Rights and Accountability 17 January 2018
“This is the worst financial crisis in UNRWA’s history,” Chris Gunness, the spokesperson for the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees, told The Electronic Intifada on Wednesday.
Gunness’ dire warning came the day after the Trump administration announced a savage cut in US contributions to the organization that provides basic health, education and emergency humanitarian services to five million Palestinian refugees.
On Tuesday, the State Department announced that the US was withholding more than half of a $125 million payment that was due to UNRWA this month.
While $60 million would be paid immediately, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said that the remainder was being “frozen” and “held for future consideration.”
The US has been the largest single donor to UNRWA, providing almost $370 million of the agency’s $1.2 billion budget in 2016.
The cut makes good on threats President Donald Trump and his UN ambassador Nikki Haley made in recent weeks to slash funding for Palestinians in retaliation for the Palestinian Authority’s objection to the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and its rejection of American sponsorship of currently nonexistent peace negotiations.
Haley had reportedly advocated for the US funding to be cut completely, despite her previous public support for the agency’s work, including a photo-op with child refugees last June.
In a post on Twitter at the time, Haley said her visit to an UNRWA school gave her “the chance to talk with girls and women about their lives, their hopes and their dreams.”
But according to The Washington Post, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson prevailed over Haley in the internal battle over the funding.
Tillerson reportedly raised the matter “personally with Trump and secured the president’s agreement to support the State Department’s position” that not all the funding should be cut.
Israel has also called for the dismantling of UNRWA, as part of its drive to eliminate support for the rights of Palestinian refugees who remain in exile due to Israel’s refusal to allow them to return home solely because they are not Jews.
Health and futures at stake
The impact is likely to be felt immediately by some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
“At stake is the access of 525,000 boys and girls in 700 UNRWA schools, and their future. At stake is the dignity and human security of millions of Palestine refugees, in need of emergency food assistance and other support in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza Strip,” UNRWA commissioner-general Pierre Krähenbühl said following the US announcement. “At stake is the access of refugees to primary healthcare, including prenatal care and other life-saving services.”
Krähenbühl urged other donor states and individuals around the world “to rally in support” of UNRWA’s work with funding and donations to replace the American contribution.
He offered assurances to Palestinian refugees that “we are working with absolute determination to ensure that UNRWA services continue” and told students that schools would stay open “so you can receive your cherished education.”
But despite those assurances, the agency has already laid off dozens of teachers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and about 100 workers in Jordan, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Tuesday.
UNRWA employs about 30,000 people, the vast majority of them Palestinian refugees.
In face of the crisis, Krähenbühl called on the agency’s doctors, nurses, school principals, teachers, guards, sanitation laborers, social workers and support staff to “be at your duty stations to serve the community with the same dedication and commitment that you have always shown.”
Public support urged
Krähenbühl’s statement also apparently responds to US claims that the agency needs “reform.” State Department spokesperson Nauert said that the US would “take a look at UNRWA, trying to make sure that the money is best spent.”
“The US government has consistently commended our high impact, transparency and accountability,” Krähenbühl said. “This was reiterated, once again, during my latest visit to Washington in November 2017, when every senior US official expressed respect for UNRWA’s role and for the robustness of its management.”
The agency has long been the target of smear campaigns by Israel and its lobby groups who believe that its mere existence keeps alive the issue of Palestinian refugees – who they view as a “demographic threat” to Israel on the racist grounds that they are not Jewish.
In an effort to mitigate the humanitarian impact, UNRWA is turning to the public for support.
Its website features a prominent call for public donations in response to the “dramatic reduction of US funding” and urges social media users to support the agency with the hashtag #ForPalestineRefugees.
UNRWA USA, a charity that supports UNRWA’s work with Palestinians, sent out an email Tuesday calling for donations and launching a petition to urge the White House to reconsider its decision.
