RELEASE: Gottheimer Leads Bipartisan Letter Urging State Department to Call on UN & UNRWA Officials to Resign

Calls for G7 oversight of future UNRWA funding

Feb 07, 2024
Press

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) led a letter signed by a group of twelve bipartisan Members of Congress to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken thanking him for the Administration’s continued support of our key democratic ally Israel, and urging him to demand that United Nations Secretary-General Guterres and United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini immediately resign from their posts. The 12 Members of Congress also called for G7 oversight of future UNRWA funding. 

Intelligence reports showed that at least twelve employees of UNRWA had connections to Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel and about ten percent of all of the agency’s Gaza staff have ties to Islamist militant groups.

The signatory list of 12 bipartisan Members of Congress includes Reps. Gottheimer (NJ-5), Bacon (NE- 2), D’Esposito (NY-4), Davis (NC-1), Mast (FL-21), Miller (OH-7), Moskowitz (FL-23), Schneider (IL-10), Steel (CA-45), Stevens (MI-11), Tenney (NY-24), Torres (NY-15). 

In January, Gottheimer and Congresswoman Salazar (FL-27) sent a bipartisan letter urging Secretary-General of the United Nations António Guterres to investigate why it took UN Women more than fifty days to acknowledge Hamas’ sexual violence against women and girls despite widespread and credible evidence during that time. 

Since November, Gottheimer has continued to call on UN Women to condemn the sexual violence committed by Hamas on October 7. Gottheimer joined more than 80 members of Congress in a bipartisan letter urging UN Women to condemn Hamas’ attacks on women.

“We have lost all confidence in Secretary-General António Guterres’ ability to ensure that the U.N. is not actively supporting terrorism or giving refuge to known terrorists. Therefore, we ask you to demand that Secretary-General Guterres and UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini immediately resign from their posts. They can no longer be entrusted to maintain international peace and security, protect all nations, and uphold international law.” wrote Congressman Gottheimer (NJ-5) and twelve bipartisan Members of Congress in a letter to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. 

The twelve members continued, “We also ask you to work with our global partners in the G-7 to investigate Hamas’s involvement in UNRWA, and conduct strict ongoing oversight over the organization. We must ensure not a dollar more of aid for innocent civilians ends up in the hands of terrorists. UNRWA should also immediately replace all senior leadership.”

Full text of the letter sent to Secretary of State Anthony Blinken can be found here and below:

February 7, 2024

The Honorable Antony Blinken Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State

2201 C Street, NW Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Blinken:

Thank you for your efforts and continued leadership following Hamas’s October 7 attack, the deadliest day for the Jewish people since the Holocaust. At a trying and critical time, you and President Biden have acted resolutely to protect America’s national security interests and shown steadfast support for Israel, our greatest ally and an oasis of democracy in the Middle East. Unfortunately, not all of the actors within the international community have demonstrated the same support for Israel, global freedom, security, and human rights.

Sadly, the United Nations (UN), whose self-proclaimed mission includes maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, and upholding international law, has repeatedly and pervasively failed to denounce Hamas’s attack, even after terrorists murdered, raped, burned alive, decapitated, and kidnapped more than 1,200 innocent babies, children, men, women, and elderly, including Americans.

While innocent blood was still fresh on the ground, the UN’s first response to these atrocities was to draw a moral equivalency between the Hamas terrorists and Israel, who acted in her own self-defense and the defense of innocent civilians, including Americans. This effort to whitewash history would have been successful, but for the United States’ Ambassador to the UN exercising the United States’ veto authority. A week later, the UN rejected a resolution that would have condemned these heinous attacks, electing instead to blame the victim of the attack and entirely disregarded Israel’s right to self-defense. UN Women also failed to condemn the heinous attacks on women in a timely manner — even after widespread, well-documented cases of sexual assaults, rape, and genital mutilation. Unbelievably, it took UN Women, whose priorities include ensuring “all women and girls live a life free from all forms of violence,” more than fifty days to acknowledge Hamas’s sexual violence against women and girls.

The most recent and appalling revelations showed that UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) employees not only supported, but also actively participated as part of Hamas in the October 7 terrorist attacks. It is reported that of the twelve UNRWA employees involved in the attacks, seven were teachers.5 According to the report, an UNRWA school social worker brought the body of a dead Israeli soldier back into the Gaza Strip, and helped coordinate ammunition and vehicle distribution before and during the attack.6 Another UNRWA employee was connected to the massacre at Kibbutz Be’eri, where ninety-seven people were burned and butchered, and dozens kidnapped.

Hamas has stored weapons in UNRWA buildings, used UNRWA resources for terrorist activities, and built tunnels under UNRWA facilities. How long before we acknowledge the truth and label UNRWA as a tool for Hamas and others to recruit and train?

We have lost all confidence in Secretary-General António Guterres’ ability to ensure that the U.N. is not actively supporting terrorism or giving refuge to known terrorists. Therefore, we ask you to demand that Secretary-General Guterres and UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini immediately resign from their posts. They can no longer be entrusted to maintain international peace and security, protect all nations, and uphold international law.

We also ask you to work with our global partners in the G-7 to investigate Hamas’s involvement in UNRWA, and conduct strict ongoing oversight over the organization. We must ensure not a dollar more of aid for innocent civilians ends up in the hands of terrorists. UNRWA should also immediately replace all senior leadership.

The U.N. Charter specifically promises the institution will “take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace.” These recent reports demonstrate that the UN and UNRWA can no longer be trusted to operate as the unbiased liaison to the Palestinian people. It is unacceptable that U.S. tax dollars, allocated to assist innocent Palestinians, instead funded tunnels under UNRWA buildings, and paid for terrorists to murder, rape, kidnap, and hold innocent civilians hostage. Our taxpayer dollars must not be allowed to fund employees moonlighting as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives. In the quest to ensure innocent Palestinians receive humanitarian aid, and are not used as human shields by Hamas and UNRWA operatives, it is well past time for a new path forward.

Sincerely

MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

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