UNRWA Does not Perpetuate the Conflict, the Conflict Perpetuates UNRWA

Garson, Marilyn

Publisher:  CounterPunch
Date Written:  29/06/2018
Year Published:  2018  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX22839

In January, without warning, Donald Trump refsued to pay $305 million of his country's $365 million commitment to UNRWA. UNRWA, the UN agency serving Palestinian refugees, remains $200 million short of the funds it needs to provide humanitarian services for five million people, including 2/3 of the population of the Gaza Strip.This is not really a story about under-funding UNRWA. This is about the people who strenuously seek to eliminate it.



Gaza's Great March of Return has reinvigorated a specious argument against UNRWA: by upholding Palestinians' rights as they are written into international human rights law and UN resolutions, UNRWA's very existence is said to perpetuate the conflict. This makes a virtue of weakening UNRWA.

Yossi Klein Halevi hums this tune in a liberal key, in Letters To My Palestinian Neighbor (see pages 132 – 133). Einat Wilf and Adi Schwartz shout it at length in How UNRWA Prevents Gaza From Thriving(June 6, Ha’aretz).

They write that "UNRWA has succeeded in concealing its political raison d'etre of sustaining the Palestinian demand for 'return' designed to undo Israel, and it has done so under a humanitarian guise." Because UNRWA defines Palestinians as refugees, it prevents them from adjusting to their new reality as Gazans. Thus UNRWA – not the blockade and not repeated bombardments – is impeding Gaza's development.

They want Israel to "intervene with UNRWA's donor countries … and insist that they cease and desist from supporting the Palestinian demand to annihilate Israel, by way of their support for UNRWA". Instead, donor states should adhere to the authors' list of policy prescriptions. Then Gaza will blossom behind its walls.

The international laws of occupation, human and political rights are missing from their formulation. Although Israel was founded upon a right of return and boasts an ethic Law of Return, these authors are fervent that, for Palestinians, “There is no ‘right’ of ‘return’ and there never will be.”
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