In January, without warning, Donald Trump declined to pay $305 million of his country’s $365 million commitment to UNRWA. UNRWA, the UN agency serving Palestinian refugees, remains $200 million short of the funds it needs to provide humanitarian services for five million people, including 2/3 of the population of the Gaza Strip.
This is not really a story about under-funding UNRWA. This is about the people who strenuously seek to eliminate it.
I worked as the business and livelihoods consultant to the office of UNRWA’s Gaza director, 2013 – 2015. I had been Mercy Corps’ Gaza Economic Director for the previous two years. I am not natural UN material, and the director, Bob Turner, once had to ask me not to refer to career UN staff as ‘you people’. However, the blockade of Gaza necessitates a purpose-built humanitarian channel to the human beings who live behind the wall. The violent onslaught of 2014 showed (again) how Gazans are endangered. While their suffering continues, while they are denied any freedom of movement, there must be an UNRWA.
Gaza’s Great March of Return has reinvigorated a specious argument against UNRWA: by upholding Palestinians’ rights as they are written into international human rights law and UN resolutions, UNRWA’s very existence is said to perpetuate the conflict. This makes a virtue of weakening UNRWA.
Yossi Klein Halevi hums this tune in a liberal key, in Letters To…