Arbell’s comments coincide with an active lobby in Israel to cease all funding to the UN agency and demote the special status of Palestinian refugees.
During a meeting in Israel’s Knesset, a former Israeli foreign ministry official called for the elimination of all threats to Israel – including the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
In a video uploaded to YouTube on Saturday by Middle East Eye, Noga Arbell said UNRWA is a source of terrorist ideology. To this end, she added: “it will be impossible to win the war if we do not destroy UNRWA, and this destruction must begin immediately”.
This comes amid the latest toll on the UN agency, which has been tirelessly providing essential assistance to Palestinians. A total of 142 staff members have lost their lives since Israel renewed its onslaught on Gaza.
On November 13, when the death toll of UNRWA staff reached 101, Philippe Lazzarini, the Commissioner General of UNRWA, took to X to show a UN flag lowered at half mast to mark the grim milestone.
Meanwhile, according to a January 5 UN news release, 1.4 million people, out of Gaza’s 1.9 million estimated internally displaced persons, are sheltering in 155 UNRWA facilities across the besieged Strip.
This is despite 131 UNRWA installations sustaining damage since October 7, the news release added.
Amplifying Israeli imperialist rhetoric, Arbell added “let us remember, [UNRWA] operates here, in territories that Israel conquered in 1967, at the request of Israel to do so”.
“Israel can now ask it to stop,” she said.
“[UNRWA’s] duties must be abandoned. Or, they must go to hell,” she added.
Arbell’s comments have sparked backlash via social media, with observers remarking that her words were shameful.
However, her comments align with prevailing sentiments in Israel. In a January 4 article by Israel Hayom, UNRWA is brandished as a front for clandestine Hamas operations.
Hayom reported that a lobby is in place to halt funding to the agency by groups that claim aid is pocketed by Hamas, rather than alleviating the suffering of Palestinian civilians.
Quoting MK Sharren Hashakal, an Israeli politician and head of the lobby against UNRWA, “the goal is to transfer UNRWA under the international organization and cancel the special status for Palestinian refugees,” Hayom added.
According to UNRWA, their services encompass no more than education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance and emergency assistance, including in times of armed conflict, in occupied Palestine.