Canada has committed more funds to the United Nations agency overseeing Palestinian refugees, again raising the ire of Jewish organizations.
Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development, announced on Oct. 12 that Canada will give up to $50 million over two years to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
Up to $40 million will go toward the “basic education, health and livelihood needs of millions of Palestinian refugees, especially women and children,” said a statement from Bibeau’s office.
Up to $10 million will provide “emergency life-saving assistance to more than 460,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon through UNRWA’s Emergency Appeal for the Syria regional crisis.”
The funding will “contribute to stability in the region by providing basic services to people whose needs would otherwise be unmet,” Bibeau stated.
While Israel and Jewish groups have long accused UNRWA of misdirecting funds and fomenting hatred and terrorism against Israel, Canada’s funding will assist the agency with “its ongoing efforts to improve neutrality,” Bibeau’s statement said.
Stephen Harper’s Conservative government eliminated aid to UNRWA in 2010 over the agency’s widely-reported ties to Hamas. In 2016, the federal Liberals restored funding to the agency.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) said it continues to have “serious reservations” about UNRWA, “which has failed to demonstrate accountability time and again.”
CIJA said it is disappointed in UNRWA’s “limited progress in ending anti-Israel incitement in Palestinian schools. We are also alarmed that senior UNRWA officials have continued to violate the agency’s pledge of neutrality through toxic anti-Israel advocacy.”
Hamas, it added, “regularly steals aid intended for Palestinians [and] has misused UNRWA facilities for terrorist purposes.” It called for “strong, concrete accountability measures to ensure that Canadian aid advances peace and improves the quality of life for Palestinians without putting the security of Israelis at risk.”
The government has previously said that it “exercises enhanced due diligence” when it comes to aid to Palestinians, and that measures are in place to ensure that funds are not misused or diverted to terrorist groups.
B’nai Brith Canada also expressed disappointment in the new round of funding. The organization said it sees “no evidence” that reforms it has called for have taken place.
Canada “must explain how taxpayer money allocated to UNRWA is not being diverted for terrorism,” said B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn. He cited a report from last spring, which found that textbooks in UNRWA-funded schools still contain anti-Semitic and anti-Israel bias.
CIJA said UNWRA schools continue to teach “deeply problematic material, such as content celebrating child murderers as heroes.”
The Trump administration decided in August to withdraw $300 million in support to UNRWA, which it called “irredeemably flawed.”
Last March, Canada pledged $10 million in “emergency humanitarian assistance” to UNRWA.
In late July, Canada announced funding of $50 million to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. That money was not delivered via UNRWA or the Palestinian Authority but through a variety of UN humanitarian agencies. Three of the four new projects announced were to be implemented by Canadian humanitarian groups.
The latest round of support will help to send “hundreds of thousands of children to school, train teachers and support over a hundred health clinics,” Bibeau’s department stated. “This new funding to UNRWA is urgently needed, and it will bring some predictability to the agency as the needs on the ground are increasing.”
Since 2016, Canada has committed $110 million in support for UNRWA.