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Suspending Financing to UNRWA Raises the Risks of Genocidal Impacts of Israel’s War on Gaza

28 jan 2024

Statement by Raja Khalidi,

Director-General of the Palestine Economic Policy Research Institute (MAS)

Since 2021, MAS has carried out stakeholder-powered in-depth research on the financing of UNRWA, seeking to contribute to the debates about the sustainability of its funding,  which has been under political pressure for many years. Our research has emphasized innovative new models and ensuring Palestine refugee voice in decisions about the Agency’s future.

In the light of the decision of the USA and seven other states so far, who had been valued donors to UNRWA over many decades, to immediately cut funding to the agency - prior to any investigation being carried out -  in response to Israeli intelligence allegations of involvement of some UNRWA staffers in the Hamas attack of October 7th , 2023, I wish to note that:

  • Israel has for many years vilified the reputation of UNRWA with unsubstantiated accusations of various sorts, fueling legislative and administrative hostility to the Agency in donor capitals.
  • Israel has for long argued that the Agency should be disbanded and Palestine refugee issues be resolved outside Palestine and at others’ expense.
  • Since the beginning of the October war Israel has reportedly targeted and killed 142 UNRWA staff (and some of their family members); 
  • The timing of this allegation based on Israeli interrogation, whether proven or not, is intended to undermine the essential role of the UN in the current humanitarian crisis, and to flaunt Israeli rejection of being tried in the International Court of Justice for committing genocide.
  • Given the long-standing precarious nature of UNRWA's finances which we have been studying, and in light of its essential role in providing vital services to Palestine refugees and some 1.8 million displaced persons in Gaza, cutting its funding at such a moment heightens the threat to life against Palestinians already at risk of genocide. 
  • We are appalled that these same countries meanwhile have failed to take any measure against Israel to ensure enforcement of the ICJ ruling that has clearly stated that there is a plausible risk that Palestinians are facing genocide. 
  • By withdrawing support to UNRWA, these countries are encouraging the Israeli government in its deliberate deprivation of basic services and necessities to Palestinians and in threatening their forcible transfer.
  • People of conscience around the world cannot remain silent in the face of this crass and naked weaponization of humanitarian assistance against one of the most important agencies working to protect the lives of Palestine refugees.
  • All Palestinians can only support UNRWA in its efforts to maintain humanitarian operations in the face of such dubious attacks and our confidence in the Agency’s integrity and transparency in serving a noble cause.
  • In response to the statement issued by UNRWA Commissioner General, donor countries should reconsider their decision and resume their funding of UNRWA immediately.