UNRWA issue tops agenda for faith-based parliamentarians in Israel

Over 20 parliamentarians from various countries actively promoting pro-Israel legislation through Christian faith-based diplomacy were invited to discussions at the Jerusalem Chairman’s Conference, organized by the Israel Allies Foundation, from March 3-5, 2024.

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The conference brought together parliamentarians from various parts of the world, including South Sudan, Brazil, Sweden, Croatia, Finland, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Romania, Wales, and others, who came to Israel to show solidarity during these times. 

Delegation members met key Israeli politicians, witnessed the aftermath of the October 7 attacks in Kfar Aza, received a security briefing in the West Bank, and signed a resolution that condemns Iran for its role as a sponsor of terrorism. 

Josh Reinstein, president of the Israel Allies Foundation and director of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus, told The Media Line that the conference has an important educational mission.

“We brought them here in the largest delegation of political leaders since October 7, not just to stand in solidarity with Israel, but to learn what’s happening here so they can return to their governments educated about the issues and share their insights,” Reinstein explained. He continued that the most important thing is that parliamentarians can see what happened for themselves. 

Evangelical Christians from around the world sing and recite prayers as they attend the 2013 Jerusalem Chairman’s Conference hosted by the Israel Allies Foundation, at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem, on September 22, 2013. (credit: FLASH90)

He said that the representatives of the countries at the conference are unique in that they are people of faith. “It is what we call faith-based diplomacy when people take their biblical support and turn it into real political action,” he told The Media Line.

One of the notable attendees, Emanuelis Zingeris, the only Jewish member of the Lithuanian Parliament and the head of the Lithuanian delegation to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in Strasbourg, shared his appreciation of the excellent relationship between Israel and his homeland.

“We have excellent relations between Lithuania and Israel,” he told The Media Line. I can only recommend Israel to pursue broader politics, not only to be focused on the answer to terror groups like Hamas but also to be together with us fighting the Russian invasion against Ukraine and being on the general line of a democratic state.” 

UNRWA is among most discussed issues

UNRWA became one of the biggest points discussed at the conference, with the largest delegations of parliamentarians that came to learn about the massacre on October 7. UNRWA, the United Nations agency that provides Palestinian refugees with welfare and humanitarian services, is under investigation. Israel has accused several of its members of participating in Hamas’ October 7 onslaught on Israel, resulting in 1,200 casualties and 253 hostages.

The IDF released audio recordings incriminating two additional UNRWA employees, bringing the total number of agency workers actively involved in the attacks to 14, according to Jerusalem.

Some hostages released in November claimed they were held in the homes of UNRWA members. Throughout the war, the IDF uncovered instances of the organization being used as a cover for Hamas. For example, in February, it was revealed that Hamas hid an underground data center under the UNRWA Gaza headquarters building, with an entrance under a nearby UNRWA school.

Consequently, countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany froze funding for the organization. The investigation’s findings are expected in late April.

Gila Gamliel, Minister of Intelligence and a Likud Knesset member, delivered a speech about UNRWA’s involvement in the Hamas organization at the conference.

“The World Agency UNRWA is the refugee body that privileges Palestinians over every other refugee population. Yet, it has done nothing to help the Palestinian people, even though it has an annual budget of over $1 billion,” said the Minister. “In fact, we now know that 1,468 UNRWA employees are active members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. A full 50% of UNRWA employees have a first-degree relative who is a member of a terrorist organization,” she added. 

Gamliel continued: “We know that UNRWA employees were part of the massacre of October 7  and were involved in international war crimes. Many global humanitarian organizations can take UNRWA’s roles in providing education, food, medical care, and shelter in Gaza. It is time to end UNRWA once and for all!”

Reinstein told The Media Line that conference participants are dedicated to suspending funding and defunding UNWRA completely. 

“They wrote a statement calling to dismantle and defund UNWRA, as the organization is involved in terrorism, and they don’t like that their countries’ money is going to support it,” he said. 

Reinstein told The Media Line that there is a considerable debate about what will happen after UNRWA is dismantled. “Now, these chairs are coming up with solutions, but I think that when Israel says that this is what we want, everyone will rally to the cause.”

Defense minister says fight in Gaza is of global importance

Gamliel also outlined that it is vital to understand that Israel is fighting for its existence and the safety of its people. Still, the problem of terrorism goes beyond the Jewish people. “On Saturday the 7, on our Holy Shabbat and the holiday of Torah, thousands of Hamas terrorists attacked our border with violence.”

“They took hostages, including children and the elderly, killed, burned and beheaded babies, they brutally raped women who just wanted to enjoy the music festival,” said Gamliel. 

She added: “Nevertheless, it is not just about Israel. It is a big problem for the entire planet because our enemies said proudly that Israel is only the first target and the entire planet will be under their law. We are just on the front lines. We must stand together.”

