Hillel Neuer on CNN With Bianna Golodryga: UNRWA’s Malign Agenda


Hillel Neuer appeared on One World with Bianna Golodryga to discuss the growing case against UNRWA which has led its biggest donor states to cut funding.

Bianna Golodryga: Welcome back to One World. I’m Bianna Golodryga. The United Nations Secretary-General is appealing to donor countries to keep what he calls “the vital work of UNRWA” going rather than cutting its money. Sweden is the latest country to pause its funding to the UN’s main relief agency in Gaza following Israel’s allegation that some UNRWA staff members were involved in Hamas’ October 7th attacks. The UN’s Antonio Guterres says that he was horrified by the allegation, but that the people of Gaza should not be punished.

Antonio Guterres {Video Clip}: UNRWA is the backbone of our humanitarian response in Gaza. I appeal to all member states to guarantee the continuity of UNRWA’s life-saving work.

Bianna Golodryga: But the Executive Director of UN Watch, a human rights organization, says the accusations against UNRWA shouldn’t come as a surprise to Guterres. Here’s what he told US lawmakers on Capitol Hill yesterday.

Hillel Neuer {Video Clip}: Now on Friday, Secretary-General Guterres announced that he was “horrified to learn that members of his UNRWA staff were implicated in terrorism.” Members of the Committee, I’m here to bear witness and testify that Secretary-General Guterres, the head of UNRWA Philippe Lazzarini, their predecessors, and their senior colleagues could not possibly have been shocked that UNRWA employees are implicated in terrorism because for the past nine years – and Chairman Smith knows this very well because he’s been on this issue and he’s invited me to testify – we’ve been uncovering, publishing, and submitting to the UN, to UNRWA, evidence of widespread and systematic incitement to jihadi terrorism, the praise of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, and calls to slaughter Jews on the part of UNRWA teachers, school principals, and other employees.

Bianna Golodryga: Hillel Neuer joins us live now from Washington. Hillel, thanks so much for joining the program. So, as it relates to these 12 UNRWA employees, who were terminated given their connections to the Hamas October 7th attacks the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken said the US had not corroborated the evidence itself, but “found the allegations highly, highly credible.” Now you’re saying that no one should be surprised that members of UNRWA have been connected to Hamas or terrorism, given your nearly 10 years of investigative work. Just a couple of months ago, I spoke with an UNRWA administrator as well and asked about some of these allegations. He seemed to not want to talk about that. Why is this now just coming forward this week?

Hillel Neuer: Well, look, the Wall Street Journal has reported, just two days ago, that 12 so-called aid workers – what the Secretary-General calls doing “life-saving work” – were actually involved in the massacre of October 7th which was murder, mass rape, mutilation, and torture of 1,200 Israelis. Never before in the history of the United Nations have aid workers at one of their humanitarian agencies been involved in a massacre, mass rape, mutilation, and torture so this is absolutely outrageous. And it’s not just those 12. The estimates in the intelligence reports, which as you said, the Secretary of State called “highly, highly credible,” also indicate that an estimated 1,200 UNRWA workers are actual operatives of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and as many as 6,000 UNRWA workers in Gaza have a close family member which belongs to Hamas or Islamic Jihad. So we’re talking about a so-called humanitarian agency that is riddled with actual terrorists.

Bianna Golodryga: I guess that addresses the question of whether these are just what we’ve heard described as “a few bad apples” or a systemic problem within the organization as a whole. The Wall Street Journal found that 10% of UNRWA employees in Gaza have ties to Hamas or Islamic Jihad. I guess I’m going back to my initial question to you: Given your investigative work, given everything that you say you’ve presented to the UN and other authoritative bodies, why is the UN just acting on it now?

