “making our aid effective and to delivering value for investment of taxpayer funds”.
“This is all the more bizarre, give our recent focus on tackling extremism”.
Dr Cumin says that the decision to extend further funding to UNRWA is also at odds with comments made by Prime Minister Ardern in which she talks about the need to “pursue equal rights for all” – nor her suggestions that she thinks some areas of the UN need reform.
“Of all the areas of the UN that require reform, UNRWA would be a strong contender for the top spot – and the willingness of the Prime Minister to continue support for a group so tainted by links to terrorist organisations, runs entirely counter our current push to crack down on extremism”
Dr Cumin has also slammed statements from Craig Hawke, Permanent Representative of New Zealand to the United Nations, in which he is quoted as saying “UNRWA is an important stabilizing force for peace in the region”.
“This is at odds with all of the available evidence and ignores the massive systemic problems within UNRWA. To support this agency, as it currently operates, is to support extremism”.