Protesters rally outside UNRWA’s headquarters in Jerusalem, demanding its ouster

Activists accuse UN agency of acting as ‘a chapter of Hamas,’ following Israeli allegations that staffers took part in Oct. 7 atrocities

Israelis protest outside the UNRWA headquarters in East Jerusalem on February 5, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)
Israelis protest outside the UNRWA headquarters in East Jerusalem on February 5, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

Around 200 protesters gathered Monday evening outside the UNRWA offices in Jerusalem, calling for the removal of the UN refugee agency for Palestinians from the capital.

Activists shouted “UNRWA is a chapter of Hamas!” at the rally, referring to Israeli allegations that at least 12 of its members took part in the October 7 onslaught against southern Israel, which led to key donors — including the United States and Britain — freezing their funding of the group.

The crowd was largely comprised of religious Israeli Jews, many of whom live in the Ma’alot Dafna neighborhood where the UNRWA compound is located. The demonstration was attended by representatives from the right-wing advocacy group Im Tirzu and the Tikva Forum, which is made up of relatives of hostages held by Hamas who support Israel’s use of military force to pressure the Gaza-ruling terror group into releasing the captives.

“Why are we giving them water?” said far-right Deputy Mayor Aryeh King, referring to the UNRWA compound. “Why are we giving them electricity? Why is there a sign on the fence here, in English and in Arabic, which is against municipal law — all signs in the Jerusalem municipality must be written in Hebrew!”

“They aren’t from the United Nations — they’re from Hamas!” he charged.

King further claimed that terrorists on October 7 used UNRWA vehicles to invade Kibbutz Alumim, where he grew up.

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Aryeh King speaks to the press ahead of a rally calling for the removal of UNRWA presence from Jerusalem, on February 5, 2024. (Maya Zanger-Nadis/Times of Israel)

Multiple speakers encouraged the crowd to chant in English, Arabic, and Hebrew. Most chants either equated UNRWA to Hamas or directly called for the organization to leave.

Former Foreign Ministry official Noga Arbell also spoke on stage, after a video of her at the Knesset urging the “destruction of UNRWA” went semi-viral recently.

Israelis protest outside the UNRWA headquarters in East Jerusalem on February 5, 2024. (Eli Katzoff/ Times of Israel)

“Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people,” Arbell said in English. “Anyone who undermines that basic principle will not stay here. We are not apologizing for winning anymore. We’re not apologizing for liberating our homeland from colonialist occupation anymore. We see the Muslim colonialists trying to erase us and we will not yield to that lie!”

The rally also featured several videos to supplement the speakers on stage, most of which were from the right-wing Channel 14. At the end of the evening, demonstrators watched a clip of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussing the threat posed by UNRWA followed by a video of IDF soldiers singing the Israeli national anthem on the beach in Gaza.

Right-wing protesters scuffle with police following a rally im Jerusalem calling for the removal of the UNRWA offices from Israel’s capital. (Maya Zanger-Nadis/Times of Israel)

After the protest ended, dozens of activists approached the UNRWA compound from a side entrance and were stopped by police. There was no evident physical struggle, although several protesters yelled at police that they were “fighting against your own people.”

Most Popular
read more: