In response to allegations of promoting antisemitism and financing affiliates of terrorist groups, lawmakers in both the House and Senate have introduced legislation to halt U.S. funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), a UN agency which supports Palestinian refugees.

According to Representative Chip Roy, who introduced the bill in the House, the agency is an “anti-Israel” vehicle that spreads hatred for Jews. Senator Jim Risch introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

Textbook Analysis and Terror Financing

UNRWA has repeatedly come under fire for providing educational materials that incite violence against Jews and Israel. Palestinian textbooks produced by UNRWA include content promoting terrorism, spreading antisemitism, and denying Israel’s existence. The agency has also had problems with terror financing. UNRWA has paid more than $4.8 million for health care services to the Union of Health Work Committees, a Gaza-based entity affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), which is designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization.

Experts Applaud, But Legislation May Not Work

Experts have applauded lawmakers for seeking to halt U.S. funding to UNRWA but warned that legislation may not work. According to Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, the foreign policy establishments in both Washington and Jerusalem see these funds as necessary to keep things from erupting in the West Bank, Gaza, and beyond.

Funding to UNRWA

In 2017, the U.S. contributed nearly $350 million to UNRWA, whose budget is almost entirely composed of contributions from foreign governments – above all the U.S. The Trump administration ended U.S. funding to UNRWA the following year, cutting $300 million of planned support. President Biden restored more than $200 million of American assistance to the U.N. agency three years later. As of July 2022, the Biden administration had given $618 million to UNRWA, according to the agency and the White House.

UNRWA and Palestinian Refugees

UNRWA is the only U.N. refugee agency dedicated to a population of just one origin – the Palestinians – while all the world’s other refugees are served by the U.N. high commissioner for refugees. The U.N. defines a refugee as someone outside their country of nationality because they’re fearful of being persecuted by that country for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. This definition applies to all peoples around the world – except for the Palestinians, who under UNRWA are considered refugees at birth, even if they never fled persecution.


The introduction of the bill targeting UNRWA by Representative Chip Roy and Senator Jim Risch highlights the accusations of promoting antisemitism and terror financing that UNRWA has faced. Despite criticism of the organization, the U.S. has provided significant funding to UNRWA, with the Biden administration giving $618 million as of July 2022. Although experts have praised lawmakers for their actions, the legislation may not be successful due to the belief that funding is necessary to maintain stability in the region.