While discussing Hamas attacks, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset Moshe Tur-Paz commented on the group’s infrastructure in Gaza. “I think Israel is doing a great job fighting Hamas in the Gaza Strip. It’s one of the most dangerous terror organizations in the world. And it’s built a huge infrastructure to fight Israel: tens of thousands of missiles and underground tunnels,” he told The Media Line. 

Tur-Paz also expressed his dismay, stating, “I think it is a scandal that Israel allowed it, and we should have dealt with it much better. How did we let Hamas become such a huge and strong organization? How did the 7th of October massacre happen?”

“There are two ways where you can define that you have won the war,” he added. “The first one is if your enemy can’t fight you, and the second one is if he doesn’t want to fight you. At the moment, we’re mainly reaching the first one. After it is done, we will have to come to terms with Palestinians’ authorities of some kind, in which we’ll take over the Gaza Strip.” 

Tur-Paz also gave his insights on the war in the north of Israel. “We will have to either come to an agreement or fight Hezbollah and show them there’s a price to not moving back from our borders. Israel is ready, if it doesn’t have any other option, to fight Hizbullah in Lebanon and to overtake whatever it needs to take off the missiles of Hizbullah that are now shooting at our civilians.” 

“We do need our allies, as we have shown America and some of the main countries in Europe have stood at our side, both in Gaza and saying that if we fight Hezbollah, they’ll be with us. We’ll be happy to have them with us. But if they won’t, it will be harder, but we will overcome – that’s Israel,” he told The Media Line.

Tur-Paz explained that Israel is making a tremendous effort to fight Hamas most efficiently. 

“That’s very hard because Hamas has been using every house in the Gaza Strip. I’ve seen it in my own eyes, including 100% of schools,” he said during the conference.

Lawmakers talk Christian solidarity

Another topic discussed at the conference was establishing Christian solidarity, which is crucial for developing a meaningful connection between Israel and the global Christian community. 

This solidarity is based on shared values, historical ties, and a mutual appreciation for the significance of the Holy Land. As a nation with deep biblical roots, Israel holds a special place in the hearts of Christians worldwide. 

Julius Moelenga, a member of parliament in the Transitional National Legislative Assembly of South Sudan, shared his opinion on religious matters and the importance of dialogue. 

“As Christians, we know where our faith is, and we will not allow the imposition of religion on others. We have religious tolerance in our country. Today, there are Muslims and Christians, but we will not allow one religion to dominate others,” he told The Media Line. 

Moelenga shared that he is using Jesus’ political perspective. “Today, as a Christian, but also as a politician, I must take my route, the line which I will take as a Christian believer,” he said. 

“We just want the whole thing to end in peace so that, at the end of the day, there will be no war; human beings should stay together as brothers and sisters. Everything should come through dialogue,” said Moelenga to The Media Line. 

National Unity Party Knesset Member Matan Kahana agreed that Christian support for Israel is highly valued.

“It is very important because we share the same ideas and values. This is the most important thing in my eyes to say to the world: we are sharing the Western world and the liberal world values,” he told The Media Line. 

Kahana shared that terrorists don’t only aim at the Jewish nation but also the Christian world. 

“They know that it’s first the Jews and then the Christians. They’re next, and it’s not just a theory, but our enemies say it openly. It’s not only very important for them to stand with Israel, but to learn from Israel how they could better protect their own countries,” he said.

The Lithuanian parliamentarian outlined the importance of promoting solidarity among democratic countries, specifically Israel. Zingeris passionately declared, “It’s a war made against democracy by totalitarian ideology.” 

Speaking to The Media Line, he emphasized the importance of upholding democratic values in the face of external threats. Zingeris highlighted the diversity of ideologies, noting that while individuals can hold Buddhist, Muslim, or Hindu beliefs, these ideologies should not govern. 

He ardently asserted the need to defend the rights of all citizens in Israel, not only to be free from attacks but also to have the fundamental right to express diverse opinions.

In a speech, Reinstein talked about a serious issue in Europe where some Islamists are openly expressing their desire to enforce Sharia rules and consider Christians as their slaves. He emphasized the need to face this truth and not ignore the explicit statements made by these individuals. 

Quoting the Islamists, he said, “We want to apply Sharia rules here. You are Christians. You are our slaves.” Reinstein urged everyone to wake up to this reality, believe what is being said, and not turn a blind eye. 

He said acknowledging this truth is crucial in addressing the situation.

The Lithuanian parliamentarian, whose work has been partly focused on the crimes done by Nazis during World War II and dictator Stalin, shared his thoughts about radical Islam and dictatorship. “It was a huge mistake that during the evolution of ISIS just a few years ago, the ideology of fundamental Islam was not analyzed by international courts in The Hague. We will pay for this mistake.” 

“Now we see how dictatorships are united among themselves, Russia behind Iran, together with China, North Korea against all our democratic world, and our democratic world becoming smaller and the dictatorships becoming more effective,” he told The Media Line. 

Zingeris also shared that on October 10th, the Lithuanian parliament voted to support Israel. “We have three pages of resolution including an evaluation that Iran cannot be allowed to have nuclear weapons.”

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