World View: Worldwide Alarm as the U.S. Ends Aid to UNRWA Palestinian Refugee Agency

UNRWA: helping millions of Palestinians

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Worldwide alarm as the U.S. ends aid to UNRWA Palestinian refugee agency
  • UNRWA’s support for exponentially growing Palestinian population is unsustainable
  • U.S. military cancels $300 million in aid to Pakistan

Worldwide alarm as the U.S. ends aid to UNRWA Palestinian refugee agency

From 2011: Latakia Palestinian refugee camp being bombed and destroyed by Bashar al-Assad. Since 2011, Shia/Alawite al-Assad has been committing genocide against Sunni Arabs, including Palestinians (AFP)
From 2011: Latakia Palestinian refugee camp being bombed and destroyed by Bashar al-Assad. Since 2011, Shia/Alawite al-Assad has been committing genocide against Sunni Arabs, including Palestinians (AFP)

International governments are expressing alarm that the decision to end all U.S. aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) could destabilize the Mideast and create increased radicalism.

UNRWA provides services to Palestinian Arabs living in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, and the West Bank. There are 1.5 million registered Palestinians living in 58 recognized Palestinian refugee camps. An additional 3-4 million Palestinian refugees and descendants live in “unofficial camps where Palestine refugees are concentrated, such as Yarmouk, near Damascus,” according to UNWRA.

UNRWA’s services include education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance and emergency assistance, and support in times of armed conflict. UNRWA claims to provide these services to all Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

UNRWA is dependent on funding from UN Member nations, with the United States having been the biggest donor. In 2017, the U.S. provided $364 million to the agency, with other member states donated $650 million. The U.S. on Friday announced that it would cut all aid, giving as a reason that UNRWA programs are “irredeemably flawed.”

UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness expressed “deep regret and disappointment” at the U.S. decision:

We reject in the strongest possible terms the criticism that UNRWA’s schools, health centers, and emergency assistance programs are ‘irredeemably flawed.’

It is the failure of the political parties to resolve the refugee situation which perpetuates the continued existence of UNRWA.

A spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas denounced the decision as “a flagrant assault against the Palestinian people and a defiance of UN resolutions.” He added, “Such a punishment will not succeed to change the fact that the United States no longer has a role in the region and that it is not a part of the solution.”

PA Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki said that the U.S. decision would backfire and draw strong reactions from several countries that oppose the “American policy of thuggery.” He said that the Palestinians, together with Jordan and EU countries, will launch a diplomatic campaign to urge many countries to fund UNRWA.

The German government on Friday said that it will significantly increase its support for UNRWA, although it would not be enough to make up the agency’s current shortfall of $217 million.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said:

It is therefore all the more important that we, as the European Union, jointly undertake further efforts. … The loss of this organization could unleash an uncontrollable chain reaction.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that the US decision violates international law and the UN resolution that established UNRWA. He added:

[The US is] not entitled to support or bless the theft of Palestinian lands and illegal Israeli colonialism. It has no right to act at the whim of [American business magnate, investor and philanthropist] [Sheldon Adelson and [Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu.

The US decisions regarding Jerusalem, the settlements and the refugees destroy the international law and undermine security and stability in the region. They are a gift to the forces of extremism and terrorism in the region.

Other Palestinian officials made several angry accusations directed at the Trump administration:

  • that Trump wants to collapse UNRWA and end it completely.
  • that Trump wants to remove any possibility of “right of return” of Palestinian refugees.
  • that Trump wants to blackmail the Palestinians into accepting is (soon to be announced) peace plan for the Mideast.

So as it turns out, these three accusations are pretty much true. UNRWA and Deutsche Welle and Haaretz and Jerusalem Post

UNRWA’s support for exponentially growing Palestinian population is unsustainable

On Friday, the US State Department issued this statement:

The Administration has carefully reviewed the issue and determined that the United States will not make additional contributions to UNRWA. When we made a U.S. contribution of $60 million in January, we made it clear that the United States was no longer willing to shoulder the very disproportionate share of the burden of UNRWA’s costs that we had assumed for many years. Several countries, including Jordan, Egypt, Sweden, Qatar, and the UAE have shown leadership in addressing this problem, but the overall international response has not been sufficient.

