On Senate Floor & in Letter to Senate Leadership, Ricketts Calls to End U.S. Funding for UNRWA
February 1, 2024
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Pete Ricketts (R-NE) spoke on the Senate floor demanding a ban on U.S. funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Additionally, Ricketts led a letter signed by 26 Republican Senators demanding the supplemental aid package include language that permanently and immediately stops all U.S. aid to UNWRA.
“UNRWA has been described as essentially a branch of Hamas, but by the way this is not a new news flash that it has happened,” Ricketts said in his speech. “The UN has said they’re going to launch an investigation into this. But guess what? We know through previous investigations that this was the pattern of UNRWA. The Trump Administration knew this, and so they cut off funding for UNRWA… Inexplicably the Biden administration as soon as they came into office, resumed our funding, our taxpayer dollars to UNRWA. 730 million U.S. taxpayer dollars given to UNRWA.”
“We need to provide Israel the tools they need to be able to defend themselves and destroy this terrorist organization,” Ricketts closed. “And we should not act counter to that, by providing UNRWA money. We must permanently ban our funding to UNRWA so that our taxpayer dollars are not supporting the terrorist organization, Hamas.”
Ricketts has been calling to permanently end U.S. funding for UNRWA since shortly after the October 7th Hamas attack on Israel. The Biden administration re-started UNRWA funding that President Trump had ended. Since taking office, the Biden administration has given UNRWA upwards of $730 million. Details of the letter sent to Senate leadership can be found here.
Senator Ricketts: “I rise here today in support of our closest and longest standing ally in the
Middle East, Israel and also to prevent American taxpayer dollars from supporting terrorism.
“On October 7th, Hamas broke the ceasefire with a horrific and barbaric attack on Israel. Hamas terrorists crossed the border. They killed unarmed citizens, raped and mutilated women, burned children, beheaded soldiers, and kidnapped innocent civilians as well.That horrific attack demonstrates the barbarity of this terrorist organization.
“For those who call on a ceasefire for Israel to somehow sponsor this, I call on you to call on Hamas to surrender. Hamas must surrender. Israel cannot tolerate an organization on its border that has dedicated to the destruction of its state. Hamas said time and time again, that they will continue to attack Israel in this barbaric way.
“Hamas must be destroyed, and the United States must support Israel. Israel will be doing the world of favor when Hamas is destroyed.
“On that day 1,200 Israelis were killed. It included 33 Americans. Hundreds of people were kidnapped, many of whom have not been returned. I have been posting about the hostages since this terrible event has happened. These folks are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, children. These folks are real people, and they must be returned, and that is why it’s so important that Hamas surrender, return the hostages, and the state of Israel must continue to defend itself until that happens.
“Now we ought not support terrorism, especially not a brutal terroristic organization by the name of Hamas. We shouldn’t undermine our foreign policy to support the state of Israel, and yet that is exactly what we are doing at this moment.
“There is an organization called the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees in the Near East, also called UNRWA. Last Friday, there was a report that a dozen UNRWA employees participated in the October 7th attack, six directly in the attack killing Israelis. A couple were responsible for logistics- procuring weapons, more were involved in kidnappings, still more were traced to the sites where Israelis had been killed.
“The Wall Street Journal reports that perhaps 10% of UNRWA employees, some 1,200 people may have links to Hamas or even the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which considers Hamas too moderate. Think about how crazy that is.
“UNRWA has been described as essentially a branch of Hamas, but by the way this is not a new news flash that it has happened. The UN has said they’re going to launch an investigation into this. But guess what? We know through previous investigations that this was the pattern of UNRWA.
“The Trump Administration knew this, and so they cut off funding for UNRWA. They knew that UNRWA previously had been supporting Hamas, and its employees also be agents of Hamas. That its textbooks glorified martyrdom, terrorism, preached anti-Semitism. Its teachers talked about killing Jews, that schools had stored weapons for Hamas, UNRWA sites and facilities been used to launch attacks on Israel.
“This was not new news. Inexplicably the Biden administration as soon as they came into office, resumed our funding, our taxpayer dollars to UNRWA. 730 million U.S. taxpayer dollars given to UNRWA. And we have since found out now that one of the UNRWA teachers, an Arabic language teacher, was a Hamas commander, who participated on an attack on a kabut that killed 97 people, and in which 26 people were kidnapped.
“We should not fund Hamas, and we should not fund Hamas through UNRWA. We need to cut off the funds to UNRWA. The Trump administration saw it, and the StateDepartment saying they are going to temporarily pause their funding to UNRWA, is simply not good enough.
“The junior Senator from South Carolina and I have proposed the Stop Support of Hamas Act. This would end U.S. taxpayer funding to UNRWA and stop their support of Hamas.
“This bill must pass, or we have other ways to do it. We can put it into any supplemental that we pass that is going to provide aid to Gaza. We are currently considering such a bill right now.
“Before we provide another taxpayer dollar, we must pass legislation so that UNRWA cannot continue to support terrorists, like Hamas. We must stand with our ally Israel. They not only have the right to defend themselves, but it will be important for world peace to see Hamas destroyed. Hamas is a brutal terroristic organization. It has no place in the world.
“We need to provide Israel the tools they need to be able to defend themselves and destroy this terrorist organization. And we should not act counter to that, by providing UNRWA money. We must permanently ban our funding to UNRWA so that our taxpayer dollars are not supporting the terrorist organization, Hamas.
“Thank you, Madam President, I yield back.”