U.N. Employees in Gaza: Alleged Involvement in Hamas Attack Discredits Organization

If U.N. employees are deemed to be involved in a terrorist attack, it is inevitable that their organization will lose credibility, and that its activities in the field will be constrained. It is essential to drastically reform the organization’s management to prevent a reoccurrence.

The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has said that 12 of its local employees were involved in a surprise attack on Israel by the Islamist group Hamas in October last year. These 12 employees are alleged to have taken part in such acts as kidnapping a woman and providing Hamas with weapons.

For many years, UNRWA has played a key role in providing medical services to residents, education for children and other support in the Gaza Strip. Hamas, which has ruled Gaza, also has a history of expanding support for itself by providing assistance to the poor.

The employees accused are Palestinians, and their sentiment against Israel is likely to be no different from that of regular residents. It is not surprising that some UNRWA employees sympathize with Hamas, which advocates for the annihilation of Israel.

Nevertheless, U.N. employees, who are supposed to be fair and neutral, must not be excused for being complicit in terrorist acts.

Are there any local staff members other than these 12 employees who collaborated in the surprise attack by Hamas? UNRWA should be aware that doubts are being cast on its entire organization. To regain trust, UNRWA must act urgently to ascertain the full facts about the allegations and strengthen the management system of its staff.

Following the allegations, more than a dozen countries, including the United States, Japan and European nations, have decided to suspend funding for UNRWA. Until the results of organizational reform are demonstrated, it is inevitable for these countries to take such harsh measures.

However, U.N. support activities in Gaza rely on financial contributions from various countries. It is necessary to avoid the humanitarian situation in Gaza from deteriorating further due to a prolonged suspension of funding.

Israel’s attacks in Gaza have continued for nearly four months. According to Gaza health authorities, the death toll of Palestinians has exceeded 27,000.

The International Court of Justice called on Israel in January to “take all measures within its power” to prevent genocide. It is important for Israel to take this seriously and restrain itself from excessive force beyond the scope of self-defense.

Israel and Hamas are continuing negotiations to pause the war. In case they reach an agreement, the focus will then be on how Gaza is ruled and by whom. It is understandable that Israel has insisted Hamas should be excluded from the governing system.

It is hoped that the United Nations will play a major role from a neutral standpoint. However, if it is involved in terrorist acts, discussions to create a new governing system are unlikely to advance. The United Nations should eradicate the stigma by revamping its regional body.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Feb. 3, 2024)