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Rubio Joins Risch, Colleagues, in Introducing UNRWA Accountability and Transparency Act

Jul 27, 2021 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined Senator Jim Risch (R-ID), and colleagues in introducing the United Nations Relief and Works Agency Accountability and Transparency Act. This bill outlines a comprehensive approach to cease U.S. contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), unless the U.S. Secretary of State certifies to Congress that UNRWA no longer employs, or is associated with terrorist organizations, no longer allows its facilities to be used by terrorist organizations, allows independent audits of its finances, and no longer publishes anti-American or anti-Israel materials. 

Joining Rubio and Risch in introducing this bill were Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Steve Daines (R-MT), Todd Young (R-IN), Rob Portman (R-OH), Susan Collins (R-ME), Rick Scott (R-FL), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), John Boozman (R-AR), and John Thune (R-SD). Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX) introduced companion legislation, with 27 cosponsors, in the House of Representatives.

“Our nation should not be spending U.S. taxpayer dollars on an organization that has been credibly accused of corruption, mishandling funds, and actively incites hatred against the Jewish State of Israel,” Rubio said. “I’m proud to join Ranking Member Risch in introducing this bill, which would withhold funds from UNRWA until the U.S. Secretary of State certifies that the organization adheres to multiple commonsense requirements.” 

“When UNRWA was created, its specific purpose was to provide relief for refugees of the 1948 Arab-Israeli Conflict. More than 70 years later, the organization has employed individuals affiliated with Hamas, a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization (FTO), and its schools have been used to promote anti-Semitism and store Hamas weapons,” Risch said. “It is unacceptable that U.S. taxpayer dollars are being used to fund this agency, which is why I’ve introduced legislation to cease U.S. contributions to UNRWA unless the administration can certify without a doubt that the agency has no affiliation with U.S. designation FTOs and does not support anti-Semitic rhetoric. The American people deserve better, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on holding both the administration and UNRWA accountable until meaningful reforms are made.”

“U.S. tax dollars should not go to any U.N. agency supporting individuals associated with Hammas or anti-Semitism,” Tillis said. “I am proud to-cosponsor this legislation that would cease U.S. support to UNRWA unless they show additional transparency.”

“The UNRWA now practices activities far beyond its intended scope, including engaging in antagonistic behaviors toward Israel,” Crapo said. “American taxpayers should not have to continue footing the bill to fund an agency linked to foreign terrorist groups or using and promoting anti-Semitic material.” 

“In his haste to undo anything associated with the previous administration, President Biden has put American taxpayers in the unacceptable position of supporting groups that work directly against the United States and its allies, namely Israel and the Jewish people,” Hyde-Smith said. “Congress is well within its rights to restrict the use of any U.S. funding until the United Nations reforms its flawed Palestinian refugee program.  This legislation deserves broad bipartisan support.” 

“We must ensure taxpayer dollars are not being funneled into programs that support terrorist organizations and promote antisemitism,” Daines said. 

“UNRWA was originally formed as a temporary organization to care for refugees of the Israeli-Arab conflict, yet over the last 70 years it has evolved into a permanent institution that works against the interests of the United States, Israel, and the Palestinian people,” Young said. “Instead of just caring for refugees, UNRWA supports – and even employs – members of the terrorist organization Hamas, funds anti-Semitic and radical Islamic instruction, and undermines efforts to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This legislation will help protect U.S. tax dollars from going to this organization until critical reforms are made.”

“Reform of UNRWA is necessary to ensure the organization does not support terrorism and that they are not endangering the security of Israel or promoting anti-Semitic ideology,” Portman said. “I encourage my colleagues in Congress to pass this bipartisan, bicameral bill so that we can bring much-needed accountability and transparency to the agency.” 

“UNRWA is an entity badly in need of significant reform. It has a record of employing individuals affiliated with Hamas, a U.S. designated terrorist organization, as well as promoting anti-Semitism,” Collins said. “Our bipartisan legislation would cease U.S. contributions to UNRWA absent significant improvements in accountability and transparency at the agency. By pushing to reform UNRWA, this bill would help promote peace in the region and ensure that U.S. taxpayer dollars are being used appropriately.” 

“Just a few months ago, we saw Hamas terrorists attack our great ally, Israel. American taxpayer dollars should never be used to fund terrorist organizations like Hamas through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency,” R. Scott said. “It’s common sense. This bill works to cut off funding for this organization until significant reforms are made and we can guarantee that no taxpayer dollar will support terrorism or dangerous anti-Semitic activity.” 

“Under no circumstances should taxpayer funds support terrorist organizations,” Blackburn said. “While the UNRWA was established nearly 70 years ago with the intent of assisting refugees, it has evolved into a cash funnel for Hamas and a mouthpiece for anti-Semitism. We cannot remain complicit in these egregious abuses of funds provided by the international community. I am glad to join my colleagues in the Senate to introduce legislation to cut off terrorist organizations from siphoning money from the United States.” 

“U.S. tax dollars should not go to anti-Semitic entities or actors that actively undermine Israel’s security and right to exist,” Boozman said. “The Biden administration’s decision to restore funding to UNRWA absent critical reforms that ensure it no longer supports or aids U.S.-designated foreign terrorist organizations and ends promoting the destruction of the Jewish state is irresponsible. I’m proud to join my colleagues seeking to put a stop to it.” 

“Israel is our closest and most reliable ally in the region,” Thune said. “The United States should not be providing assistance to an organization that supports anti-Semitism ideology and employs individuals linked to Hamas, an Iranian-backed, U.S.-designated terrorist organization. I am proud to join Senator Risch in introducing this legislation, and I appreciate his leadership on this important issue.”