Trump’s bear hug risks crushing Israel

A Palestinian refugee waits for a medical check at a UN-operated health center at the Asker refugee camp in the West Bank, Sep 1, 2018. (photo: Jaafar Ashtiyeh / AFP / Getty Images)
By gratuitously insulting and defunding the most moderate Palestinian faction, Trump is opening the door to the radicals. That’s a Rosh Hashanah present Israel could do without.

By Max Boot | The Washington Post | Sep 11, 2018

The Trump administration, which has already pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Paris climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal, has jettisoned U.S. commitment to international law. The United States, once the linchpin of the international system, is turning into a rogue state.

National security adviser John Bolton made headlines on Monday with his blistering attack against the International Criminal Court. But “Bolton attacks ICC” is a dog-bites-man story if there ever was one. Bolton has been on a tear against the ICC since its inception, and his blood-curdling threats against nations that cooperate in investigations of US troops are more of the same. In substantive terms, though, his objections were already codified in the 2002 American Service-Members’ Protection Act, which went so far as to authorize military force to free any U.S. personnel held by the court.

Of greater immediate consequence is the fact that Bolton announced the closing of the Palestine Liberation Office mission in Washington, ostensibly in retaliation for “Palestinian attempts to prompt an ICC investigation of Israel.” The Trump administration thereby takes a giant step back from the Oslo Accords, which resulted in formal diplomatic relations between the United States and the Palestinian Authority.

Continue reading “Trump’s bear hug risks crushing Israel”

Israeli defense officials: Gaza will collapse without an alternative to UNRWA

Palestinian men collect aid food at a United Nations compound in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on Sep 1, 2018. (photo: AFP)
Israeli delegation to upcoming conference expected to encourage donor countries to help guarantee continued delivery of food, education services and salaries.

By Yaniv Kubovich | Haaretz | Sep 9, 2018

The Israel Defense Forces warned . . . that if the UN agency’s Gaza operations cease without a workable alternative being found, an escalation in violence is nearly inevitable.

Israeli defense officials agreed in a meeting last week that the government must develop an alternative to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the Gaza Strip in order to head off a humanitarian disaster in light of the US commitment to defunding the agency.

An Israeli delegation to a donor conference in New York later this month is expected to encourage donor countries to pitch in to guarantee the continued delivery of food, education services and the salaries of the UN’s 30,000 employees in the Strip. Maj. Gen. Kamil Abu Rukun, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, is one of several Israeli defense officials who are scheduled to attend.

In earlier meetings ideas for projects were put forward that Israel wanted to promote, mainly in the realm of infrastructure, but now Israel will now seek ways of funding more basic needs.

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Jerusalem mayor: I want to expel UNRWA

Nassim Ammour, 11, scores a goal as he plays with friends next to the Israeli barrier in the Shuafat refugee camp in east Jerusalem, May 4, 2018. (photo: Ammar Awad / Reuters)
The organization now serves more than five million Palestinian refugees.

By Tovah Lazaroff | The Jerusalem Post | Sep 3, 2018

No matter how often attempts are made to minimize or delegitimize the individual and collective experiences of Palestine refugees, the undeniable fact remains that they have rights under international law and represent a community of 5.4 million men, women and children who cannot simply be wished away.
— UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat threatened to expel UNRWA from Jerusalem, in the first public statement by an Israeli official that called on the government to use its power to shut down the agency that services Palestinian refugees.

“UNRWA is a foreign and unnecessary organization that has failed miserably,” Barkat said in a speech he delivered Monday morning in Jerusalem at a conference sponsored by Channel 2. “I intend to expel it from Jerusalem.”

Barkat explained that he had already instructed his municipal staff to come up with a plan to replace the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which he plans to present to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

He spoke just three days after the US State Department announced that it intends to permanently halt its annual contributions to UNRWA, which last year amounted to $360 million out of the organization’s one billion dollar budget. Netanyahu publicly stated his support for that decision. Continue reading “Jerusalem mayor: I want to expel UNRWA”

US cutting all funding to Palestinian refugee agency

A Palestinian woman rides in a car after collecting aid provided by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNWRA, in Gaza City, Jan 17, 2018. (photo: Mohammed Abed / AFP)
The US provides almost 30% of UNRWA budget.

