Congressman Chris Smith at the International Summit for a Future Beyond UNRWA

Congressman Chris Smith, Member of U.S. Congress, Chair of the Subcommittee on the U.N.


Full remarks: 

Hillel, thank you so very much. It’s an honor to be on this panel with my fellow parliamentarians. Thank you for the great work that you are doing in your respective congresses or parliaments. I also want to say to Ayelet, I add my voice to everyone here in asking Secretary-General Guterres, meet with her, do it now. There’s an old saying, if you say you don’t have time, you haven’t stated a fact, you’ve stated a priority. And he needs to make this a priority now. When I first saw that video, I was moved to tears. And I just saw it again. This is barbaric, what this UNRWA person has done and what so many others who are part of UNRWA and Hamas have been doing. 

Special thanks to Hillel, for his extraordinary work in exposing and confronting pervasive antisemitism in the United Nations, including at the UN Human Rights Council, right behind us right now, and of course UNRWA, but other specialized agencies and the general assembly and elsewhere, and for demanding respect for the State of Israel and for Jews everywhere. 


In the past 9 months alone, Hillel has testified at three separate congressional hearings that I have chaired last June, then again in November, and then as he just mentioned, at a joint hearing with my good friend and colleague Chairman Brian Mast on January 30th .

Hillel is incisive, he is compelling, and he is a truth-teller. He told us that UN bodies routinely apply a double standard to Israel. We all know that, but it needs to be said. And I remember back in 20002, I had a hearing when we were pushing the idea of having a large meeting at the OSCE, I was the chairman of the Helsinki Commission, which is the OSCE part in the United States, and we had Natan Sharansky come and testify, one of the greatest. I’ve tried to get to see him with Frank Wolf in the 1980s, we went to Perm Camp and he had just been released. He is an amazing, awesome, human rights defender. Well he had a recipe or a definition that is not often realized by people here at the United Nations and that was the three “Ds” of antisemitism: demonization, delegitimization, and double-standard. And Hillel hit that out of the park in showing how the UN has done that everywhere here and in New York at the United Nations. 


He also talked about human rights officials like Navi Pillay and Francesca Albanese. Called them out and quoted them to show how brazenly antisemitic they are and continue to be in, and they are in high positions of power. And he also explained with chilling precision how UNRWA indoctrinates Palestinian youth. And really I would ask everyone watching this, reread the Hamas charter of 1988. I read major portions of it on the floor of the House. And even though I’ve read it many times, it got me anew, and grabbed me anew. Just how hate-filled it is. One of them is: “If you see a Jew and that Jewish person is behind a rock, that rock itself will cry out that there is a Jew here, come and kill this person.” It is perverse, and yet UNRWA embodies that in its teaching, especially for children. 


Earlier this month, the House Foreign Affairs Committee debated and passed my bill—H.R. 7122, the Stop Support for UNRWA Act— and the vote was 30 to 19.

The legislation—that now heads to the full House for debate and a vote — it prohibits any contributions to UNRWA or to the regular budget of the United Nations for the support of UNRWA.

In order to meet existing or future humanitarian needs in Gaza, it explicitly states that “Nothing in this Act may be construed to preclude the provision of humanitarian assistance through any agency or entity…” , but then it has a caveat, the Secretary of State certify that those entities or individuals don’t promote violence, terrorism, or antisemitism. So we vet them before US taxpayer money flows. 


Meanwhile the US. Senate has passed legislation in mid-February that appropriates humanitarian aid for Gaza estimated at $1.4 billion with the stipulation that. And it too, says clearly, unmistakably, no ifs, ands, or buts about it, no money to UNRWA. 


UNRWA is a corrupt, antisemitic, and terror-complicit agency. And everybody needs to say that. And everybody here at the United Nations, including at the UN Human Rights Council and every other agency need to recognize it. 

