The Evils of Defunding UNRWA: A Punishment Beyond Measure

The Evils of Defunding UNRWA: A Punishment Beyond Measure

Content: On January 26th, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an interim ruling on South Africa’s case accusing Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinian people. On the same day, the Israeli government accused 12 employees of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) of having ties to Hamas or being involved in its October 7th operation. As a result, over a dozen countries cut their financial support for UNRWA, potentially leading to dire consequences for the destitute and hungry Palestinians, especially in northern Gaza.

Established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1949, UNRWA’s mission is to provide relief to Palestine refugees who lost their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 war and subsequent hostilities. It has a staff of 30,000, primarily Palestinians, who offer humanitarian relief, healthcare, education, and assistance to millions of Palestine refugees across the Middle East. In Gaza, UNRWA’s 13,000 staff have played a crucial role in supporting various aspects of Palestinian life.

Critics argue that UNRWA has shouldered international legal responsibilities that should have been borne by Israel as the occupying power. By subsidizing and possibly prolonging Israel’s occupation, the UN has become another barrier to resolving the Palestinian refugee question. Resettling Palestinian refugees in other countries, as advocated by UNRWA, contradicts Israel’s stance, which vehemently opposes implementing UN Security Council resolutions and international law regarding the right of return for Palestinians displaced in 1948.

The accusations against the 12 UNRWA staff members should be understood in the context of Israel’s occupation and its ongoing allegations of genocide. Israel has a history of attacking UN-protected facilities, including schools and hospitals, resulting in civilian casualties and the loss of UNRWA staff members’ lives. Israel’s recent claims that 10 percent of UNRWA’s Gaza-based staff have ties to militant groups should be examined cautiously, considering the credibility of the accusing party and the circumstances of an ongoing war and potential genocide.

However, the UN leadership swiftly disregarded the presumption of innocence and allowed for the


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