‘Australia must cut funding to UNRWA’

Pierre Krahenbuhl (left) with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in June. Photo: Kyodo via AP Images

AUSTRALIA has been urged to suspend payments to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) amid allegations of corruption at the highest levels of the Palestinian aid organisation. 

An investigation is underway after an internal report described “credible and corroborated” allegations of “misconduct, nepotism, retaliation … and other abuses of authority” by senior management, including commissioner-general Pierre Krahenbuhl.

Zionist Federation of Australia president Jeremy Leibler said the revelations are the “final straw in a long line of indiscretions on the part of UNRWA”.

He pointed to a number of incidents coming to light in recent years, including rockets being found in an UNRWA school during the 2014 Gaza War, Hamas terror tunnels discovered underneath UNRWA schools in 2017, and UNRWA employees having ties to the terrorist organisation.

“With these most recent revelations … the time has come for Australia to cut funding, and for UNRWA to cease its counterproductive operations in the Palestinian Territories,” Leibler said.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry co-CEO Alex Ryvchin said the revelations were “alarming but hardly surprising”.

“This is an agency whose teachers in Gaza have venerated Hitler as ‘wonderful’, and Palestinian terrorists as ‘heroes’ and ‘martyrs’,” he noted.

Stating that UNRWA operates on the “discriminatory premise that Palestinians should have their own unique definition of ‘refugee’, which includes their descendants ad infinitum”, thereby perpetuating the conflict, he called on the Australian government to demand that the United Nations provide full disclosure of the results of its internal investigations into UNRWA.

Noting that Australia has an $80 million, four-year Strategic Partnership Framework with UNRWA, and is also a member of the UNRWA Advisory Committee, Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein said, “Australia is a significant contributor to UNRWA and needs to speak out in light of these allegations.

“It is deeply disturbing to think that Australian funds may have been spent for nefarious – or even illegal purposes – rather than to help Palestinians in need of support.”

Adding that Australia is currently the world’s 18th most generous donor to UNRWA, Rubenstein said, “We would expect the Australian Government to, at the very least, acknowledge these serious allegations and seek assurances that our aid money is being used as intended.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) did not respond to The AJN‘s request for comment before its print deadline.

However, late on Wednesday afternoon a DFAT spokesperson told The AJN, “Australia will await the results of the investigation into the allegations and will consider the results of the investigation after it is completed.

“In keeping with long standing practice we will not speculate on the possible outcomes of the investigation.”

EVAN ZLATKIS