Hillel Neuer: Yeah, look, indeed, as you say, for nearly a decade, we have submitted to the United Nations, to UNRWA, the Secretary-General’s office, and others detailed reports documenting systematic and widespread incitement to jihadi terrorism, praise of Adolf Hitler, and calls to slaughter Jews. There was an UNRWA teacher in Lebanon named Elham Mansour, she called on all Muslims to slaughter Jews. She said this was their religious obligation to kill all Israelis. That was in May 2022. We sent all this to the UN and their response was to attack us and to say that we’re not credible, and really just to disparage and obfuscate. They told their donor states not to listen to us, so they were not taking it seriously. I think Bianna, to answer your question, that the reports that they were literally involved in the commission of murder, abducting a corpse of an Israeli murdered civilian, these sorts of things just reached another level, and when the Israeli authorities presumably presented this to top US officials, and to top UN officials, I think they realized they were at another level. And I think also Israel apparently came into possession of new intelligence information, given this amount of connecting their aid workers to terrorists.

Bianna Golodryga: Well, just to remind our viewers, UNRWA is an essential source of assistance to Palestinians in Gaza, not only is it one of Gaza’s largest employers, with some 13,000 people employed by the organization, it helps provide education, health and social services, shelter, and aid especially needed now during a time of war. It has a budget of $1.2 billion, nearly 90% of which comes from UN member donations. So that leads us to the bigger question of: “Okay, you’ve exposed this, but what then happens to these civilians in Gaza who are desperately in need of the aid if you are saying that this organization as a whole should be shut down?”

Hillel Neuer: The reason we’re saying this organization has reached its end is because we’re talking about not only the fact that it is riddled with terrorists, but the very essence of the agency is not humanitarian, that is not the purpose. I work in Geneva next to the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR. Their job and they do it, is to resettle refugees so that they’re no longer refugees. UNRWA has the very opposite mandate. Their mission is to perpetuate Palestinians as refugees for more than 70 years, including those who live in Jordan and have citizenship in Jordan for 70 years – they call them refugees. The whole point of UNRWA is to tell Palestinians that the War of 1948 is not over, your homes are not here in Gaza, your homes are not here in Jordan or Lebanon, your homes are in Israel. And that’s why we shouldn’t be surprised that they built terror tunnels and on October 7th tunneled into Israel. That was effectively the message of UNRWA.

Bianna Golodryga: So what should be an alternative option, Hillel, in your opinion? Obviously, I don’t want to put you on the spot here but, you exposed this. Now you have people in the IDF even, saying “Listen, this is going to become our problem – this humanitarian crisis – if we don’t get this aid into Gaza and deliver it to civilians.” If UNRWA is not the avenue to go by, then what is?

Hillel Neuer: The defenders of UNRWA, and I would say the apologists who keep saying it’s lifesaving workers, lifesaving aid, you know, this is an agency that has 1,200 terrorists, this is not something we’d call lifesaving. If you make a drink, and you put in two scoops of vanilla ice cream and a tablespoon of poison, that is a toxic brew. This is an agency that has become a toxic brew. There are many alternatives. In most places in the world, when there’s a crisis and refugees need help they send in a cluster of multiple international relief organizations managed by the UN humanitarian agency called OCHA, and they deal with it. We have the World Food Program, there are numerous agencies that can handle it. It’s not like you say, we have an agency that is subverted by Hamas terrorists, which conceals weapons used against Israeli civilians, and there’s no other option. There are other options. A UN worker yesterday, Emma Reilly, who was a UN human rights lawyer, said there are other options. And certainly, if we want to deal with the humanitarian issue, of course, Bianna, we do not want anyone to starve and it has to be done in a gradual way – it’s not from one minute to the next. But there are many other options and we need to begin to transition now. There are many voices around the world who realize that the days of UNRWA are numbered, and if we want to help Palestinians and Israelis alike, we should not be dooming them to an agency that is not trying to help them but has only a political agenda, which is to undo the State of Israel.

Bianna Golodryga: Hillel Neuer, appreciate the time. Thank you so much for joining us today.

UN Watch