Colonna review DEMOLISHES Israel’s false smears against UN refugee aid agency
05/01/2024 // Ava Grace // Views

An independent review helmed by a former French government official has demolished Israel's propaganda campaign against the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

According to the review led by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, Tel Aviv has failed to provide any evidence of its claims that UNRWA employees are members of "terrorist organizations." The Jewish nation has waged a multi-year campaign against the UN aid group for refugees in hopes of eradicating the right of return for Palestinians, the Middle East Eye stated.

The Colonna review was drafted with the help of three Nordic research institutes and was published on April 27. It stated that in March 2024, "Israel made public claims that a significant number of UNRWA employees are members of terrorist organizations. However, Israel has yet to provide supporting evidence of this."

The review also made clear that the UNRWA is "irreplaceable and indispensable" to Palestinians in the region, with many viewing the agency as "a humanitarian lifeline."

"In the absence of a political solution between Israel and the Palestinians, UNRWA remains pivotal in providing life-saving humanitarian aid and essential social services – particularly in health and education – to Palestinian refugees in Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank," it stated.

"UNRWA has established a significant number of mechanisms and procedures to ensure compliance with the humanitarian principles, with emphasis on the principle of neutrality and that it possesses a more developed approach to neutrality than other similar UN or [non-governmental organizations]."

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According to an April 22 report by the Guardian, the Colonna review also found that the UNRWA had regularly supplied Israel with lists of its employees for vetting. Moreover, "the Israeli government has not informed UNRWA of any concerns relating to any UNRWA staff based on these staff lists since 2011."

Separate assessment disproves claim that UNRWA schools teach antisemitism

The three Nordic research institutes that helped write the Colonna review also sent a separate assessment to the UN regarding Israel's allegations against the UNRWA. The more detailed assessment refuted Tel Aviv's claims that Palestinian children are taught antisemitic content in UNRWA-run schools. The schools utilize textbooks commissioned by the Palestinian Authority (PA), which has control over the West Bank.

According to the latest document, "three international assessments of PA textbooks in recent years have provided a nuanced picture. Two identified presence of bias and antagonistic content, but did not provide evidence of antisemitic content."

"The third assessment by the George Eckert Institute studied 156 PA textbooks and identified two examples that it found to display antisemitic motifs. But [the institute] noted that one of them had already been removed, [while] the other has been altered."

Back in January, the Israeli government accused several UNRWA staffers of being members of Hamas (formally the Islamic Resistance Movement) and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ). These staff members, Tel Aviv continued, reportedly participated in the Hamas-led attack on Israeli military bases and settlements on Oct. 7, 2023 – dubbed the Operation Al-Aqsa Flood. (Related: UNRWA warns of growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza amid continued Israeli bombings.)

The allegations promptly caused the U.S. and other major donors to cut funding to the UNRWA. It also coincided with reports from human rights groups that Israel was using starvation as a weapon against the 2.3 million Palestinians in the Gaza strip.

According to the Guardian, most donors have resumed their funding in recent weeks. British government ministers meanwhile said they would would wait for the Colonna report to decide whether to resume funding. But across the pond, the U.S. Congress has since banned any future financial support of UNRWA.

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Watch this clip about Palestinians in the Gaza Strip having difficulties securing humanitarian aid, thanks to Israelis blocking aid convoys.

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More related stories:

UN official warns of "inevitable" famine with countries pausing UNRWA funding.

12 UNRWA employees accused of HELPING HAMAS stage Oct. 7 attack.

Report: Biden admin granted UNRWA more than $1 BILLION before funding suspension.

NO SAFE PLACE: Israel attacks UNRWA school in Gaza refugee camp, leaving 6 dead and dozens injured.

Despite its own torture campaigns, Israel pressures U.S. Congress to stop funding UNRWA over allegations aid group harbors Hamas.

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