US Senate mulling bill to end UNRWA funding

Act proposes redefining ‘Palestinian refugee’ to exclude descendants of Palestinians

(File photo: Jordan News)
(File photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — The US Senate is working on a bill that halts the provision of benefits to UNRWA and the descendants of Palestinian refugees, according to news sources.اضافة اعلان

On Wednesday, US Senator Jim Risch, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, led 13 colleagues in reintroducing the bill, tilted the “United Nations Relief and Works Agency Accountability and Transparency Act”.

The text of the bill states that its aim is “to withhold United States contributions to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA)”.

Under the bill, descendants of Palestinian refugees would no longer be considered refugees. The bill reads that “derivative refugee status may only be extended to the spouse or a minor child of a Palestinian refugee”.

Ending UNRWA contributionsThe bill stipulates that the US must halt any contributions to UNRWA or related entities unless and until the US Secretary of State submits a written certification to the effect that: “no official, employee, consultant, contractor, subcontractor, representative, affiliate of UNRWA” or other partner organization “has propagated or disseminated anti-American, anti-Israel, or anti-Semitic rhetoric, incitement, or propaganda”.

The bill reads that “derivative refugee status may only be extended to the spouse or a minor child of a Palestinian refugee”.

The bill includes within this categorization of incitement and propaganda “advocating, endorsing, or expressing support for violence, hatred, jihad, martyrdom, or terrorism, glorifying, honoring, or otherwise memorializing any person or group that has advocated, sponsored, or committed acts of terrorism, or providing material support to terrorists or their families,” with 

Included on the US list of Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations are the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), and Hamas, according to the US Department of State’s official website.

No advocacy for ‘right of return’The text also describes any descriptions of “Israelis as ‘occupiers’ or ‘settlers’” as propaganda.

Furthermore, it includes within the category of incitement “expressing support for boycott of, divestment from, and sanctions against Israel (commonly referred to as ‘BDS’)” and “claiming or advocating for a ‘right of return’ of refugees into Israel”, as well as “ignoring, denying, or not recognizing the historic connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel”.

The text also describes any descriptions of “Israelis as ‘occupiers’ or ‘settlers’” as propaganda.

The bill also stipulates that the Secretary of State “shall submit a report to the appropriate congressional committees describing the actions being taken to implement a comprehensive plan for… urging other countries to withhold their contributions to UNRWA, to any successor or related entity".

BackgroundRisch first introduced the act in July 2022, with the support of 12 colleagues.

While reintroducing it on Wednesday, he said: “UNRWA has a long history of employing people connected to terrorist movements like Hamas, promoting anti-Semitic textbooks, and using its schools to store Hamas weapons.”

“It is unthinkable that US taxpayer dollars would be used to help fund such an organization.”

The Trump Administration had halted US funding to UNRWA in 2018. Then, the Biden Administration resumed funding and has thus far provided more than $682 million to UNRWA.

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