US Threats to Dismantle Palestinian Refugee Agency Trigger Protests
As it relentlessly pursues its strongly pro-Israeli policy – along with its disdain for multilateralism – the Trump administration continued to display its hostility towards the United Nations and its humanitarian agencies at a meeting of the UN Security Council focusing on the recent escalation of violence in Gaza.
The administration’s three hardline objectives were best reflected as they converged on a single political crossroad when the US Special Representative for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt told the Security Council May 22 it was time to dismantle the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which has supported Palestinian refugees since it began operations back in 1950.
The US has already slashed its contribution to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), from 69 million in 2016 to zero in 2017, cut 300 million dollars in funds to UNRWA and reduced 500 million dollars from the UN’s biennium peacekeeping budget
At a press conference announcing her decision to step down as US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley told reporters last October that that during her two-year tenure “we cut $1.3 billion in the UN’s budget. We’ve made it stronger. We’ve made it more efficient.”
But the reduction in funds to UNRWA has been described as the unkindest cut of all — because the UN agency has been sustaining the economic survival of Palestinian refugees for the last 69 years.
Nadia Hijab, President of the Board of Directors at Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian policy network, told IPS: “If anyone is still in doubt about the Trump Administration’s deal of the century – also known as Israel’s plan to end the conflict on its terms – Greenblatt made that very clear when he said: “We do not have to wait until a comprehensive solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict….” to transition UNRWA out of existence.
And indeed, the Administration has not waited for any kind of solution or made any reference to international law, she added.
It has simply, on behalf of Israel, imposed facts on the ground with its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and its embassy move, and defunding UNRWA, said Hijab.
“Now it doesn’t want anyone else to fund UNRWA but rather to focus on the supposedly bright economic future to be discussed at the economic conference in Bahrain next month,” she noted.
But what is really underway is erasure of Palestinian national and political rights leaving the majority of the Palestinian people in exile with the rest forced to survive under the draconian conditions of occupation, siege, and discrimination in the land of Palestine/Israel, declared Hijab.
She pointed out it should be clear that a commitment to UNRWA goes beyond services to refugees: It is a powerful symbol of the Palestinians’ existence as a people with a right to self-determination as well as other internationally recognized rights including the right to return to their lands and homes.