It radicalizes Palestinian children with antisemitic hate—it is a child soldier factory. I had hearings in the past, and I actually had some of our witnesses with the textbooks reading the hate that is filled and overflowing in those textbooks, it was amazing. They are teaching kids, from the youngest ages, to hate Jews. And we wonder why these child soldiers grow up, and when they are 12 or 13, and they are ready to kill any JKew that they come into contact with. 

We all know about the pause, I’m very concerned that the pause will be short-lived and the investigation appears to be woefully and unnecessarily limited in scope.  It remains to be seen whether the investigation will be in-depth and comprehensive – a top-to-bottom investigation into UNRWA’s direct role in promoting antisemitic hate and violence— to include all its staff and look at the books, look at everything. If they just narrowly look at the 12, I can tell you they are going to say, “they have been removed, everything is done, move on, and now resume the funding.” And that would be an egregious error. 


I also remain, like you do, very concerned about the UN investigations. Not just as to who is doing them, but they are going to the same thing, look at the 12 and then move on. There is a great article in the Wall Street Journal, it’s an op-ed by Peter Anthony Gallo, who worked for the UN’s office of Internal Oversight (OIOS). The headline was: The Sham Investigation of UNRWA— It’s likely to Whitewash the organization’s terrorist ties and could even force the offenders’ rehiring.

 And Ed just made so many good comments about how flawed those processes are and have been for decades. And now we are really about to see this happen all over again. 

Peter Gallo says “After spending four years as an investigator in that office, I can confidently say that its (the UN) investigation will amount to nothing…” and he went on to say that among other concerns, he argues, Secretary Guterres “has said that any UNRWA employees involved will ‘be held accountable, including through criminal prosecution.” – really? – “That’s commendable, he goes on to say, “but it’s meaningless. The U.N. doesn’t have prosecutorial authority or the ability to extradite people from one country to another, meaning any legal accountability would have to come from national authorities. Whatever the U.N. says, Hamas certainly wouldn’t send them from Gaza to sit for criminal trial in Israel.”

UNRWA’s deplorable record of antisemitism is nothing new. My good friend from Washington who is here today who just spoke from the USAID perspective has been calling it for at least a dozen years. And there’s been a multi-year cover up. I’ve tried for over 20. In 2003, I offered an amendment to a state department bill for 2003, 2004, that said no money for UNRWA. It passed the house, got killed in the Senate by inaction. And everything went on as usual. And the UNRWA lobbyists would descend on Capitol Hill, talk to members and staff, and say everything is fixed. “We can move on, turn that page.” And nothing could be further from the truth. So that goes back, and I really focused in that amendment on the textbooks cause I was appalled like all of you were about how bad they were. 

As was mentioned by Mr. Lindsay before, in 2018,  Trump rightfully suspended all US funding to UNRWA, as he should, based on the record. Unfortunately, it was filled by our friends in the European Union. 

Then since 2021, the Biden Administration resumed lavish support for UNRWA and we have spoken out. We have not been listened to. And we have donated more than 1 billion dollars. Years to date, U.S. taxpayers have spent a little over 7 billion dollars on UNRWA despite all of its horrific flaws.   

Finally, pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 2720 (2023), Secretary General Guterres named Sigrid Kaag as the Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza.  Among the job description is to “facilitate, coordinate, monitor and verify humanitarian relief consignments to Gaza.”

However, according to the Times of Israel, Sigrid Kaag is “an outgoing Dutch minister,…married to a senior PLO member and deputy minister under Yasser Arafat… she cast Netanyahu as a racist…”  – and most egregious in my opinion – she “ worked for UNRWA.”


So what kind of empathies will she have? And it does beg the question, should we be concerned about that? If we let it, it will be business as usual. And the factory that creates all these kids who learn to hate, any of you ever watch South Pacific, the great musical, there is a great song in there, You’ve got to be taught, you’ve got to be taught to hate. That’s what UNRWA does, that’s what Hamas does. And we will get no change and this cycle of violence will persist. This is the time. Thank you for your great leadership.  


UN Watch