Claudia Rosett @ www.PajamasMedia.com
There are so many ways the government is right now spending our money that it all starts to blur. But among the billions and trillions, let’s zoom in for a moment on the $900 million that Hillary Clinton pledged this past Monday in fresh aid to the Palestinians. That includes $300 million meant to spruce up Gaza after Israel’s recent three-week battle to shut down the rocket-launching habits of Hamas, the Iranian-backed terrorist group that controls Gaza.
Clinton has assured us that “safeguards”have been negotiated to ensure that none of this $300,000,000 in American tax money for Gaza will end up bankrolling terrorists. That would be a neat trick no matter how you figure it, since the idea is to repair the turf controlled by Hamas. It’s as if the U.S. government were to pick up the tab for renovating Osama bin Laden’s family cave and restocking the larder, while assuring us that terrorists won’t benefit from the process.
But the sleight of hand doesn’t end there. A State Department spokesman says that some of the U.S. aid to Gaza will flow through the UN. The lead UN agency in Gaza is UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
How careful is UNRWA to avoid dealings with terrorists?
Well, along with whatever else you might have heard about UNRWA, its web site has been featuring a fascinating display this week on its home page — still there as I write this – showing a photo of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, shafts of sunlight illuminating his presence, standing in an UNRWA warehouse in Gaza. Next to Ban’s photo is his message, appealing for money for Gaza. Beneath Ban’s photo is a short list of banks, account numbers helpfully included, through which this money can be sent.
That list includes the state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria, headquartered in Damascus. This is an intriguing bank for UNRWA to choose — because it is under sanctions by the U.S. Treasury, watch-listed since 2004 as an institution of “primary money laundering concern,” posing “a significant risk of being used to further the Syrian Government’s support for international terrorist groups.” Such as Hamas.
More on this in my column this week for Forbes.com , Can We Give to Gaza Without Giving to Hamas – and a brief excerpt here:
UNRWA’s choice of this bank is all the more curious in light of the lifestyle choices of a number of Hamas leaders, such as Khaled Meshal, who are based not in Gaza, but work “in exile” in Damascus. According to a Council on Foreign Relations backgrounder released in 2006, Meshal has served Hamas from Damascus as head of the terrorist group’s politburo, and as chief strategist and fundraiser. In 2006 he was alleged by Israeli then-Vice Premier Shimon Peres to have ordered the kidnapping into Gaza of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who has not been released.
We should assume, of course, that there is a perfectly innocent explanation for why UNRWA — which also invites donations via HSBC in Jordan and the Gaza office of Arab Bank – feels the need to arrange a banking conduit, via a bank under U.S. sanctions, to Gaza from Syria. But what is that explanation? And while we’re at it, who are the donors using this account?
As it is, we have the Secretary-General of the UN shilling for donations to UNRWA in Gaza via a Syrian bank under U.S. sanctions for ties to terrorists. And we have the U.S. State Department pledging $300 million for Gaza, some of which will flow through UNRWA, while State assures us that U.S. tax dollars will not be used to bankroll terrorists. Presumably Hillary Clinton is requiring some sort of meticulous book-keeping that will keep all these things straight as the money pours from these many sources into the Gaza pot. But since this is all supposed to be about feeding children and rebuilding homes, what’s to hide? Mr. Ban, and Mrs. Clinton, could we please see the UNRWA banking records – ALL the banking records – and the expense accounts?