By Staff and Agencies | The Times of Israel | Aug 31, 2018

[The US] will no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation.
— US State Department statement
The loss of this organization could unleash an uncontrollable chain reaction.
— German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas

The Trump administration announced Friday it is cutting nearly $300 million in planned funding for the UN agency that aids Palestinian refugees, and that it would no longer fund the agency after decades of support. Instead, it said it would seek other channels by which to aid the Palestinians.

The administration castigated the UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) for failed practices, and indicated that it rejected the criteria by which UNRWA defines Palestinian refugees, whereby the UN agency confers refugee status not only on original refugees but on their millions of descendants. . . .

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What I learned about UN aid to Palestinians growing up in Gaza


UNRWA schools provide a generous hand to overcome the tribulations of life in the beleaguered Gaza Strip, encouraging students to dream big despite the obstacles around them.

By Muhammad Shehada | Forward | Jan 22, 2018

Each semester, UNRWA supplied free medical glasses to shortsighted students and ran periodic medical and dental examinations; they also provided vaccinations to all students. For many years, UNRWA provided students with healthy meals on a daily basis, handing out fruit, sandwiches, milk and homemade pastries that employed thousands of people in a project funded by Mercy USA. These meals helped many poor students, who had no food at home, to focus better; a few children wouldn’t eat these meals, but would hold on to them, taking them home to share with their starving families.

Last week, the US announced its decision to start defunding UNRWA, the United Nations Reliefs and Works Agency. If defunded, an immediate catastrophe will surely follow.

UNRWA, which provides aid to Palestinians through a combination of food, schools, medical and other services, means life to more than two thirds of Gaza’s two million residents — as it did for me. I grew up studying in UNRWA schools.

I can still clearly remember the happiness and excitement in my late father’s eyes on my first day of school, the same UNRWA school where he studied himself as a child. He put me in his old classroom, and even sat me down in the same old wooden bench were he sat 30 years before. I remember so clearly the dream in his eyes, that I’d be as successful in life as he was.

Continue reading “What I learned about UN aid to Palestinians growing up in Gaza”

ACTION: Call on Congress on to oppose UNRWA cuts

UNRWA provides a lifeline to 5 million Palestinian refugees. (photo: AFP)

Take action today, and urge Congress to reject any cuts to vital aid for Palestinians and to oppose the administration’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

By American Friends Service Committee | Jan 20, 2018

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”
— Cornel West

Last month, President Trump announced his administration’s reckless, one-sided decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and eventually move the US embassy there. Now the administration is threatening to cut off US aid to the Palestinians — a move that would have disastrous consequences for the Palestinian refugees who depend on it.

Please click on this link to send and email to your congressional representatives →

Belgium pledges $23m to UNRWA after US cuts aid

UNRWA supports about 5 million Palestinians. (photo: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters)

Belgium is the first to step up after refugee agency pleas for additional donors.

By Al Jazeera News | Jan 18, 2018

“For a lot of Palestinian refugees the UNRWA is the last life buoy. With the help of UNRWA half a million of Palestine children are able to go to school. This prevents them from falling prey to radicalization and extreme violence.”
—Alexander De Croo, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister

Belgium has pledged to donate 19m euro ($23m) to UNRWA, the UN’s aid organization for Palestinian refugees, after the US government announced it would slash its funding to the agency by half.

Deputy Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said in a statement on Wednesday that Brussels would allocate the funds over three years.

The first annual payment is being disbursed immediately “considering the financial difficulties that UNRWA currently faces,” the statement said.

Washington announced on Tuesday it is withholding $65m out of the $125m aid package earmarked for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, or UNRWA.

