UNRWA Funding Cut: Imperial Sadism at Work

Solidarity National Committee

Posted February 12, 2024

Gaza children with UNRWA banner. The funding cutoff threatens the existence of the most vital aid pipeline for refugees’ survival. (Photo: PALESTINE CHRONICLE)

WITH FAMINE LOOMING on top of massacre and destruction in Gaza, the cutoff of U.S. funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) stands out as an act of imperial sadism.

Since 1949 UNRWA has been the principal body mandated to provide essential aid and services for communities of Palestinians across the Middle East — from Jordan and the West Bank to Lebanon and Syria, and of course Gaza — expelled or who fled from their homeland in the 1947-48 Nakba (catastrophe) that birthed the state of Israel.

Of UNRWA’s roughly $1.6 billion annual budget, barely adequate in “normal” times and of course entirely unable to handle anything like the present emergency, roughly 20-25% is covered by U.S. government funding. Following allegations that 12 UNRWA employees were implicated in the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel (that is, one-tenth of one percent of the agency’s Gaza work force), the administration of “Genocide Joe” Biden suspended that funding with immediate effect, rapidly followed by Canada, Germany and several other Western governments.

Without rapid restoration, UNRWA states that it will have no money left by the end of February. In addition to the unspeakable hunger and destruction of medical services, housing and all essentials of life in Gaza, hundreds of thousands of families served by UNRWA across the region will face destitution. The Israeli government demands that the agency be permanently dismantled.

Completing the destruction of Palestine and obliterating the national aspirations of its people is the immediate strategic goal of the current Israeli governing coalition headed by Benjamin Netanyahu, with the support of the openly fascist Jewish Power and Religious Zionism forces — the most brutally racist and (probably) most corrupt in the country’s history. That’s what’s behind the unprecedented physical destruction and targeting of medical, educational and essential institutions in Gaza, as well as the wave of military and settler violence and murder in the occupied West Bank.

The spectacle of celebratory dancing at the January 28 “Settlement Brings Victory and Security” conference calling for the depopulation of Gaza and recolonization by Israeli settlers — an event attended by coalition government ministers and some members of Netanyahu’s Likud party — shows that the fascist intentions of the Israeli far-right are no longer hidden.

Even before October 7, Netanyahu’s power grab against the judiciary had shown his government’s anti-democratic ambitions, and that fateful day demonstrated its spectacular incompetence. The four months that followed have proven Israel’s intent to utterly destroy Gaza and its population, yet failed to achieve Netanyahu’s stated military objective to “destroy Hamas” and kill its leaders.

Throughout this carnage, the United States’ actions have been both complicit and incoherent. Pledging full support to Israel’s war, supplying the bombs and becoming an active partner in the genocide of Gaza; blocking UN Security Council resolutions and various initiatives toward a ceasefire; denouncing South Africa’s submission to the International Court of Justice; seeking an additional $14 billion to quadruple down on the U.S. subsidy to Israel — in these ways and more, Washington has made itself a full partner in the Israeli genocide.

At the same time, Biden called Israel’s bombing “indiscriminate” — a world-class understatement — and Secretary of State Blinken has summoned up the zombie “two-state solution” as if were meant to be taken seriously. In reality, the so-called “path to a Palestinian state” is intended to give the Saudi Arabian kingdom the pretext it wants in order to extend recognition and “normalization of relations” with Israel. The United States sees that diplomatic “breakthrough” as the way to shove Palestine back into irrelevance, as the administration believed it was achieving the day before October 7, while the “path to statehood” will wander its way to nowhere as it’s done for the past three decades.

Netanyahu of course rejects any talk of Palestinian statehood, never mind any substance. While he and Blinken engage in their little spitting contests, no wonder that Biden’s standing at home is cratering among Arab American and Muslim communities, young Jews and progressive voters, and parts of the African American base as well. And with every passing day, the number of Israeli hostages still alive in Gaza is undoubtedly decreasing, to the despair and growing fury of their families.

Increasingly, it appears that the allegations against UNRWA staff were likely fabricated in the first place by Israeli propaganda and spread by the compliant Western media. In addition to the immediate refunding of UNRWA and defunding of Israel’s genocidal machinery, the campaign here and globally for a full permanent ceasefire must intensify — until the pressure on the U.S. government becomes irresistible. Permanent Ceasefire Now — Stop the Genocide!

Some Sources and References:

Democracy Now provides daily coverage of the disaster in Gaza and throughout Palestine. On the consequences of the cutoff of UNRWA funding in particular, see an interview with former UNRWA official Chris Gunness, February 8, 2024. On how the allegations against UNRWA were generated and instantly disseminated through the media without corroboration, see an interview with Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept, February 7.

An excellent source of information is the online magazine +972, produced by journalists in Israel.

The websites of Solidarity and Against the Current carry frequent articles on the ongoing crisis. Follow them regularly!


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