Investigation finds trouble with neutrality at UNRWA | WORLD
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Investigation finds trouble with neutrality at UNRWA

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna Associated Press/Photo by Hussein Malla, file

Investigation finds trouble with neutrality at UNRWA

A UN report published on Monday acknowledged that the organization’s chief relief agency for Palestinian refugees needs better policies to ensure it remains neutral in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel alleged in January that some employees of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) participated in the Oct. 7 attack on Israel that killed roughly 1,200 people. The United States and 15 other UN member countries withdrew their funding to UNRWA after Israel made the allegation. In March, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs provided the names of UNRWA employees who were allegedly members of terrorist groups, according to Monday’s report. The UN launched several investigations into the matter following Israel’s claims. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna led the independent investigation that rendered Monday’s report.

What did the report have to say about Israel’s claims? Israel failed to provide “substantial evidence” to support its claims that UNRWA workers were members of Palestinian terrorist organizations, the report said. However, the report went on to list several major issues with employee neutrality. It stated that textbooks used by UNRWA included anti-Semitic content, misidentified Israeli cities as Palestinian, and labeled Israel as “Zionist.” The authors of the report recommended that the agency review future textbooks with Israel before using them. The report also acknowledged that UNRWA facilities had been misused for political and military purposes.

Were specific staff members demonstrating neutrality issues? Between January 2022 and February 2024, the agency received more than 150 notices of neutrality violations, many involving social media posts. Fifty cases of neutrality violations involving staff members were still under investigation as of this month. The agency has faced challenges investigating all of the alleged neutrality breaches due to its inability to hire experienced investigators.

What sort of solutions did the report recommend, if any? The report recommended that the UN implement additional and more effective oversight of UNRWA and its employees. It also recommended that agency leaders address and discuss integrity and neutrality more frequently at meetings. Investigators encouraged the agency to provide better training for employees and increased transparency.

Dig deeper: Read Elizabeth Russell’s report in WORLD Magazine about the UNRWA and Israel’s allegations it is tied to terrorism.

Josh Schumacher

Josh is a breaking news reporter for WORLD. He’s a graduate of World Journalism Institute and Patrick Henry College.

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