Continue reading “Belgium pledges $23m to UNRWA after US cuts aid”

UN seeks donations for refugees after US cuts aid

Palestinians hold signs during a protest against aid cut, outside United Nations’ offices in Gaza City. (photo: Reuters)

UNRWA issues a broad appeal in the wake of the Trump administration’s aid cut.

By Reuters via New York Post | Jan 17, 2018

“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. The reduced contribution also impacts regional security at a time when the Middle East faces multiple risks and threats, notably that of further radicalization.”
— Pierre Krähenbühl, UNRWA Commissioner-General

The head of the UN agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees appealed on Wednesday for world donations after the United States withheld about half its planned funding for the organization, a move he said risks instability in the region.

Washington said on Tuesday it would provide $60 million to the UN Relief and Welfare Agency while keeping back a further $65 million for now. The US State Department said UNRWA needed to make unspecified reforms.

Palestinians, already angered by US President Donald Trump’s Dec 6 recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, denounced the decision, which could deepen hardship in the Gaza Strip where UNRWA helps much of its population of 2 million.

Continue reading “UN seeks donations for refugees after US cuts aid”

US cuts to refugee agency a “death sentence”

A Palestinian woman rides in a car after collecting aid provided by UNRWA in Gaza City on Wednesday. (photo: Mohammed Abed / AFP / Getty Images)

Trump’s decision to cut aid to Palestinian refugees threatens the well-being of millions.

By Hazem Balousha and Ruth Eglash | The Washington Post | Jan 17, 2018

“We are extremely worried. We support 1 million people with food. . . . [We] just hope we have enough time to persuade them to change their mind and/or to find another donor.”
— Matthias Schmale, UNRWA Gaza Director

The UN Relief and Works Agency, the main body providing aid to millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants across the Middle East, made an urgent appeal for international support Wednesday, one day after the State Department announced that it will slash its annual funding.

“After decades of generous support, dramatic reduction of US funding to @UNRWA results in most critical financial situation in history of Agency,” the agency’s commissioner general, Pierre Krähenbühl, wrote on Twitter. “I call on member states of the United Nations to take a stand & demonstrate to Palestine Refugees that their rights & future matter.”

In a more detailed statement to the media, Krähenbühl said the U.S. contribution of $60 million, less than half of a planned $125 million installment, is “dramatically below past levels” and jeopardizes the “dignity and human security of millions of Palestine refugees, in need of emergency food assistance and other support.”

Continue reading “US cuts to refugee agency a “death sentence””

Trump’s cut to funding for Palestinian refugees could lead to disaster

Palestinian children during a summer camp activity sponsored by UNRWA in Khan Yunis town, in the southern Gaza Strip. (photo: Said Khatib / AFP / Getty)

The loss of UN money would have a catastrophic affect on Middle East security in both the short and long term.

By Mick Dumper | The Guardian | Jan 12, 2018

Has the US, and Israel for that matter, thought this through? Do they really want 270,000 children in Gaza attending Hamas-run schools? Does Washington really know what it is doing?

Having survived the recent cabinet reshuffle the international development secretary, Penny Mordaunt, is confronted with the biggest headache of her short ministerial career: the fallout of the US intention to cut funding to UNRWA, which constitutes one of the most serious challenges to UK policies in the Middle East.

Donald Trump’s threat to cut financial assistance to the UN agency specifically responsible for Palestinian refugees will be a disaster not only for the refugees but also for Israel and neighboring countries. It does not advance US interests either. Provoked by the Palestinian rejection of Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of the state of Israel, it takes the notion cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face to a completely new diplomatic level. Although a final decision by the US is still pending, the loss of the regular subvention of $350m for UNRWA would be catastrophic for the region, with immense military and strategic implications for the US and its allies, including the UK.

If UNRWA were defunded by the US in this dramatic, sudden, and unplanned way, it would be forced to suspend within a few months most of its services to nearly 5 million Palestinian refugees. Half a million children in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon would be without schools, consigning them to the already volatile streets at a time when extremists are in full recruitment mode.

Continue reading “Trump’s cut to funding for Palestinian refugees could lead to disaster”