- Palestinian Refugees
- Nikki Haley
- Donald Trump
- Rex Tillerson
- Chris Gunness
- Pierre Krähenbühl
Trump cut causes
Permalink Zionism Is Not Judaism replied on
It may be time to find some new and more financially stable (creditworthy) new contributors.
Permalink tom hall replied on
"In a post on Twitter at the time, Haley said her visit to an UNRWA school gave her 'the chance to talk with girls and women about their lives, their hopes and their dreams.' "
And then destroy them.
Incidentally, the situation is decidedly grim when the head of ExxonMobil is the good cop and the bad cop is a female UN representative. Of course, the funding shortfall can be made up by other donors, but that's not really the point of this action. Israel wants to deligitimise UNRWA itself, with a view to its eventual (sooner rather than later) termination. A step of this kind by the United States represents an advance towards that goal. A powerful propaganda point will be pressed home by the hasbarists, that serious questions about the agency need to be addressed. Demands will be made that Palestinian funding be transferred to another UN body which has no reference to "refugees" in its remit. That's Israel's problem with UNRWA- it explicitly states the existence of refugees. Advocates for Israel will start to claim that there are no refugees. Perhaps there never were. The whole refugee discourse will be declared a form of political delusion. The right of return, enshrined in the definition of a refugee, will be nullified as millions of people will be reclassified in various ways- including (within the occupied Palestinian territories) "infiltrators". Then a new, brutal round of mass expulsions can be carried out as the camps are demolished and its residents forcibly transferred into Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt. At least, that seems to be the thinking in some Zionist circles.
Zionists are an excuse for
Permalink Stig replied on
Zionists are an excuse for the very fact that it was a colonial invasion, by an alien European/American religious minority, with the sole purpose of taking away from others what was never theirs to claim. To wit, Zionism began as a German eugenicist/political movement, during a time of great social instability, at the end of the 19th C. Its leadership advocated for a muscular Jewish ethic of religious cleansing and militancy, that was similar, in many important ways, to Nazi Germany's blood and soil nonsense of a racially pure homeland and people. Some things seem to never change, except that is, for the names of the un-pure, who are to be eliminated next.
MANY EXPRESSIONS OF FASCISM IN ZIONISM
Permalink Peter Loeb replied on
There are many ways of seeing the very direct ways in which
Zionism was from its beginning a repackaging and reapplication
of many basic facets of National Socialist beliefs. Most are
too complex for review here.
Note for example the words of former Zionist Hans Kohn:
"According to the German theory, people of common
descent...shojuld form one common state, Pan-Germanism was
based on the idea that all persons who were of German race,
blood or descent, wherever they lived or to whatever state
they belonged, owed their primary loyalty to Germany and
should become citizens of the German state, their true homeland.
They, and even their fathers and forefathers, might have grown up
under 'foreign' skies or in 'alien' environments, but their fundamental
inner 'reality' remained German." (cited in Norman G. Finkelstein,
IMAGE AND REALITY OF THE ISRAEL-PALESTINE CONFLICT"
It should be noted that the "father of Zionism", Theodor Herzl was
once a proud member of a Pan-German group.
----Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA
The centralization of power
Permalink Bob Klinck replied on
The centralization of power in the money system reduces the concept that effective democracy exists ANYWHERE on the planet to the level of farce, and every politician with half a brain knows it.
UNWRA funding sources
Permalink Carl Zaisser replied on
I don't get the big problem. So the US wants to continue isolating itself and withdraw its support for EVERYTHING that seems to be pro-independence for Palestine. So...LET IT. By doing so it is only removing its influence from anything having to do with the future of Palestine. What is the big deal about 65 million dollars, or even 350 million? There have got to be OTHER sources that will step up and provide this money, notwithstanding the fact that the US will try to pressure other sources from doing so. There is SO MUCH money in the Middle East. This is a piddling amount. I am sure that if Saudi Arabia doesn't want to do it, then Iran will. Both are oil rich nations. And that is just the beginning a list of potential donors to UNWRA. Let's see this as an opportunity to go tell the US to stick its head in the sand even further and remain on the wrong side of history.