Fox News Reports on Sen. Cruz-Led Letter Calling for DOJ to Investigate UN Fundraising Group for Hamas Support

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In case you missed it, Fox News reports that U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and his colleagues will write to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland this week urging the U.S. Department of Justice to open a criminal investigation into UNRWA USA, a U.S.-based non-profit that raises funds for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), for providing material support for terrorism. UNRWA is the second-largest employer in the Gaza Strip and has for decades provided salaries and materials that benefit designated foreign terrorist organizations, including Hamas.

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A handful of Senate Republicans are urging the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation into a U.S.-based nonprofit that raises money for UNRWA, the United Nations refugee agency for Palestinians that critics have long said promoted an anti-Israel agenda in the Middle East and recently came under scrutiny for its alleged ties to Hamas.

Led by Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz, Republicans in the upper chamber will send a letter this week to Attorney General Merrick Garland outlining their concerns about UNRWA USA, a nonprofit with a self-described mission to support the “work of UNRWA through fundraising, education, and advocacy in the United States.”

“We write to call on you to open a criminal investigation into UNRWA USA, its principals, and its leadership for knowingly providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations, including Hamas,” the lawmakers wrote. “This support facilitated and continues to facilitate terrorism, including the October 7 terrorist attack in which Palestinian terrorists killed or kidnapped dozens of Americans and over 1,200 Israelis.

“According to its 2021 annual report, UNRWA USA dispersed nearly $5 million in donations to UNRWA that year, making the organization UNRWA’s largest institutional donor.”

According to the nonprofit’s website, UNRWA USA was “created to educate the American public about the work of UNRWA (the U.N. Agency) to benefit Palestine refugees and fundraise for specific UNRWA projects where we can have an impact.”

The lawmakers pointed to comments made in 2004 by then-UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen, who told CBC TV he had no problem with having Hamas members on UNRWA’s payroll, a chief concern that landed the U.N. agency in hot water in recent weeks after the terror group’s invasion of Israel last fall.

“Oh, I am sure that there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll, and I don’t see that as a crime,” Hanson said in part at the time.

Senate Republicans, however, noted in the letter that Hanson’s assessment “is incorrect,” noting that it “is in fact a crime.”

“Americans are in general prohibited from knowingly providing material support to Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). 18 U.S.C. § 2339B states that ‘Whoever knowingly provides material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization, or attempts or conspires to do so, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and, if the death of any person results, shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life,’” they wrote.

“The term ‘terrorist organization’ in the statute means an organization designated as a terrorist organization by the Secretary of State under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, i.e. an FTO, and ‘material support or resources’ means ‘any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safehouses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel (1 or more individuals who may be or include oneself), and transportation, except medicine or religious materials,'” they added.

The GOP members also referenced the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project (HLP), in which they noted the high court ruled “that the terms ‘service,’ ‘training,’ and ‘expert advice or assistance,’ are included within the definition of ‘material support.’

“The Court ruled that those terms may encompass a range of activities including writing and distributing publications supportive of the FTO,” they said.

Furthering his point, they wrote, “UNRWA has for decades provided Hamas and other terrorist groups with material support, including the provisioning of personnel, facilities, and physical materials. Those activities have been supported by UNRWA USA fundraising. There can be little doubt that UNRWA USA, its principals, and its leadership knew about these activities.

“The Biden administration has also channeled hundreds of billions of dollars into the Gaza Strip largely through UNRWA. The administration assessed in its opening weeks that ‘there is a high risk Hamas could potentially derive indirect, unintentional benefit from U.S. assistance to Gaza’ in violation of American laws against benefiting terrorists,” they continued. “To facilitate the provisioning of such aid, the administration first issued special licenses and then in December 2022 added a general license to the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations. These actions were designed to insulate U.S. officials and organizations like UNRWA from exposure to anti-terrorism sanctions.”

“However, the administration did not and indeed cannot exempt American citizens from criminal statutes prohibiting the provisioning of material support for terrorism,” they added.

The Republicans also noted in their letter to Garland that UNRWA is the “second-largest employer in the Gaza Strip” and that, by 2004, the “agency’s employment of Hamas personnel had become so undeniable and broadly known…”

“In February 2017, Muhammad al-Jamassi, who was then a senior engineer employed by UNRWA, and Suhail al-Hindi, who was then the head of UNRWA’s staff union and a school principal, were elected to leadership positions in the Hamas hierarchy,” they said. “Al-Hindi had been known as a Hamas official, and an advocate of suicide bombings, for several years before.”

The lawmakers also outlined how UNRWA has “provided facilities to Hamas,” as well as “facilitated Hamas’s acquisition with physical materials used for terrorism.”

“Photos and videos have demonstrated that Hamas stores weapons in UNRWA-labeled bags,” the senators wrote. “UNRWA supplies have been repeatedly found in Hamas’s underground terrorist infrastructure, and indeed Hamas used UNRWA sacks to build those tunnels.”

In a statement to Fox News Digital, Cruz said, “UNRWA has been providing material support to Hamas terrorists for decades, and UNRWA USA has been bankrolling that support. Foreigners who knowingly funded UNRWA would normally be subject to sanctions, but the Biden administration provided exemptions for those activities. However, the administration did not and indeed cannot exempt American citizens from criminal statutes prohibiting material support for terrorism.”

“Hamas’s October 7 atrocities have underlined the need to robustly enforce American anti-terrorism laws, and AG Garland should open a criminal investigation into UNRWA USA for potential violations of those laws.”

The letter slated to be sent to Garland includes the signatures of Republican senators Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, Roger Marshall of Kansas and Marco Rubio of Florida. Several other offices were still evaluating whether to sign on at the time of publication.

UNRWA USA did not comment specifically on the letter being sent to Garland, but pointed Fox News Digital to its Jan. 29 statement that noted the nonprofit was “horrified by the recent allegations against twelve UNRWA staff members.” At the time, the nonprofit also welcomed the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services’ investigation into the matter and insisted that “anyone found to be involved in terrorism must be held accountable.”

UNRWA’s ties to Hamas have come into focus in recent weeks after Israel provided the Biden administration with a new dossier containing information about how some 13 agency staffers allegedly assisted or supported the Hamas terror attacks Oct. 7.

Since October, the Biden administration has sent about $121 million in taxpayer funds to UNRWA. A remaining $300,000 in appropriated funds for this fiscal year was supposed to be delivered to the agency this month. However, the U.S. froze those funds over allegations that some UNRWA members participated in the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel, according to State Department spokesman Matthew Miller.

In addition to the U.S. putting a pause on “additional” funding to UNRWA in response to the dossier, other countries have followed suit. Germany, Italy, Australia, Finland, the Netherlands and Switzerland have also joined the boycott following the accusations, which have already resulted in the termination of multiple staffers.

Miller said the next expected payment to UNRWA would happen over the summer and that the amount would depend on how much money Congress approves for the agency in Biden’s $106 billion supplemental package request.

From 2009 to 2024, a little under $4 billion in taxpayer money was given to the humanitarian relief organization, according to a Fox News Digital review published this month.

Despite the allegations, the Biden administration has defended UNRWA, insisting the entire agency should not be judged by the purported actions of 12 people.

“We very much support the work that UNRWA does, we think it’s critical,” Miller said. “There is no other humanitarian player in Gaza who can provide food, medicine at the scale that UNRWA does.”

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