Largest pro-Israel Christian group to Biden: Permanently defund UNRWA

The leadership of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) has questioned the long-term intentions and effectiveness of the Biden administration’s decision to stop funding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

This decision came amid an investigation into a dozen UNRWA employees who are alleged to have participated in the October 7 Hamas massacre against Israel. Canada, Finland, Australia, Italy, and the UK also froze funding.

“While we welcome the decision to stop funding UNRWA, the Biden administration should make this temporary pause permanent,” said CUFI Action Fund Chairwoman Sandra Parker. “Unfortunately, the State Department’s action in this context is typical of their too little, too late approach to the Middle East.

“No US taxpayer dollars should’ve been flowing to UNRWA, just as no sanctions relief should’ve been provided to Iran,” Parker continued. “I’d love to believe the Biden administration has learned its lesson, but how much time do we really believe will pass before the White House turns the spigot back on?”

CUFI has over 10 million members and is considered the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States. Its Action Fund works on Capitol Hill to ensure America’s elected officials hear the perspective of the millions of Christian Zionists across the country.

Palestinian at an UNRWA camp in Rafah after heavy rainfall, in the southern Gaza Strip, on November 14, 2023. (credit: ABED RAHIM KHATIB/FLASH90)

UNRWA under fire

On Friday, UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said that Israel had provided UNRWA with information about the alleged involvement of some of the organization’s employees in the October 7 massacre.

In response to the organization’s statement, CUFI founder and Chairman Pastor John Hagee said he was “appalled, but I am not surprised.” He said that “the UN is a cesspool of anti-Israel hatred, and UNRWA is one of the primary organs associated with normalizing and institutionalizing international antisemitism.”

The Biden administration announced that it had temporarily paused additional funding for UNRWA “while we review these allegations and the steps the United Nations is taking to address them,” State Department Spokesman Matthew Miller said on Friday.

He added that “UNRWA plays a critical role in providing lifesaving assistance to Palestinians, including essential food, medicine, shelter, and other vital humanitarian support. Their work has saved lives, and it is important that UNRWA address these allegations and take any appropriate corrective measures, including reviewing its existing policies and procedures.”

Former US president Donald Trump had suspended funding to UNRWA in 2018, calling the organization “irredeemably flawed.” However, in 2021, the Biden administration reversed the decision.  

In 2022, America was UNRWA’s largest funder, providing $344 million of its $1.17 billion budget, according to the UN agency. In 2023, the US provided $3.4m. to UNRWA for its Syria-Lebanon Flash Appeal and $153.7m. in additional funding, including for its Emergency Appeal for the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

“Reinstating funding for UNRWA was a mistake,” Hagee said. “We knew UNRWA was complicit in Hamas’s antisemitic indoctrination of generations of Gazans, but it’s clear they’ve taken the next logical step: joining Hamas’s terrorist ranks.”

Already, back at the beginning of December, shortly after Germany announced it would halt new aid commitments for long-term UNRWA development projects in Gaza, CUFI called on the US and the United Kingdom to suspend funding, too.

“UNRWA helps Hamas maintain its grip over the Palestinian people, infect children with antisemitic lies, and divert resources toward building and maintaining the most significant terror infrastructure in the world,” Hagee said in a December 4 statement. “President Biden should follow Germany’s lead by ordering a suspension of US taxpayer dollars to an organization that provides in-kind contributions to murderers and hostage takers.

“Not one penny should flow to UNRWA from Americans until the UN reforms itself to ensure it helps, not hinders, the Palestinian people.”

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