Millions of Palestinians are extremely dependent on UNRWA. Why has the U.S. suspended funding over Israel’s accusations? | Mustafa Bayoumi

oxygenFriday, United States pause The United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the East (UNRWA) is the main lifeline for millions of Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Subsequently, many Western countries followed the United States’ lead. Why?The Israeli government claims more than a dozen people Work for UNRWA ( employment In Gaza alone, approximately 13,000 people participated in the October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of approximately 1,200 Israelis.

There is no doubt that the attack on October 7 was an atrocity. But it is unreasonable to punish UNRWA – and by extension the entire Palestinian people – for the charges against 12 individuals. This is an act of political revenge that puts millions of lives needlessly at risk and abandons America’s so-called Western liberal values ​​on an international scale.

This decision is an affront to the most basic legal and moral principles as understood by the legal systems of the United States, international law, and countless other countries, particularly the principles that accusations are not facts, that crimes are individual rather than collective, and that people are individuals. Innocent until proven guilty. All of this has been thrown into the trash can by the United States and many other Western countries with a lit match.

Not only did the United States and its allies, including the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Italy, the Netherlands, Finland, Australia, and Canada, suddenly suspend funding to an agency that provides basic needs to millions of civilians, they did so based on the Allegation Israelthis can hardly be said to be a selfless party.

In fact, Axios quotes a senior Israeli official as saying, Report Much of the intelligence behind the charges comes from Israeli interrogations of prisoners.Human rights organizations often describe Israel’s detention practices rise to the level of “torture” and are not only morally abhorrent; notoriously poor It is self-evident that Israel has its own agenda in making these accusations.

Even if we accept purely for the sake of argument that those accused were indeed involved in the October attacks, what does this have to do with UNRWA? The New York Times has seen the dossier submitted by the Israeli government to the United States, but the Times’ story The report stated that there was no institutional collusion between UNRWA and Hamas, but that the defendants worked for UNRWA.

For comparison, U.S. Army Reservist Sabrina Harman was convicted in 2005 of abusing detainees in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq. worked Shortly before going to Iraq, he worked as an assistant manager at a Papa John’s Pizza restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia. Was Papa John’s Pizza also convicted of detainee abuse? Is Papa John’s Pizza responsible for Harman’s actions? of course not. Anyway, it’s because of their pizza. )

Context, rather than accusations, provides a better explanation of what’s going on here. First, there’s the context of what this institution really is. UNRWA is certainly an essential social service provider, but it is also a long-established international agency with considerable symbolic and material significance. Simply because UNRWA continues to exist after more than seventy years, it is a permanent legacy of the unresolved refugee crisis at the heart of the Palestinian question.

Established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1949, UNRWA began operations in 1950 to provide immediate assistance to the 750,000 Palestinians displaced after the 1948 war.Initially, many believed that UNRWA was a temporary agency because Palestinian refugees were awaiting execution United Nations Resolution 194which states that “refugees who wish to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be allowed to do so at the earliest possible opportunity”.

Needless to say, that day never came. UNRWA continues to register Palestinian refugees one after another (nearly 6 million of whom are now Palestinian refugees) UNRWA) provides them with healthcare, education, employment and loan assistance and other basic infrastructure needs in the five regions where it operates (Gaza, West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria) and empowers them to operate in the most Live a dignified life in difficult circumstances. Difficulty of the situation.

Many Palestinians rely primarily on UNRWA for aid and employment; on the other hand, many Israelis see UNRWA as a lingering reminder of the continued presence of Palestinian refugees and, worse, the demands placed on them s right. For some Israelis, the rights of these refugees will disappear.

Palestinians are well aware of this thinking.A Palestinian NGO staff member said This way To the International Crisis Group, August 2023: “In the Palestinian consciousness, as long as UNRWA exists as an interim international mechanism (it has been in existence for 75 years now), Palestinian refugees have the right to return to their homeland. If UNRWA By leaving, his own position is no longer temporary but permanent.”

For this reason, the Israeli government has repeatedly attempted to defund and delegitimize UNRWA.Israel succeeded briefly during the Trump administration, which defunded UNRWA, a misguided effort exclude The “right of return” guaranteed by United Nations Resolution 194. At the time, other countries stepped in to pick up the slack because the operation was clearly Trumpian, one-sided, and politically shocking.

Today, the political situation in the United States is different, and its behavior is even worse.On the same day that the United States announced its suspension of funding to UNRWA, the International Court of Justice rule Israel must protect Palestinians from “irreversible consequences” and halt certain actions that could amount to genocide.

The court has not yet ruled on the genocide charges, but it did indicate certain measures that Israel must implement immediately.These include this: “The State of Israel should take immediate and effective measures to provide urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse living conditions faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.”

As we all know, UNRWA is a major provider of basic services and humanitarian assistance. Gaza, the suspension of aid to UNRWA made it almost impossible to comply with the ICJ order. If this doesn’t translate directly to Western complicity in genocide, then I don’t know what will.

Efforts to eliminate UNRWA go hand in hand with the destruction of individual Palestinian lives and the elimination of the recognized collective aspirations of the Palestinian people. South Africa’s decision to prosecute Israel for genocide at the International Court of Justice was motivated by the desire to protect the Palestinians who were subjected to exactly this kind of atrocities and conquest. During the ICJ trial, the world waited with bated breath to see how international law would rule.

The United States and its allies have chosen to ignore the most basic legal and moral principles in favor of their own cynical political calculations, putting not only the lives of Palestinians in Gaza at serious, if not genocidal, risk, but endangering communities around the world Rule of law. and puts us all at risk for the future.

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