By: Jake Smith, Daily Caller News Foundation
The Biden administration has granted over a billion dollars to a U.N. agency it just cut funding for amid reports that staffers were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks.
The Biden administration and a host of foreign governments halted funding to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) after it was revealed on Friday that several staffers participated in the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks against Israel that killed 1,200 civilians and took hundreds of others hostage. The Biden administration had re-established funding for UNRWA in 2021 after it was cut by the former Trump administration, and began granting it hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
“The United States is the single largest donor to the Palestinian people, having contributed more than $1 billion to UNRWA since 2021,” U.S. Representative for UN Management and Reform Ambassador Chris Lu said in November. “UNRWA needs more support from more donors.”
The Biden administration said in 2021 that the former Trump administration’s decision to suspend aid “harmed” the Palestinian population, and promised to start meeting “its humanitarian obligations,” according to The Times of Israel.
“President Biden has been clear that he intends to restore U.S. assistance programs that support economic development programs and humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people,” then-acting U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills said in January 2021, according to The Associated Press.
The Biden administration subsequently granted $338 million to UNRWA’s various programs in 2021, according to the agency’s donor charts. The administration granted UNRWA over $343 million the following year.
As of September 2023, the Biden administration had granted UNRWA $296 million for the year, nearing the billion-dollar mark in less than three years, according to U.S. Representative to the U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield. By November 2023, the Biden administration had granted UNRWA over a billion dollars since Biden took office in 2021, according to Lu.
The Biden administration announced Friday it was pausing funding for UNRWA after revelations emerged of the agency’s ties to terrorism. In addition to the several staffers who participated in the Hamas Oct. 7 attacks, over a thousand staffers were discovered to have ties to Hamas or Islamic jihadist terrorist groups.
The administration said this pause would go into effect while an investigation into the matter is underway, noting that UNRWA “plays a critical role in providing lifesaving assistance to Palestinians.” However, while future U.S. funding for UNRWA is paused, the agency can still access all existing funds it has collected or has been granted from the Biden administration prior to Friday, a State Department spokesperson told Pluribus.
U.S. intelligence agencies have previously warned that funding provided to UNRWA for Palestinian aid had a risk of being diverted to Hamas. The Biden administration was aware of these warnings and chose to grant funding anyway.
UNRWA is making an urgent appeal for public donations amid funding cuts from the U.S. and allied nations. The agency has not stated when its operations would be affected by a lack of funding or how much of its financial resources are in jeopardy, according to Pluribus.
UNRWA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.