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U.N. Refugee Agency Gives Rockets to Hamas

Weapons found in a Gaza school last week were turned over to authorities: Hamas

Staff Notes
July 21, 2014
A Palestinian child takes refuge at a U.N. school in Gaza City on July 19, 2014. (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)
A Palestinian child takes refuge at a U.N. school in Gaza City on July 19, 2014. (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

Why is Israel so distrustful of international institutions, even those that claim to have the good of children and refugees at heart? While the “global community” may be a fiction, it is nothing if not a well-meaning one. Greeting global concerns about the loss of innocent life, or the legitimate hardships of military occupation, with anger and contempt makes Israel seem churlish—and confirms depressingly widespread caricatures of a bloodthirsty entity driven by Old Testament passions to upset the peace of the entire planet.

So, when UNRWA, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, announced that it had found a cache of 20 missiles beneath a U.N.-sponsored school in Gaza last week, it was hard to credit the usual pro-Israeli line that depicts the U.N. agency as working hand-in-glove with Hamas. Yes, some U.N schools and other facilities have been used to teach hatred for the Jewish state, and for Hamas summer camps and the like. And yes, U.N. officials like Special Rapporteur for Palestine Richard Falk had a long history of making statements that left little doubt about where his sympathies lay. But Falk’s term as Special Rapporteur ended earlier this year, so it made sense that UNRWA might be turning over a new leaf.

UNRWA even issued a statement condemning the placement of missiles in a school, which it pronounced to be a “flagrant violation” of international law. Commenters like Max Fisher quickly rushed to cite UNRWA’s actions as proof that while Hamas may indeed hide rockets in schools, Israel clearly has other options than bombing civilian targets in order to get the rockets out.

Given Israel’s prickly defensiveness that appears to defy both diplomatic logic and reality, it would take an overly suspicious mind to wonder too loudly what happened to the missiles that UNRWA found beneath its school.

Sadly, that question has now been answered according to several Israeli news sources, including a blog posting by Raphael Ahern of the Times of Israel titled, “U.N. Hands Rockets Over to ‘Gaza Authorities’.” Israel’s Channel 2 has confirmed that the “Gaza authorities” to which UNRWA handed over the rockets was Hamas.

U.N. spokesman Christopher Guinness explained to Ahern that UNRWA was simply following normal practice: “According to longstanding UN practice in UN humanitarian operations worldwide, incidents involving unexploded ordnance that could endanger beneficiaries and staff are referred to the local authorities.”

Given the effects of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli children, and the effects of Israeli retaliatory attacks on the people UNRWA professes to protect, the U.N. might want to reconsider its policy of giving rockets to terrorist groups—on purely humanitarian grounds.