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investigating unrwa

In response to their earlier letter ("ICJW calls UNRWA to account") to the US State Department calling for an inquiry into the activities of UNRWA in the Gaza Strip, ICJW's representatives at the UN in New York received the following reply from Mr. Simon Henshaw, Acting Assistant Secretary of State at the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration of the US Department of State.


In reply, ICJW has sent the following letter:

Dear Mr. Henshaw: 

Many thanks for your September 26th response to our letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, concerning the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) for Palestine Refugees. 

You will recall that we requested, as did three United States Senators, that the Secretary of State launch a thorough, fair, transparent and independent investigation into why Hamas weapons were discovered in UNRWA facilities in Gaza and, indeed, what happened to those same weapons once they were reported to exist in those UN buildings? 

While we would like to believe all that you wrote about UNRWA’s long-standing regulations regarding neutrality and the political affiliations of UNRWA staff, we have seen enough credible information to question those statements about UNRWA as it is operating at the UN in NY and in Gaza. We are concerned that the U.S. Department of State gives unquestioning support to UNRWA’s refugee designation rules and its oversight of their facilities in Gaza when clearly ammunition was stored there during the recent hostilities. 

  • WHY and how was it there IF UNRWA oversight was rigorous? 
  • HOW did it get there in the first place and did it stay there AFTER it was discovered? How can we believe that UNRWA staff didn’t know anything about that? 
  • Who operates those hospitals and schools? 
With these questions still unanswered, it is shocking to us that it is UNRWA which has been assigned the task of investigating the incidents mentioned in our letter and that our own State Department didn’t call for an independent investigation, since the U.S. pays as much as 25% of the UNRWA annual budget. 

What is more astonishing is a September 22nd State Department media release which stated that an additional $59 million contribution has recently been granted to UNRWA for humanitarian programs in Gaza. Since no report by the U.N. has yet been forthcoming on this investigation of weapons in UNRWA facilities in Gaza, why would this additional money be sent before a thorough United States review of the U.N. report is analyzed? 

As taxpayers, we are appalled and we are hopeful that you can give us a more thorough answer to our queries. We don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask these important questions. We are writing as concerned citizens and we look forward to hearing from you or someone else in the U.S. State Department at your earliest convenience.

Very truly yours,

Madeleine Brecher, Fran Butensky, Judy Mintz, Joan Lurie Goldberg, Rita Fishman
lnternational Council of Jewish Women Representatives to the United Nations, New York