Defunding the sole UN agency that provides a lifeline for some 5.9 million Palestinians, including a besieged refugee population of over 2 million in Gaza currently facing a genocide, is egregious and aims to liquidate the Palestinian cause.
Since the United States announced on 26 January that it would suspend its funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (Unrwa), other countries, including the United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Finland, Australia, and Germany, have followed suit.
The decision to defund Unrwa followed Israeli allegations that 12 of the agency’s 13,000 staff in Gaza (constituting 0.092 percent of Unrwa's local staff in Gaza) may have been involved in Hamas's Al-Aqsa Flood Operation of 7 October.
Unrwa is funded almost entirely by voluntary financial contributions. Of the $1.17bn made in total pledges to Unrwa in 2022, the largest contributions came from the US ($343.9m) and Germany ($202m). As a result of these funding suspensions, Unrwa will lose almost 60 percent of its funding, amid warnings of a rapidly approaching famine due to Israel's genocidal onslaught on the Gaza Strip.
Without the sustained contributions of states and governments, Unrwa cannot continue to carry out its operations, nor provide humanitarian relief to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
Cutting off Unrwa's funding is thus a serious blow to its humanitarian work in the region and constitutes a death sentence to the besieged refugee population of the Gaza Strip.
Unrwa ruling and the ICJ
Despite Unrwa's immediate response to Israel's unsubstantiated allegations, including launching an external investigation into the matter and terminating the contracts of the staff members accused of being involved, the decision to suspend Unrwa funding by its major contributors was nonetheless made.
It is no coincidence that the defunding of Unrwa came swiftly after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) had issued its interim ruling recognising that the risk of genocide by the state of Israel was plausible.