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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

'Scandal': Israeli Dossier 'Provides No Evidence' for Claims Against UNRWA Staff

"People in Gaza are starving, and because of spurious allegations made in a dodgy dossier, they will experience worse hunger."

By Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

An Israeli dossier that more than a dozen countries have cited to justify cutting off funding to the United Nations' Palestinian refugee agency "provides no evidence" that a small number of the key U.N. aid body's employees were involved in the October 7 Hamas-led attack, according to an investigation released Monday by the British outlet Channel 4.

The dossier merely states that "from intelligence information, documents, and identity cards seized during the course of the fighting, it is now possible to flag around 190 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist operatives who serve as UNRWA employees."

"More than 10 UNRWA staffers took part in the events of [October 7]," reads the six-page dossier, which Israel provided to UNRWA donor countries—including the agency's top contributor, the United States—shortly after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) handed down an interim decision ordering Israel to take concrete steps to prevent genocide in the Gaza Strip.

The ICJ instructed the Israeli government to ensure that sufficient humanitarian assistance flows to desperate and starving Gazans, but Israel's allegations against UNRWA employees led at least 16 countries to suspend funding for the agency, the most critical aid body operating in the Palestinian enclave. Around a million displaced Gazans are currently sheltering at facilities run by UNRWA, which has 13,000 employees across the strip.

The UNRWA is reportedly set to lose $65 million by the end of February as donors' funding cuts take effect, imperiling the agency's operations in Gaza and across the Middle East.

Channel 4 noted Monday that all 13,000 of UNRWA's Gaza employees' names "have been checked against the U.N. terrorism list and, as recently as last May, were vetted and approved by Israel."

The UNRWA quickly fired nine of the employees named by Israel. On Monday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres established "an independent review group to assess whether the agency is doing everything within its power to ensure neutrality and to respond to allegations of serious breaches when they are made."

The Daily Beast also obtained a copy of the Israeli dossier and—similar to Channel 4—reported Tuesday that it "includes little evidence to back up" Israel's allegations against UNRWA employees.

Ashish Prashar, a spokesperson for Gaza Voices, said in response to the new reporting that "we now know that the document used to suspend funding to UNRWA 'provides no evidence.'"

"This is the latest campaign in a decades-long attack on UNRWA by Israel and a subset of the broader campaign to eliminate the Palestinian refugee issue," said Prashar. "People in Gaza are starving, and because of spurious allegations made in a dodgy dossier, they will experience worse hunger. This scandal should lead to resignations from officials in the U.S., UK, Germany, and elsewhere who all suspended funding to a besieged people experiencing a genocide as a result of a baseless accusation by the génocidaires themselves."

Jeremy Scahill, a senior correspondent at The Intercept's criticized the Biden administration and The Wall Street Journal for characterizing the dossier as "some smoking gun."

During a press conference last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the allegations in the dossier "highly, highly credible."

The same day as Blinken's remarks, the Journal ran a story stating that "around 10%" of UNRWA's Gaza employees have ties to Islamist militant groups," pointing to an "intelligence dossier."

But questions about the reliability of the purported intelligence cited in the Israeli dossier have been swirling since the details of its contents began to trickle out in the press late last month. Citing one unnamed senior Israeli official, Axios reported that "the intelligence is a result of interrogations of militants who were arrested during the Oct. 7 attack."

Israeli forces have repeatedly been accused by U.N. experts and human rights groups of using torture to extract forced confessions from Palestinian detainees.

"The fact that the U.S., U.K., and several other Western governments instantly attacked UNRWA on the orders of a genocidal foreign government (based on bogus claims) should make you very worried about your own democracy," Craig Mokhiber, a former U.N. official who resigned over the global institution's failure to stop Israel's assault on Gaza, wrote Tuesday.

Jake Johnson is a senior editor and staff writer for Common Dreams.

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