Hillel Neuer on i24 News: “We see a complete moral failure” at the UN.

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Hillel Neuer appeared on i24 News to discuss recent updates on UNRWA, including the hearing on UNRWA at the European Parliament in Brussels where he presented, and the UN Secretary-General’s spokesman’s refusal to label the October 7th Hamas attacks as terrorism.

i24 News: To talk more about the fate of UNRWA, I’m joined in the studio by Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of United Nations Watch. Great to see you, Hillel. Thank you for being with us. So the panel led by the French diplomat Catherine Colonna presented its initial findings to the UN last night. What did you make of them, first of all?

Hillel Neuer: Well, so far she hasn’t published them. She summarized them by saying that they found that the mechanisms of UNRWA to deal with neutrality violations are serious, but they need some improvement.

Look, we know for a fact that UNRWA’s method for dealing with support for terrorism is the opposite of serious because, for nine years, we’ve been sending them detailed reports about their teachers, like Riad Nimmer in Lebanon, who praised terrorist attacks. And their response to us, repeatedly, was to attack us, to ignore the findings, and refuse to meet, so it’s anything but serious.

Even the head of the panel, Madame Catherine Colonna refused to meet with us. How can she conclude something about neutrality mechanisms when she hasn’t spoken with the leading group that is exposing the very violations of neutrality by the group? And of course, she’s someone who praised UNRWA, just two months ago in a message to the head of UNRWA, so she’s not independent. And this review is a whitewash, exactly as we predicted.

i24 News: Well, when it comes to the UN, our own journalist Mike Wagenheim over in New York, he had a bit of trouble getting the UN spokesman to clarify the UN’s own definition of terrorism. I mean, does the UN not consider the October 7 attacks to be acts of terrorism?

Hillel Neuer: Well, they refused to say it. Indeed, as you said, just the other day, the spokesman of the Secretary-General said whether the acts of October 7th are terrorism is a matter of opinion. Really? The massacre, mutilation, rape, and torture of women, children, infants, of thousands of people? That is a question, whether it’s terrorism, according to the UN. We see a complete moral failure.

i24 News: You’ve been in Europe this week, you’ve been at the European Parliament, and you’re trying to present your findings. And you say, Catherine Colonna, wouldn’t meet with you. Have you had a similar reaction elsewhere in Europe?

Hillel Neuer: Well, we were invited by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament as a working group that’s looking into UNRWA. We were invited to present. I was there two days ago, and there were members of parliament who were interested, but the left-wing parties, three of them, the Greens, the Left Group, and the Socialists group, wrote a protest, first to try to cancel the meeting, they failed. Then they made a submission to remove all cameras from the meeting. So in the meeting there were no cameras, it was an off-the-record meeting. And finally, several of them stood up and protested and said that I was an awful person, and they stormed out of the room. But having said that, the European Union, the Commission, sent one of their leading officials to present on UNRWA. Of course, he defended UNRWA. I got to speak. It was off the record, but I’m able to summarize what I said. And I exposed the fact that UNRWA is not doing life-saving work. That there are 450 UNRWA employees who belong to Hamas and Islamic Jihad. UNRWA terror tunnels underneath their headquarters. They said they had no idea about it. But the Wall Street Journal reported that 10 years ago, UNRWA staff saw that the parking lot was sinking in their compound. And it was sinking, of course, because there were terror tunnels, but they didn’t know anything about it. So I exposed all of this very clearly to the European Parliament, and we’re not gonna give up the fight.

i24 News: And the response is just to smear you, to smear your work?

Hillel Neuer: For some, for the UNRWA defenders, it was. You know, UNRWA was invited. This is the European Parliament. They’re giving hundreds of millions of euros, both the commission and the member states, and UNRWA refused to appear. It means UNRWA cannot engage seriously on the facts, the fact of their support for terrorism is something they refuse to engage with. They have no answers, and their surrogates in the European Parliament cannot engage. They stood up, they attacked me and they stormed out.

i24 News: So what next then Hillel? Might we see private lawsuits against members of UNRWA, against the group as a whole? Is there any kind of legal avenue there?

Hillel Neuer: There are several legal actions being taken. On our website, unwatch.org, we’ve summarized key legal actions. There are two lawsuits in America. One is against Secretary Blinken to stop funding UNRWA on a permanent basis, not just temporary. Second, there’s a lawsuit against UNRWA USA. That’s a nonprofit 501(c)(3) that raises funds for UNRWA, even though they know that UNRWA uses the money for terrorism. And in France, there’s a legal initiative, a submission has been made to the courts to pursue UNWRA for crimes against humanity. All of these legal actions are based, in part, on our work. We are continuing to encourage more legal actions. UNRWA is guilty of crimes, and they should be held to account both institutionally and individually.

i24 News: And just in terms of the funding. I mean, as you rightly point out, European taxpayers have been funding UNRWA for decades, to the tune of hundreds of millions of euros. You know, Europe is cash-strapped right now, there’s a war in Ukraine. There’s Social Security, there’s all the rest of it. I mean, when you speak genuinely to European politicians, do you find that they are sensitive to that? Are they open to that?

Hillel Neuer: There seems to be an agenda and look, because there’s a war in Gaza and there are serious humanitarian needs. That’s being exploited. But the truth is that UNRWA is not an aid agency. There are many agencies in the world. UNRWA’s main goal is to convince Palestinians in Gaza that they are refugees from Israel, and that they have a “right of return.” And so there’s a direct line from the UNRWA narrative to what happened on October 7th, and EU politicians, some of them get it. There were several who spoke up for me. I can’t mention their names because it was off the record. But we know that at our event recently in Geneva, Assita Kanko was there. David Lega, from Sweden, was there. So there are a number of MEPs who do care. And there are others, sadly, who just have a political agenda and they’ll defend UNRWA and attack its critics no matter what.

i24 News: And of course, as the investigation continues, is that lawsuits continue, some countries, among them, Canada, Australia and Sweden. They say they will restore funding to UNRWA. Saudi Arabia just said they’re going to give additional funds to UNRWA. Are you worried that it will just be back to business as usual, in the end?

Hillel Neuer: There is a risk and there’s a major battle going on. We see that the United States is trying to find replacement agencies, to give it to the World Food Program to do the work instead. UN Secretary-General Guterres issued a directive to all UN agencies that they’re prohibited from picking up, from standing up and taking any of the work that UNRWA used to do. So there’s a real aggressive action by the UN to maintain a monopoly. They’re more concerned about defending a failed agency, UNRWA, than actually allowing aid for Palestinians through any other group.

i24 News: Okay, well, thank you very much Hillel Neuer.

UN Watch