Red Cross Pick for Next Leader Draws Backlash From Senators

The antisemitism that erupted during his tenure at Unrwa, the senators say, ‘can be seen as a pre-cursor to the October 7th massacre.’

AP/Mohammed Zaatari
The backyard of a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency at Sidon, Lebanon, September 12, 2023. AP/Mohammed Zaatari

Senator Risch and more than a dozen of his colleagues are urging the International Committee of the Red Cross to reconsider promoting as its next director-general Pierre Krahenbuhl, who they say let antisemitism run rampant when he led the embattled United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. 

Mr. Krahenbuhl led for years that agency, which is under investigation by the UN amid reports that thousands of its employees are active in the military wing of Hamas or registered as Hamas operatives. During his tenure, Unrwa stored weapons in its facilities on behalf of Hamas and distributed antisemitic textbooks. “The failure to address these incidents,” a letter to the Red Cross on Monday asserts, “can be seen as a pre-cursor to the October 7th massacre.”

Mr. Krahenbuhl resigned from his post as commissioner-general of Unrwa in 2019 amid an internal probe that found “credible and corroborated” allegations of serious ethical misconduct at Unrwa. He was accused of abusing his authority, engaging in nepotism, and hiring a woman with whom he was having an affair.

“The United States Congress takes these allegations and corresponding evidence extremely seriously,” the group of senators says. “As the largest donor to the ICRC, we cannot stand idly by as yet another international organization falls prey to antisemitism and violence, let alone gross mismanagement and moral corruption.”

Despite the charges against him in 2019, Mr. Krahenbuhl was mostly cleared, and went on to serve as secretary-general to the Red Cross. “He is recognized as a strategic and purpose-driven leader,” the Assembly of the International Committee of the Red Cross said in a statement, “with deep organizational experience and dedication to the ICRC.” 

Now, he takes on the role of leading yet another humanitarian aid agency within the world’s governing body. “We urge you to find a more suitable candidate to lead the ICRC,” the senators write, “during this turbulent time.”

The New York Sun

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