Hagerty, Cruz, Braun Introduce Legislation to Withhold Funding for UNRWA Unless State Department Certifies no Connection to Anti-Israel Extremism

December 15, 2023

NASHVILLE, TN—United States Senators Bill Hagerty (R-TN), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Appropriations Committees, Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Mike Braun (R-IN) yesterday introduced the UNRWA Reform Act, a bill to withhold U.S. taxpayer funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) until the Secretary of State can submit to Congress a written certification that UNRWA has no affiliation with terrorist organizations and does not engage in activities that encourage anti-Israel extremism.

“President Trump rightfully stopped sending U.S. taxpayer funds to UNRWA because of its ties to terrorism and encouragement of extremism, but President Biden disgracefully reinstated it without insisting on significant reforms,” said Senator Hagerty. “As evidence continues to mount that UNRWA policies and school curricula cultivate anti-Israel extremism and encourages the operations of Hamas terrorists, it is unconscionable that the U.S. continues to fuel terrorism by supporting UNRWA. Until President Biden’s State Department can certify to Congress that UNRWA has no ties to terrorist organizations and does not encourage anti-Israel terrorism, Congress must put an end to this Administration’s funding of both sides of the Israel-Hamas war.”

“UNRWA is one of the worst of the many organizations in the United Nations that incites antisemitism and benefits Hamas,” said Senator Cruz. “The Biden administration is giving them uncountable and uncounted American taxpayer dollars, which flow directly to Hamas, because the administration puts partisan politics and ideological objectives above the national security interests of the U.S. and our allies. This must end, and I’m proud to work with Sen. Hagerty to reform this Hamas-loving, antisemitic organization.”

“In no way should U.S. taxpayer dollars be used to fund and promote antisemitism and terrorism,” said Senator Braun. “The 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. Serious reforms must be taken by UNWRA before any more U.S. taxpayer dollars are used to fund this organization.”

Specifically, the UNRWA Reform Act would require that the Secretary of State submit to Congress, in writing, certification of the following, prior to the obligations of U.S. funds for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA):

  • All employees, contractors, and beneficiaries of UNRWA have been vetted in compliance with anti-terrorism vetting procedures used by USAID or their equivalent.
  • UNRWA has passed an independent audit during the calendar year that funds are obligated verifying that all educational curricula used in UNRWA schools contain no evidence of antisemitism and that no teachers have been found to be engaged in anti-Semitism. 
  • All people registered as “refugees” with UNRWA were personally displaced by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war
  • UNRWA has certified in writing during the calendar year that funds are obligated that it recognizes as terrorist organizations Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and all other Palestinian organizations designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the United States.


·        President Trump suspended funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in 2018. President Biden resumed funding for UNRWA in April 2021 without any concrete plan for reform.

o   In 2022, the United States contributed $344 million to UNRWA in spite of substantial evidence that UNRWA has contributed to Palestinian extremism.

·        Palestinian schools administered by UNRWA have used textbooks and allowed the presence of materials that delegitimize Israel, denigrate Jews, and venerate martyrdom.

o   In January 2021, UNRWA’s secretary-general acknowledged that the agency’s educational curricula refer to Israel as the “enemy” and teach math by counting “martyred” terrorists

·        Then-U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in January 2021 that less than five percent of people registered as “refugees” with UNRWA meet the internationally recognized criteria for refugee status. 

·        Since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7, 2023, the Israeli Defense Forces has uncovered overwhelming evidence of diverted UNRWA aid in Hamas tunnels and of entrances to Hamas tunnels directly under UNRWA schools.

·        According to watchdogs, over 100 Hamas terrorists who participated in the terrorist attacks of October were graduates of UNRWA schools, and at least 14 teachers and staff members of UNRWA schools celebrated the massacre on social media

Full text of the legislation can be found here.