TEL AVIV – Switzerland and the Netherlands have suspended payments to the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees after a leaked internal report alleged corruption, sexual misconduct and mismanagement at the agency’s highest levels.
The two European nations have said that the funds would be frozen pending a UN investigation into the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
Senior officials at UNRWA, which faces a financial crisis after President Donald Trump’s decision to cut the U.S.’s $360 million contribution last year, are charged with “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain, to suppress legitimate dissent, and to otherwise achieve their personal objectives,” according to the report, which was obtained by AFP.
The Dutch Ministry of Development Cooperation said its country had “expressed to the UN in New York and to UNRWA its great concern and asked for clarification. The Netherlands is also in consultation with other donors,” according to a statement to Al Jazeera.
Sigrid Kaag, the Dutch minister of development cooperation, “would like to hear what steps the UN plans to take based on the outcome of the investigation,” the statement said.
“Minister Kaag has decided to put this year’s contribution [13 million euros or $14.5 million] on hold until we have received a satisfactory response from the UN in New York. This decision is in line with how the Netherlands has dealt with other organizations when investigations have taken place, such as recently with UNEP and UNAIDS. The Netherlands hopes the situation will be resolved quickly, as UNRWA has an important humanitarian mandate to fulfill,” the ministry’s statement said.
The UN has said it is cooperating fully with an internal investigation into the report but added that it cannot comment in detail because the probe is ongoing, AFP reported.
The report describes “credible and corroborated” allegations of grievous ethical abuses, including the involvement of UNRWA’s top official, Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl.
Krahenbuhl said in a statement to AFP that “if the current investigation — once it is completed — were to present findings that require corrective measures or other management actions, we will not hesitate to take them.”
Krahenbuhl himself made frequent trips to Gulf states, despite the financial crisis facing the agency.
One senior official named in the report stepped down from his post due to “inappropriate behavior” linked to the investigation, UNRWA said, while another resigned over what the agency called “personal reasons.”
When pressed by AFP, the UN agency said in its defense: “Over the past 18 months, UNRWA has faced immense financial and political pressure, but its entire staff body has steered it, serving 5.4 million Palestine refugees through the most unprecedented financial crisis in its near 70 years of history.”
US special Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt tweeted his concern.
“We’re extremely concerned about UNRWA allegations,” Greenblatt said in a tweet. “We urge a full & transparent investigation by the UN.”
He added: “UNRWA’s model is broken/unsustainable & based on an endless expanding # of beneficiaries. Palestinians residing in refugee camps deserve much better.”
Trump’s former UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, tweeted, “This is exactly why we stopped their funding.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon tweeted, “The allegations of corruption at the highest levels of UNRWA is revealing, if not surprising. For decades, the organization and its leadership have sold lies to perpetuate the Palestinians’ refugee status. UNRWA is nothing more than an anti-Israel org. Time to hold it accountable.”
Eugene Kontorovich, an US-Israel professor of international law, said of the report, “Once again UNWRA have proven that there is one law for them and another for the rest of the world. They operate above all social norms and conventional laws and need to be shut down for the good of humanity.”
“There is nothing intrinsically different about Palestinian refugees that warrants their own UN agency and there is nothing special about UNRWA employees that puts them above the law. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees should be the only agency responsible for people with genuine refugee status,” he added.
Laurie Cardoza-Moore, the UN’s Special Envoy for the World Council of Independent Christian Churches (WCICC), also called for UNRWA to be shut down for the “good of mankind.”
“UNRWA is a disgrace to the United Nations and its mission is redundant. It’s time to close it down and help real people in need. Billions of dollars in aid could be better spent helping real refugees, like the thousands of Christians fleeing the Middle East and Palestinian Authority because of Islamist persecution. The majority of Christians have left Bethlehem out of fear for their lives while we continue to bankroll UNWRA, which is rotten to the core,” Cardoza-Moore told Breitbart Jerusalem.
UNRWA provides schooling, medical care and other services to millions of Palestinians deemed by the UN to be “refugees,” as well as to their descendants in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza.
UNRWA employs around 30,000 people, mostly Palestinians.
Until last year when it cut funding, the U.S. was the single largest donor to the Palestinians and to UNRWA in history.
Israel is deeply critical of UNRWA, charging that the organization harbors terrorists and perpetuates the Palestinian “refugee” problem indefinitely, thus blocking a potential resolution to the conflict. Earlier this year, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested that the funds for Palestinian “refugees” be rerouted through another UN body such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which deals with the rest of the world’s refugees.
The definition of a Palestinian “refugee” and their actual numbers have long been the subject of debate.
UNRWA has also come under fire on many occasions both for spreading antisemitic hate in its schools and employing members of terror organizations and supporters of terror. Breitbart News previously exposed an UNRWA summer program that was indoctrinating Palestinian children to hate Jews.
Last year, UN Watch released a 130-page report exposing 40 UNRWA school employees in Gaza and elsewhere who engaged in incitement to terror against Israelis and expressed “anti-Semitism, including by posting Holocaust-denying videos and pictures celebrating Hitler.”
That month, the agency also announced the suspension of an UNRWA employee suspected of having been elected a Hamas leader.
The UN itself released a report in 2015 that found Palestinian terror groups used three empty UN-run schools in Gaza as a weapons cache. Moreover, it said that in at least two cases terrorists “probably” fired rockets at Israel from the schools during the 50-day summer conflict in 2014 between Israel and Hamas.