After a long hiatus during the Trump administration, US aid and development funds have been channelled back into Palestine.
In addition to restarting the funding of UNRWA, a new funding stream has been made available as a result of a particular piece of US legislation. The Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Act (MEPPA) passed in December 2020. The Act pledges $250 million over five years to two funds, with one specifically focusing on “peace and reconciliation projects” between Palestinians and Israelis.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) says that the aim of these projects is to “advance peaceful co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians to enable a sustainable two-state solution”. This was celebrated in some mainstream media outlets as bringing “momentum” and a fresh approach to an otherwise stagnant peace process.
The MEPPA, however, is far from the positive move it is claiming to be, rather it hides behind a veneer of peace and reconciliation whilst facilitating the continued violation of Palestinian fundamental rights. From the outset, the MEPPA adopted the language of dialogue and reconciliation- a framework often imposed on conflict situations and is premised on the understanding that contact and dialogue between two conflicting groups are the way to end the violence.
Clearly this is far from the reality between Palestinians and the Israeli regime where the root cause of violence is from Israeli settler colonisation and apartheid. The framing of dialogue and reconciliation creates a false parallel between the structural oppression of the Israeli regime and the justified resistance of oppressed Palestinians.
Indeed, it would be ridiculous to suggest that black South Africans should have engaged in dialogue and reconciliation with white South Africans whilst the apartheid regime was ongoing.
Those behind the MEPPA also tells us about the political motivations of this funding.
Following the passing of the legislation, the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP) took credit for the initiative, explaining that it was as a result of “over a decade of advocacy” by ALLMEP “toward the creation of an International Fund for Israeli-Palestinian Peace.” ALLMEP cites a “broad coalition” of endorsers including J Street, the New Israel Fund, Jewish Federations of North America, the Israel Action Network, Churches for Middle East Peace, AIPAC, AJC, and the Israel Policy Forum. Notably, all but one of these organisations are avowedly Zionist.
ALLMEP also cites the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) as “the conceptual framework” behind its idea for a fund for “Israeli-Palestinian peace,” and calls the Partnership for Peace Act as a step towards such a fund. Various Irish scholars including Brendan Browne and Elaine Bradley have strongly argued that the imposition of the Northern Irish Peace Model on Palestine is completely inappropriate and deeply problematic. Not only because of the obvious contextual differences, but also because the Northern Irish Peace Accord was a “carefully constructed, bureaucratic means of providing a ruse of ‘peace’ whilst appeasing claims to self-determination and ignoring broader colonial history”.