Groups Investigating UNRWA Have Anti-Israel Bias

Feb 09, 2024

To: Interested Parties
From: The 10/7 Project
Re: Groups Investigating UNRWA Have Anti-Israel Bias  
Contact: [email protected]

The groups leading the investigation into the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) are themselves biased against Israel. The investigation of UNRWA, launched by the UN amid the shocking revelation that 12 UNRWA employees directly participated in the October 7th massacre, has drawn criticism for being led by three institutes with track records of anti-Israel bias. Given the institutes’ past actions and statements, media outlets and experts have voiced concern about their ability to conduct an accurate, unbiased investigation into serious issues of concern at UNRWA, which range from the teaching of anti-Israel propaganda in UNRWA schools to reports of Hamas using UNRWA facilities to facilitate terrorist plots.

The review group is made up of the Chr. Michelsen Institute of Norway, the Danish Institute for Human Rights, and the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden and it will be led by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna. In early January, Colonna issued her “full renewed support for [UNRWA’s] work” calling it “more useful than ever.” Colonna’s praise of UNRWA came only four days after UN Watch exposed 3,000 UNRWA teachers for celebrating Hamas’s attack on October 7th.

The Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI) has a history of bias against Israel. In January this year, CMI published a blog post, “How South Africa rescued humanity (and International Law) at the International Court of Justice,” praising South Africa’s meritless and misplaced case accusing Israel of genocide. Additionally, in a 2022 report, CMI claimedthat UNRWA has “zero tolerance for incitement” to violence. In fact, Israeli intelligence reports estimate that 10% of UNRWA staff have ties to Islamist terrorist groups. Moreover, 12 UNRWA members directly participated in the October 7 massacre. In 2014, CMI authored a positive review of the Palestinian organization Al-Haq, saying it “contributes significantly to the vigor of Palestinian civil society.” CMI’s review failed to mention that Al-Haq is controlled by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S, Israel and dozens of Western countries. Al-Haq is also headed by a convicted terrorist, Shawan Jabarin.

The Danish Institute for Human Rights (DIHR) has wrongly accused Israel of committing genocide. Just two weeks before UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres requested the DIHR take part in conducting an independent review of UNRWA, a senior researcher at the institute praised South Africa’s case against Israel and failed to condemn Hamas for their war crimes. Of the case, DIHR researcher Peter Vedel Kessing said in remarks later posted on the DIHR website, “It is a breakthrough and an important progress for international humanitarian law that the case has been filed and is being dealt with by the International Court of Justice.” In the weeks since the ICJ case, human rights lawyers like Michael Sfard have objected to these meritless claims – saying that Israel “doesn’t even begin to meet the threshold of what genocide is,” and that the implication “cheapens the very important and grave concept of genocide.”

Sweden’s Raoul Wallenberg Institute has elevated speakers who peddle anti-Semitic conspiracies. Despite being named after a Swedish Diplomat who rescued Jews and other persecuted people in Hungary during the Holocaust, the Institute has repeatedly invited controversial UN official Richard Falk to speak at their events, despite his conspiratorial and inflammatory rhetoric. Watchdog groups have criticized Falk for endorsing a book that praises Adolf Hitler and likening Israel’s military activity in Gaza to the Holocaust. In 2007, Falk authored an article entitled Slouching Towards a Palestinian Holocaustin which he wrote, “Is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians in Gaza with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not…”

The UN’s selection of these groups to conduct the review is the latest instance of anti-Israel bias at the organization. In a statement marking 100 days since the brutal October 7th massacre, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) chose to criticize Israel, and failed to condemn Hamas’s inhumane actions or call for the release of hostages in Hamas captivity. Additionally, in 2022, the UN passed “more resolutions critical of Israel than against all other nations combined.” Today, the UN continues to maintain what watchdog groups have termed a “one-sided, hostile approach to Israel,” as demonstrated by the current investigation into UNRWA.


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