Progressive lawmakers are urging the Biden administration to reinstate crucial funding for a United Nations aid group, which faces accusations that a dozen members were involved in Hamas’ October attack. However, the U.S. is demanding “fundamental changes” before resuming support.
Israel claimed last week that certain U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) staff participated in abductions and killings during the attack, leading top donors, including the U.S. and Germany, to halt funding pending an investigation. Israel’s Foreign Minister, Israel Katz, is calling for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres’ resignation over the issue.
With approximately 30,000 employees worldwide, including 13,000 in Gaza, UNRWA provides food, water, and shelter during conflicts. Critics fear that the funding pause may worsen the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, where displacement and casualties have been significant.
UNRWA stated that it could not sustain operations beyond February without resumed funding, and the duration of the investigation into its staff remains unclear.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Linda Thomas-Greenfield, emphasized the need for “fundamental changes” in how UNRWA operates, insisting on holding those involved in criminal acts accountable.
Supporters of aid resumption argue that a prolonged pause would be catastrophic for the millions relying on assistance. The U.S. has contributed nearly $1 billion to UNRWA in the last three years, including $296 million in 2023.
Senator Bernie Sanders criticized the Biden administration for the funding pause, asserting that the actions of a few should not impact the entire organization. He urged the U.S. and other countries to restore funding to avert a humanitarian catastrophe.
Representative Rashida Tlaib expressed concern about treating concerning allegations as fact without an investigation, citing Israel’s documented history of using torture for forced confessions as a reason not to suspend life-saving aid.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also deemed the funding suspension “unacceptable.”
While the White House maintains its position, National Security Spokesperson John Kirby’s remarks resembled Sanders’ arguments, urging not to impugn the entire agency based on the potential actions of a few.
The National Security Council did not respond to requests for comment.