De Telegraaf: ‘Panic at UNRWA was all theater’; Hillel Neuer sees political agenda at UN

De Telegraaf   |  March 11, 2024

By Marcel Vink

AMSTERDAM — As far as Hillel Neuer is concerned, the end of UNRWA is near. The director of the independent watchdog UN Watch, which exposed the scandal surrounding the Palestinian refugee branch of the United Nations, says in an interview that he will do everything he can to put an end to what he sees as a corrupt aid organization.

UNRWA is under international fire following serious allegations of staff involvement in Hamas’ horrific terror attacks on Israel on October 7. For Canadian Neuer, a lawyer in daily life, the agenda of UNRWA, and by extension the UN, became clear shortly after the massacre that day.

As director of UN Watch, a Geneva-based NGO whose mission is to monitor the United Nations, he has been warning since 2015 about the controversial UN agency responsible for the Palestinians in Gaza.

Only then did the eyes of the world open?
“Yes that’s right. UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said after a key Hamas operations center was discovered right beneath his headquarters that he had no idea. That’s absurd. There was a very advanced tunnel with electrical cables, which supplied a Hamas server center with power. That came directly from UNRWA’s electricity grid. Moreover, a few years ago, UNRWA staff noticed that an entire parking lot above it was starting to sink. So what do you mean, we could not have known anything?”

It did result in funding from many countries being halted after it became clear that UNRWA staff had participated in ‘October 7’, and at least 1,200 employees had ties to Hamas or Palestinian Jihad.
“Fifteen to twenty countries had decided to do this, including the Netherlands. But in many cases it has not yet had much effect. It announced the suspension of almost half a billion dollars, but some countries – including America, it is said – quickly transferred funds before that formal decision. These countries were in fact still supporting UNRWA.”

But UNRWA panicked because of this?
“All theater! “People are dying, they are dying of hunger,” they said. I don’t believe this was the case. I think that many countries will want to resume their financing quickly.”

The Netherlands is still keeping its hand on the purse strings, but Sweden and Canada have already announced this weekend that they will open them again.
“They will say, after a few people have been fired: we have tackled it vigorously, the problem has been solved. Two investigations have been launched, supposedly independent, but not exactly serious. The head of one of those investigations is former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna. An example: on January 13, she tweeted a message to Philippe Lazzarini, head of UNRWA. In it she said: ‘You are doing a great job, you are needed more than ever’. That says it all. But they will still say: UNRWA can now move on.

You don’t think so?
“No. To be clear, I am not against providing aid in Gaza, but it should no longer be done by UNRWA. Other organizations can take over the aid work without any problems. The striking thing is: the UN does not want that. António Guterres, the Secretary General, has even banned other organizations from taking over that task. As far as he is concerned, only UNRWA should do that. It is unbelievable. Why? Isn’t it just about delivering relief supplies?”

You organized your own summit at the same time that the Human Rights Council – a UN body that focuses on enforcing human rights treaties – opens its annual session?
“Indeed. Very important, because we want to show that behind all this is a political agenda. That has to stop. We have to start talking about how to help Palestinians and Israelis without a terror-infested organization. We are going to do everything we can to make that clear to everyone. As far as we are concerned, the end of UNRWA is near.”


UN Watch