Gottheimer, colleagues to call on U.N. secretary-general, UNRWA chief to step down

The letter cites a series of issues in the U.N.’s response to the Oct. 7 attack in Israel, including UNRWA employees’ participation in the Hamas assault

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Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) leaves a classified, closed-door briefing about Hamas' attack on Israel in the Capitol Visitors Center Auditorium on October 11, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) is leading a letter to Secretary of State Tony Blinken on Tuesday calling for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres and U.N. Relief and Works Agency Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini to resign following what the New Jersey lawmaker described as the “appalling and disturbing saga” of  the U.N.’s response to the Oct. 7 attack in Israel, including UNRWA employees’ participation in the Hamas assault, Jewish Insider has learned.

“We have lost all confidence in Secretary-General António Guterres’ ability to ensure that the U.N. is not actively supporting terrorism or giving refuge to known terrorists,” the letter, a draft of which was obtained by JI, reads. “Therefore, we ask you to demand that  Secretary-General Guterres and UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini to immediately resign from their posts. They can no longer be entrusted to maintain international peace and security, protect all nations, and uphold international law.”

Reps. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) and Ritchie Torres (D-NY) joined Gottheimer as original signatories to the letter, which began circulating on Capitol Hill on Tuesday afternoon.

The letter points to a series of U.N. responses and reactions to the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel, including allegations that UNRWA employees were involved in the attacks, other ties between UNRWA and Hamas, the U.N.‘s equivocal initial response to the attack and UN Women’s slow response to acknowledge Hamas’ sexual violence. 

The letter asks the G7 nations to investigate Hamas’ involvement in UNRWA and implement “strict ongoing oversight” of its activities.

“We must ensure not a dollar more of aid for innocent civilians ends up in the hands of terrorists. UNRWA also should immediately replace its senior leadership,” the letter reads. “It is unacceptable that U.S. tax dollars, allocated to assist innocent Palestinians, instead funded tunnels under UNRWA buildings, and paid for terrorists to murder, rape, kidnap, and hold innocent civilians hostage.”

The letter comes as other moderate pro-Israel Democrats have told JI that they’re open to seeing the organization disbanded and replaced.

“These recent reports demonstrate that the UN and UNRWA can no longer be trusted to operate as the unbiased liaison to the Palestinian people,” the letter reads. “In the quest to ensure innocent Palestinians receive humanitarian aid, and are not used as human shields by Hamas and UNRWA operatives, it is well past time for a new path forward.”

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