Beyond the budget gap itself and failure to mobilize adequate and appropriate burden sharing, the fundamental business model and fiscal practices that have marked UNRWA for years – tied to UNRWA’s endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries – is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years. The United States will no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation. We are very mindful of and deeply concerned regarding the impact upon innocent Palestinians, especially school children, of the failure of UNRWA and key members of the regional and international donor community to reform and reset the UNRWA way of doing business. These children are part of the future of the Middle East. Palestinians, wherever they live, deserve better than an endlessly crisis-driven service provision model. They deserve to be able to plan for the future.

Accordingly, the United States will intensify dialogue with the United Nations, host governments, and international stakeholders about new models and new approaches, which may include direct bilateral assistance from the United States and other partners, that can provide today’s Palestinian children with a more durable and dependable path towards a brighter tomorrow.

The reference to “UNRWA’s endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries” refers to the fact that UNRWA is providing services to all descendants of the original 1948 refugees. UNRWA was set up to provide services to about 750,000 refugees of the bloody war between Jews and Arabs that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. These refugees were moved into camps in Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria.

It was thought at the time that these refugees would move out of these camps and become citizens of the various countries in the region. Instead, UNRWA’s services have made it possible for the refugees to stay in the camps, and for their children and grandchildren to stay there as well. And so there is an exponentially growing population of descendants of the original refugees, and the entire population now totals 5.1 million and is continuing to grow exponentially. The means that the amount of aid that is required is also growing exponentially at the same rate. The State Department announcement says that this “business model,” which depends on exponentially growing donations, is unsustainable, and that is true.

For the same reason, the “right of return” is delusional. When UNRWA was first formed, providing services to 750,000 refugees, perhaps it might have been possible for Israel to absorb a significant number of them. But now the number of “refugees” is at 5.1 million and is growing exponentially, and it is not reasonable to expect Israel to absorb the exponentially growing population.

Early in August, leaked January e-mail messages emerged from Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, indicating that the Trump administration does indeed want to do away with UNRWA. According to published excerpts:

It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA. … This [agency] perpetuates a status quo, is corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace.

The logic behind this statement is that the existence of UNRWA, which is dependent on exponentially growing donations to service an exponentially growing population of refugee descendants, is giving this population a false hope that they might one day leave their refugee camp and go home again to their grandparents’ houses in Israel. This is obviously never going to happen, and so the best way to get to a new peace agreement is to begin by removing the agency that makes a peace agreement impossible.

As regular readers know, Generational Dynamics predicts that there is an approaching Clash of Civilizations world war, pitting the “axis” of China, Pakistan and the Sunni Muslim countries against the “allies,” the U.S., India, Russia, and Iran. Part of it will be a major new war between Jews and Arabs, re-fighting the bloody the war of 1948-49 that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. The war between Jews and Arabs will be part of a major regional war, pitting Sunnis versus Shias, Jews versus Arabs, and various ethnic groups against each other.

Trump believes that he can get a peace deal in the Mideast. Every president for decades has tried to do the same, with no success. Trump’s approach is to create political chaos, to destroy the status quo, so it will be necessary to renegotiate everything to bring peace. That is why the U.S. Embassy was moved to Jerusalem and why now aid to UNRWA is ending. This is the approach he has taken with China, North Korea, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. US State Dept. and Al Jazeera and Fox News and Jerusalem Post

Related Articles:

US military cancels $300 million in aid to Pakistan

The U.S. military said it has made a final decision to cancel $300 million in aid to Pakistan that had been suspended over Islamabad’s perceived failure to take decisive action against militants. In the past, Trump has accused Pakistan of rewarding past assistance with “nothing but lies and deceit.” Reuters

Related Articles:

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, United Nations Relief and Works Agency, UNRWA, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, West Bank, Chris Gunness, Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, Riad al-Malki, Heiko Maas, Saeb Erekat, Jared Kushner
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