THERE was a bit of head-scratching going on recently in the hallowed halls of the UN.
After weeks of rebuking Israel for preventing humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza, UN officials were forced to cancel deliveries of aid into the Hamas-controlled territory after terrorists broke into a UN Relief and Works Agency warehouse and made off with 800 tons of blankets, food and other basic commodities to sell them to the highest bidders.
Israeli officials have been saying all along that Hamas routinely diverts humanitarian aid. In April, fuel trucks destined for UNRWA warehouses were overtaken. It was reported in August that Hamas gunmen had hijacked more than 10 trucks destined for the Palestinian Red Crescent Society full of food and medical supplies.
All that is only more ironic given the worldwide castigation of Israel for allegedly preventing humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza during the military operation.
And the criticism wasn't limited to the issue of aid. The UN (and the international community) was quick to condemn Israel for allegedly targeting an UNRWA-run school, despite widespread acknowledgement that Hamas routinely employs such facilities as "civilian shields" in an attempt to draw Israeli fire.
The incident where IDF fire hit an UNRWA school in the Jabalya refugee camp in Gaza is indeed tragic. At the time, UNRWA insisted there were no terrorists in the school compound and the Israelis were "careless," with UNRWA Operations Director John Ging claiming that mortars had hit the school, killing dozens and wounding more.
Just days ago, though, UN officials admitted that Israel had not hit the school at all, but an area outside it. Ging admitted that his original claims were wrong.
It may have taken the embarrassment over such a glaring error to get the UN to acknowledge what the Israelis have been saying all along: that Hamas' callous use of civilians as shields is itself a humanitarian crisis.
Despite the new information, it's worth taking a close look at the historical ties between UNRWA and Hamas. UNRWA has long been a major employer for Hamas members, and has lent its facilities to Hamas and other terror organizations for weapons-related purposes.
For example, in May, we learned that Awad al-Qiq, who was targeted by the Israeli military, was a U.N. employee and headmaster of a top prep school in Gaza. Al-Qiq, a science teacher, was also in the rocket business while at the same time educating Palestinian youth.
Since Hamas' takeover of Gaza in 2006 after Israel's unilateral withdrawal in August 2005, UNRWA hasn't raised explicit objections to the brutal Hamas violence that enabled the terrorist group to take the Gaza Strip by force.
UNRWA appears to be chiefly concerned with its own survival and continued funding. As Karen AbuZayd, the commissioner general of UNRWA, said after the Hamas takeover, "We are not scared. Donor countries have not in any way said they will stop their aid to UNRWA.
"On the contrary, we were approached by many of these countries, even Israel, asking us to continue our services to Palestinian refugees and perhaps even extend these services to do things we haven't done before."
To be perfectly blunt, the theft of humanitarian aid by Hamas (not to mention its ruthless use of its own people as targets as well as shields) only proves the point: Dead civilians are not Israel's goal but Hamas'.
According to Hamas' thinking, the more Palestinian victims there are, the more the international community will try to pressure Israel to avoid any further military operations.
Now that the shooting has stopped, the Obama administration has pledged to provide some $900 million to help rebuild Gaza. Governments and NGOs serious about assisting Palestinian Gazan society must insist on accountability whereby that reconstruction funding is allocated independently and transparently.
When it comes to doling out the money, UNRWA and Hamas - both of whom seem to be more focused on empty rhetoric rather than working towards a peaceful Palestinian civil society - should be bypassed. *
Asaf Romirowsky is an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum and manager of Israel and Middle East affairs for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Nicole Brackman is a former Soref Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.