Hillel Neuer on CNN with Jake Tapper: UNRWA must go, now is the time to find alternatives


Hillel Neuer appeared on The Lead with Jake Tapper to discuss the growing case against UNRWA which has led its biggest donor states to cut funding.

Jake Tapper: Explosive allegations against the biggest aid organization in Gaza, UNRWA, which led its biggest government donors to suspend funding over what Israel says are UNRWA employees connections, and in several cases, direct participation in the horrific October 7 terrorist attack on Israel. Director of UN Watch Hillel Neuer, testified on Capitol Hill this afternoon. And he joins us now.

Hillel, you’ve called for the complete dismantling of UNRWA, and not just because of this, but because of years of such problems and connections to Hamas and other terrorist groups. And you presented even more information beyond what Israeli officials shared with CNN, including the group chat among UNRWA teachers. Tell us what your research has found?

Hillel Neuer: Well, we exposed today a Telegram chat group of UNRWA teachers in Gaza, which is primarily to share information that teachers need: work schedules, salaries, memos about work stuff, interspersed with lots of messages, photos, videos, celebrating the October 7 massacre while it was happening, and other terrorist attacks. So, 3,000 UNRWA teachers are on this chat group, we identified about 30 of the individuals. With their UNRWA contract numbers, their photos, their names. These are UNRWA teachers who were celebrating the attacks.

Jake Tapper: And as I’ve noted, you’ve been looking into this for a long, long time. I want to play part of your opening statement from Congress today, where you say you’ve given the United Nations multiple warnings about some of these problems. Let’s roll that tape.

Hillel Neuer {From Testimony to Congress}: We sent them reports in 2021, 2019, 2017, 2015. Numerous reports. They never contacted us for information. They refused our repeated written requests to meet to discuss the problem. They cannot say they didn’t know. Mr. Guterres knew, the head of UNRWA knew, the United Nations knew. They simply chose not to act.

Jake Tapper {In studio}: Do you think that the UN Secretary-General Guterres should resign?

Hillel Neuer: Yes, I think he should. I mean, the October 7 massacre, he said it didn’t happen in a vacuum. And then he listed Palestinian grievances. The truth is, it didn’t happen in a vacuum, because UNRWA is a UN agency that for more than 70 years has taught Palestinians that the War of 1948 is not over. The world is with you. The war is not over, your homes are not here in Gaza. When you get cement from the international community to build homes, hospitals and schools, the message they got was of course they’re going to use that cement to build miles of terror tunnels into Israel to invade Israel. The message of UNRWA is to perpetuate them as refugees, and to tell them that their home is in Israel.

Jake Tapper: So, obviously there is a humanitarian crisis going on in Gaza right now. 2 million displaced Palestinians. Jordan’s Foreign Minister says stripping UNRWA of funding right now means the agency and the Palestinians who rely on them will be collectively punished. If UNRWA ends, what happens to the people who need the aid?

Hillel Neuer: Well, look, the supporters of UNRWA are the people who typically care least about Palestinians. The King of Jordan said not one Palestinian will leave Gaza and go into Jordan or Egypt. Not one. So the same folks, it’s interesting, the same folks who say there’s a genocide happening in Gaza are the same folks who say “over my dead body, will I let one Palestinian leave that area and to find refuge in neighboring Egypt,” for example. So I don’t think the King of Jordan really cares about the Palestinians in Gaza, and there is a humanitarian need, of course there is, it has to be addressed. The UN knows how to address humanitarian needs. They can send in trucks in Sudan, in Syria. They know how to do it. The notion that UNRWA is irreplaceable, it’s the only agency—it is infiltrated by Hamas, it is dominated by Hamas—there are alternatives. We need to figure them out.

Jake Tapper: So okay, forget the King of Jordan. Let me just say as, as me, as somebody who cares about what happens to the innocent Palestinian people, not Hamas, but the innocent Palestinian people. Right now, they’re in a crisis, you can’t end… I mean, do you really think you could end UNRWA right now? Because I mean, these people like, literally like, are dying of disease and malnutrition and hunger?

Hillel Neuer: Yeah, well, of course, it’s not going to end right now. And even the countries who suspended funding, some of it is performative, the funding was sent recently. In Congress today, there were some congressmen who were upset that apparently the State Department just spent a ton of money before making that announcement. So UNRWA will be fine in the near term. And of course, no one’s saying, in the near term, abandon the Palestinians. But in the slightly-more-than-near term, UNRWA is not the solution. It’s the problem. The Swiss Foreign Minister five years ago, Ignazio Cassis, said it’s a perverse logic. UNRWA only perpetuates the conflict because they tell Palestinians the war is not over. Keep going. The UN refugee agency, I work across the street from them in Geneva every single day. Their job is to resettle refugees, to make you no longer a refugee. UNRWA is the opposite. They want Palestinians to be perpetual refugees. That perverse logic has to stop. Of course, Jake, we have to be concerned about the humanitarian situation and not let that slide. But there are alternatives. Now is the time to begin finding them.

Jake Tapper: Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin, who is a supporter of Israel, but also cares about the Palestinian people, he points out that UNRWA also supports an additional 3 million Palestinians in Jordan and Lebanon and Syria, and the suspension of UNRWA funding when meet quota means, quote, “the Biden Administration is placing more burden on regional partners that are already dealing with the added risk and instability caused by the growing regional violence.” What do you make of just that argument that, like, aside from Gaza, that UNRWA exists elsewhere?

Hillel Neuer: Yeah, well, look, let’s take Jordan, for example. It’s a terrific example that Josh brought, there are about 2 million so-called Palestinian refugees in Jordan. Most of them have Jordanian citizenship. Okay, my great-grandparents fled Russian persecution to Canada in 1904. I am not a Russian refugee. My family has been Canadian for over a century. If someone’s been in Jordan for more than 70 years, has Jordanian citizenship, why are they refugees from Tel Aviv? They’re not refugees. So let’s help them, give the money to the Jordanian government. We have an established government there. Let them run the Ministry of Education. Let the Jordanian government run the schools and clinics. Why is it a UN agency that has an agenda, and the agenda is to undo Israel. We need to not support a malign agency that has that malign agenda.

Jake Tapper: Alright, Hillel Neuer, from UN Watch, thank you so much. Good to see you sir.

UN Watch