WASHINGTON: According to the State Department, the United States will no longer contribute to the U.N. relief agency for Palestinian refugees. The statement calls the U.N. Relief and Works Agency an “irredeemably flawed operation.” This means the U.S. is ending aid to Palestine and Palestinian refugees.
What UNRWA does
UNRWA provides aid mostly in the form of education, health care, food security and other essentials to some 800,000 Palestinians registered as refugees in the West Bank. There is an additional 1.3 million people in the Gaza Strip, as well as 534,000 in Syria, 464,000 in Lebanon and 2 million in Jordan.
The U.N., both among Palestinians and others, defines refugees as:
“As anyone who has been driven from their homes by war, persecution or violence. Descendants of refugees maintain refugee status, as long as the displacement continues. All UN-registered refugees maintain an internationally recognized “right of return” to their lands and homes.”
Ending aid to Palestine
The fact is that cutting aid to UNRWA is a cynical act which will lead to a humanitarian crisis. It is also an effort by the Trump administration to assist P.M. Netanyahu in lowering the number of Palestinians legally defined as “refugees.” Israel’s claim that it bears no responsibility for the existence of these refugees.
First, consider the humanitarian cost of a cut in aid. The U.S. contributed about one-third of a $1.1 billion 2017 budget. In Gaza, where much of the aid goes.
Donor-funded emergency fuel has become a lifeline after 11 years of an Israeli blockade that has deflated the territory’s economy. Thus increasing residents’ dependency on humanitarian aid.
Emergency fuel is used to operate health, water and sanitation facilities, particularly back-up generators in Gaza’s hospitals. Chronic power shortages mean that most households in Gaza have electricity no more than 4 or 5 hours a day.
Gaza is now running out of fuel, money to keep schools open is running out
Humanitarian coordinator Jamie McGoldrick said in early September:
“We have now run out of funds and are delivering the final supplies in the next few days. Without funds to enable ongoing deliveries, service providers will be forced to suspend or heavily reduce operations, with potentially grave consequences.”
By ending aid to Palestine, Gaza patients depending on electrical equipment in hospital intensive care units are at risk. Those on dialysis or in trauma departments are most vulnerable to electricity shortages, according to McGoldrick’s. The electricity crisis is forcing doctors to postpone complex surgeries. They cannot guarantee that essential equipment can operate long enough without interruption.
UNRWA spokesman Adnan Ahu Hasna says that by ending aid to Palestine the entire education system would be in danger of collapsing. Hit particularly hard would be Jordan, where 2 million Palestinian refugees, a fifth of the country’s population, use UNRWA’s services.
Providing health care, education and shelter would fall to the cash-strapped Jordanian government a long-time friend of the U.S.
UNRWA commissioner-general Pierre Krahenbuhl says there is only enough money to keep it’s 700 schools open until the end of September. In his view, the only reason for withholding funds was political, to punish Palestinians for opposing the U.S. Government’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel’
The Refugees Right of Return
Israel’s right-wing government has long opposed the existence of UNRWA. One reason being that it perpetuates the question of Palestinian refugees, and their “right of return.”
The U.S. has always felt this issues resolution is in peace negotiations. It seems that Israel believes that eliminating UNRWA would make the issue of the Palestinian refugees go away. They are enlisting the Trump administration to join in this effort.
Jared Kushner put in charge of our Middle East negotiations, seems eager to do so.
One question few ask is: what is the truth about the origin of the Palestinian refugee problem?
Israel has always rejected any culpability in the refugee crisis. Furthermore, Israel refuses to acknowledge that those who fled in 1948 had any rights to repatriation.
Israel claims no responsibility for the refugees. The reasoning being that they either left voluntarily or advancing Arab armies forced them to leave. The truth, however, seems quite different, as a number of respected Israeli historians have made clear.’
The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
In his book “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.” Professor Ilan Pappe examines the development of a master plan for the massive expulsion of the Palestinians. Officially the Israeli government maintains the claim that Palestinians became refugees because their leaders told them to leave:
“But,” he writes. “there was no such call—it is a myth created by the Israeli foreign ministry…What is clear is that the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians can in no way be justified as a ‘punishment’ for their rejecting a U.N. peace plan that was devised without any consultation with the Palestinians themselves.”
Israel’s Plan Dalet, written in 1948, includes clear references to the methods to be employed in the process of cleansing the population.
Pappe declares that
“From the present vantage point, there is no escape from defining the Israeli actions in the Palestinian countryside as a war crime…The crime committed by the leadership of the Zionist movement, which became the government of Israel, was that of ethnic cleansing. This is not mere rhetoric, but an indictment with far-reaching political, legal and moral obligations. The definition of the crime was clarified in the aftermath of the 1990s civil war in the Balkans: ethnic cleansing is any action by one ethnic group to drive out another ethnic group with the purpose of transforming a mixed ethnic region into a pure one. Such an action amounts to ethnic cleansing regardless of the means employed to obtain it—from persuasion and threats to expulsion and mass killings.”
The U.S. has abandoned its role as a mediator.
Saeb Erekat, Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said that the one-sided bias of the Trump administration has disqualified it from any role in the peace process.
Does Jared Kushner believe that cutting aid to Palestine refugees and stripping them of their “refugee” status will compel them to accept whatever plan he comes up with?
Mr. Kushner seems to think that taking two of the Palestinians’ most important negotiating issues, the status of Jerusalem and now rejecting the right of return for refugees, will move the region closer to peace.
Thus, those in Israel who support the 51-year occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem are happy. For the Palestinians, the offer is nothing. Now even the humanitarian aid which keeps them alive is at risk.
The Palestinians used to believe that the U.S. was the only power which could mediate with Israel on their behalf. This is true of every administration, both Democratic and Republican. Now, we have abandoned our role. The result is that the region faces a humanitarian crisis and political upheaval.
If Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner that they are moving to the Middle East, in the direction of peace, they should think again.