National Post

Monday, January 25, 2010

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National Post 

Since last fall, the federal Conservative government has been withdrawing taxpayer funding from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that use their grants to take sides against Israel in the Middle East conflict. Now comes word that last week, Ottawa told the United Nations it would no longer fund the world body's Palestinian refugee agency. From now on, Canadian aid to Palestinians will be directed to specific projects. We will no longer give lump-sum aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA), since most of that money simply goes straight into the Palestinian Authority's (PA) general treasury, where it might be used for humanitarian projects or might be used to arm and train terrorists.

This is a bold move for Ottawa, which is the first Western government to cut off funding for UNWRA.

Although UNWRA has long been a biased player in the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is seldom criticized for its incitement of anti-Israeli hatred and violence by Palestinians. It has funded textbooks that deny the right of Israel to exist and paid teachers who call on Palestinian children to push the Jewish state into the sea. It harbours radical Islamists and anti-Semites on its payroll and was even caught in 2004 using its own ambulances to ferry terrorists away from Israeli sites they had just attacked.

But most politicians and journalists consider UNWRA to be sacrosanct. Too many swallow whole the agency's assurances that it is not involved in promoting terrorism and anti-Israeli sentiments in the West Bank and Gaza. Criticism of it always elicits howls that UNWRA's mission is only to care for four million refugees in 59 camps and promote peace and understanding in the region.

So rather than get dragged into a public relations war with the UN and its acolytes, last week, before Prime Minister Stephen Harper shuffled his Cabinet, then-Treasury Board President Vic Toews informed UNWRA and the PA that from now on, Canadian aid would be earmarked to specific projects, chosen by Ottawa, such as food aid.

Ottawa also announced it would defund Alternatives, a Montreal NGO that two summers ago organized an education camp in Quebec, welcoming "500 motivated militants" from Lebanon, Iraq, "Palestine" and Venezuela.

International Development Minister Bev Oda withdrew $7-million in tax dollars, too, from KAIROS, an "ecumenical partnership" that had adopted a vehemently anti-Israel policy and been at the forefront of boycotts against the importation of Israeli goods and visits by Israeli professors.

For too long, Ottawa has subsidized NGOs that claim to be after peace, but that in truth seek to demonize Israel. It's good the Conservatives are seeking to halt these attacks.