Economy

American nonprofit tied to UNRWA sued by Oct. 7 survivors for ‘aiding and abetting’ Hamas terrorists

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An American nonprofit that has raised millions of dollars for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East – commonly known as UNRWA, – is being sued by 10 survivors and family members of slain victims of the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks on southern Israel who argue the U.S.-based group knowingly provided material support for Hamas and terrorist activities for years.  

The lawsuit was filed earlier this month in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware on behalf of Lishay Lavi, Noach Newman, Adin Gess, Maya Parizer, Natalie Sanandaji, Yoni Diller, Hagar Almog, David Bromberg, Lior Bar Or and Ariel Ein-Gal against the UNRWA USA National Committee., claiming that UNRWA USA and UNRWA are ‘[i]nextricably [l]inked’ in supporting Hamas.

‘501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations generally do good work. They feed the hungry, help the poor, and house the homeless. But on some very rare occasions, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization finances an international terrorist plot that kills over 1,200 innocent people,’ the lawsuit says. ‘This case involves one of those rare occasions.’ 

More than 1,200 Israelis were killed, more than 6,900 civilians are estimated to have been injured, and hundreds more were taken hostage when Hamas launched a surprise attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7, 2023. 

‘During this attack, Hamas terrorists brutally beat, tortured, raped and murdered men, women, and children. But Hamas did not carry out these attacks alone. Rather, they were financed and aided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and Defendant UNRWA USA National Committee, Inc. (‘UNRWA USA’),’ the suit says.

Earlier this year, the Israeli government accused 12 UNRWA employees of having directly participated in the Oct. 7 attacks, prompting the U.S. and at least a dozen other countries to temporarily suspend funding to the agency amid a United Nations investigation. 

But Mark Goldfeder, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, told Fox News Digital that UNRWA USA did not suspend sending money to UNRWA until March 1. 

‘Way too little, way too late. They funded it up until the point, even after the reports came out of UNRWA staff literally participating in the massacre,’ Goldfeder said Wednesday. ‘Even after the United States suspended its own UNRWA donations, even after all of that, they continued fundraising, and they continued sending money.’ 

‘This is the largest private donor to UNRWA, and they have been materially and knowingly, actively, systematically using their quote unquote, charity, to operate a terrorist financing scheme in violation of federal law,’ Goldfeder said. ‘And it’s gotten to the point where the evidence is so overwhelming that even UNRWA USA has now suspended donations to UNRWA because they couldn’t deny it publicly anymore, but they knew all along what they were doing, and they need to be held accountable.’ 

The complaint alleges that UNRWA USA ‘has been and is fully aware that UNRWA works with and for Hamas, providing operational and financial support for their activities, and UNRWA USA aids, abets, and provides material support for those activities under the guise of humanitarian assistance.’ 

‘UNRWA USA collects donations in the United States and then transfers nearly all its funds to UNRWA, which has significant operations in the Gaza Strip,’ the lawsuit says. ‘Once the funds reach the Gaza Strip, UNRWA redistributes those funds to Hamas members on their payroll, some of whom are directly engaged in acts of terrorism, including but not limited to, the October 7th atrocities; to schools that are used to store Hamas’s weapons and other equipment; and to the production of educational materials that promote violence against Jews, including the destruction of the state of Israel.’ 

Fox News Digital reached out to UNRWA USA for comment on the lawsuit, but they did not immediately respond.

The lawsuit alleges that UNRWA USA ‘raises and transfers such funds knowingly, willfully, and with the intention that the funds be used by a designated foreign terrorist organization and its members for terrorist purposes’ and ‘knowingly, willfully, and intentionally works directly and indirectly in confederation and agreement with UNRWA, Hamas, and other terrorist organizations to provide material support to the designated foreign terrorist organizations and their members and for their terrorist activities.’ 

The complaint also states that in addition to having ‘common missions, finances, and activities,’ UNRWA USA and UNRWA ‘also employ overlapping staff.’ It cites posts on social media platform X in which UNRWA USA described an UNRWA employee as a freelance content producer for UNRWA USA and described UNRWA employees as ‘colleagues.’ The lawsuit also states that UNRWA USA board member Karen AbuZayd was appointed UNRWA commissioner-general in 2005, and that in April 2006 she ‘stated that she commonly met with Hamas and would continue to do so.’

The plaintiffs accuse UNRWA USA of violating the Anti-Terrorism Act and the Alien Tort Statute. 

A group of seven Republican senators penned a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland last month demanding the Justice Department open a criminal investigation into UNRWA USA, its principals and its leadership ‘for knowingly providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations, including Hamas.’ 

‘This support facilitated and continues to facilitate terrorism, including the October 7 terrorist attack,’ the letter penned by Sens. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Roger Marshall, R-Ks., Bill Hagerty, R-Tenn., Rick Scott, R-Fla., Pete Ricketts, R-Nebraska, and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said. 

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. In 2004, the senators also noted, the then-UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen said in an interview, ‘I am sure there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll and I don’t see that as a crime.’ 

‘That assessment is incorrect. It is in fact a crime,’ the Feb. 15 letter from the senators said.

In tandem with the civil litigation seeking monetary damages, Goldfeder told Fox News Digital he hopes the DOJ picks up the criminal probe and holds UNRWA USA accountable. 

On Feb. 13, the Senate passed a controversial $95 billion national security supplemental package to assist Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific. It contains a provision that would block funding from going to UNRWA. The Biden administration said it was waiting on the results of the United Nations’ investigation into UNRWA to decide on whether to resume funding.

Growing bipartisan opposition to the relief agency prompted the White House to explore alternative ways to provide humanitarian assistance to Gaza should Congress permanently halt UNRWA funding. The U.S. is UNRWA’s largest donor, usually contributing between $300 million to $400 million annually. 

Lavi, an Israeli citizen, is suing after her husband, Omri Miran, was kidnapped by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7 and still remains held hostage. Newman’s brother, David Yair Shalom Newman, was killed by Hamas terrorists at the Nova music festival. They both are and were U.S.-Israeli dual citizens. 

Diller, Parizer, Bromberg and Or, dual U.S.-Israeli citizens, and Sanandaji, a U.S. citizen visiting from New York, all managed to escape Hamas’ attack on the Nova festival after fleeing by car and foot – in some cases for hours – while under heavy gunfire and were forced to witness friends and fellow attendees being massacred. Ein-Gal, an Israeli citizen, was asleep on Zikim Beach when swarms of terrorists began infiltrating the coast by boat but managed to escape the attack alive. Gess, a U.S. citizen, and Almog, an Israeli citizen, were not home on their kibbutzes when Hamas attacked but witnessed the massacre of their community members on a shared WhatsApp group loved ones used to beg for help. 

‘They have been through hell. Each of them have been through their own individual hell, and they are still, many of them, in hell,’ Goldfeder said of the plaintiffs.

Around 10% of UNRWA’s Gaza employees have links to the Hamas or Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist organizations, and 50% have close relatives who belong to those groups, according to UN Watch. 

‘UNRWA has demonstrated time and time and time again that they are utterly, morally bankrupt. UNRWA is Hamas. In 2004, they admitted that they have Hamas on their payroll and they don’t think that’s a crime. Well, they’re wrong. Under American law, that is a crime. That’s material support for terror,’ Goldfeder said. 

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