UNRWA Crisis: Beyond Dollars and Cents

Zaha Hassan, Palestine Square | Institute for Palestine Studies, August 3, 2018

“Continuing services to refugees is a right, not a handout.”

This was the message last week of one of the thousands in Gaza who came out to protest the UN Relief and Works Agency’s (UNRWA) decision to not renew 154 employment contracts in the occupied Palestinian territory. Despite UNRWA’s best efforts, it has not been able to make up its current $250 million budget shortfall resulting from the U.S. decision to slash its contributions to the refugee agency.

Almost 12,500 Palestinians in Gaza are dependent on an UNRWA paycheck, which in many cases helps sustain more than just the nuclear family in the enclave where the unemployment rate is over 40%. It is unclear whether there will be enough funding for the 262,000 children in Gaza’s UNRWA schools to return to their classrooms this academic year.

The existential threat facing UNRWA is deliberate, and so are the dire consequences for the 5.3 million registered refugees it serves. President Donald Trump and his Middle East Team headed by advisor, Jared Kushner, have latched onto the idea that humanitarian relief may be used as leverage to force the Palestinian leadership back to a negotiating table set by Israel. Leaked details of the Kushner-crafted peace plan indicate that it is nothing more than a souped up, donor-infused version of the status quo that Israel seeks to have legitimated with the signature of President Mahmoud Abbas. The Palestinian leader has infuriated the Administration by refusing to engage with it on these terms and so the Administration—along with the Republican-controlled Congress—has been tightening the financial noose around Palestinians.

[From the Journal of Palestine Studies | UNRWA and the Refugees: A Difficult but Lasting Marriage]

The idea of weaponizing humanitarian assistance provided to Palestinians is not new but it has never before found the currency it now has in the White House. Of late, right-wing think tanks, pro-“Greater Israel” Washington lobby groups and the “no daylight between Israel and the U.S.” politicians have been peddling the fiction that humanitarian relief to Palestinian refugees has been growing by leaps and bonds. They argue that aid money that maintains the camp infrastructure and enables the provision of essential services and work opportunities perpetuates refugeehood.

Of course, no Palestinian, or any other person for that matter, chooses to live as a stateless person in the squalor of a refugee camp dependent on food aid. The plight of Palestinian refugees is a result of a concerted effort by pre-state Zionist leaders and successive Israeli governments to avoid reaching a political solution based on international law and precedent. One need only look back on the remarks of Abba Eban, Israel’s representative to the UN, during the debate over whether the UN ought to accept Israel’s twice-rejected application for UN membership. Eban, though loathe to definitively state that Israel would permit the return of the 750,000 Palestinian refugees to their homes, promised that Israel would take no action “inconsistent with the resolutions of the [UN General] Assembly and the Security Council.” Furthermore, he stated that the refugee issue could only be solved within the United Nations and that acceptance of Israel as a member would make it easier to reach the desired political solution. He argued, however, that the timing for refugee return was premature; a peace agreement between Israel and the Arab states was required first so that borders could be established and repatriation could be implemented.

Seventy years and two peace agreements between Israel and two of its Arab neighbors later, Israel has neither defined its borders nor allowed a single Palestinian refugee to return home. Palestinian refugeehood started with Israel’s depopulation of 418 Palestinian villages, expelling approximately 750,000 Palestinians from their homes, and it will only end when Israel is compelled to implement repatriation and reparations. This is what the international community required of Israel in 1949 as a condition for its admittance as a member of the UN.

[From the Journal of Palestine Studies | Between Occupier and Occupied: UNRWA in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip]

And what of the argument of donor largesse? According to UNRWA, the average annual spending per Palestinian refugee has actually fallen over the years from about $200 in 1975 to around $110 today. The agency’s continuing and growing budget is a function of the enduring nature of the need and natural population growth. If the U.S. is fatigued by financial support for UNRWA’s work, then the answer is to take action to compel Israel to comply with international law rather than blocking UN mechanisms that might be used to support a political solution.

Continue reading

Speakout against Separating Families

International Socialist Organization – Madison

Saturday, June 23 at 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM
UW Library Mall, Madison, WI

The Trump administration has ramped up its attacks on immigrants, separating children from their parents when crossing the border with no clear plan of reunifying them. The trauma and harm this is causing these families is terrible.

Across the US, people have and continue to come together, rally, and organize against these brutal attacks and to fight for something better.

Join together at Library Mall on the UW Madison campus for a speak-out and rally against these attacks, and for safety for all immigrants, refugees, and migrants.

Bring signs, and bring friends.

Sponsors:
Madison IWW General Defense Committee Local 100
International Socialist Organization – Madison
Madison Socialist Alternative
Democratic Socialists of America – Madison
Madison NOW – National Organization for Women
Wisconsin National Organization for Women

No More Family Separation

Sign up for a June 30 Event!
Saturday, June 30 at 3 p.m.
State Capitol, State St Entrance
Madison, WI

Donald Trump and his administration are cruelly separating children from their families. But we won’t allow it to continue. On June 30, we’re rallying in Washington, D.C., and around the country to tell Donald Trump and his administration to stop separating kids from their parents!

Join us on June 30 to send a clear message to Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress: Families Belong Together!

This evil policy decision to tear families apart must not stand!

Sponsored by
MoveOn ACLU
 National Domestic Workers Alliance  Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

RE/MAX Israel Sells Properties in Illegal Israeli Settlements

CODEPINK, June 16, 2016

This weekend is the Presbyterian Church’s biannual General Assembly. Among the many social justice issues they will address is a resolution calling on real estate giant RE/MAX to stop facilitating property sales in illegal Israeli settlements.

In 2016, right before the last Presbyterian Church General Assembly, RE/MAX founder and then-CEO Dave Liniger announced that the company would stop receiving revenues from settlement properties. But they continue to allow their Israeli franchise to rent and sell settlement houses, and they continue to include settlement properties in their global database. With your help, this time we will succeed in getting RE/MAX to fully extricate themselves from Israel’s settlement enterprise. Add your name to the letter we are sending to current CEO Adam Contos at this year’s General Assembly!

There is no question about the illegality of Israeli settlements. They violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, which says that an occupying power may not move its people onto the land it is occupying. Numerous UN resolutions have been passed calling for Israel to stop settlement construction. Numerous reports from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and others have been published citing the direct role settlements play in human rights abuses against Palestinians and calling on companies like RE/MAX to immediately cease all settlement business.

We have been protesting RE/MAX’s involvement in Israeli crimes since 2014. We have held rallies outside RE/MAX offices and at the RE/MAX, LLC headquarters in Denver. We have disrupted RE/MAX conventions and shareholder meetings. We know we are close to a win. Now, it is time for the final push. Join our letter to RE/MAX, LLC telling them to immediately remove settlement listings from their global database and end all complicity in Jewish-only Israeli settlements.

Towards freedom and equality in Palestine,
Ariel and everyone at CODEPINK
 

Cities for Palestine


Image via Sacramento to Bethlehem

Cities for Palestine, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights and Others, June 6, 2018

This week, Palestinians in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip are marking the 51st year of the brutal Israeli military occupation. As the resistance to Israel’s oppression continues across Palestine, we have a responsibility to keep pushing to end the US policies that have allowed Israel to act with such impunity for so long.

Today we are launching a new website, Cities for Palestine, to encourage people to focus on opportunities to organize for Palestinian rights in our cities, towns, counties, and states that will build our collective power upwards to impact policy.

Municipal campaigns focus on engaging directly with local policy makers, building capacity and activating the power of everyday people. This work will reverberate to help move decision-makers at local, state, and federal levels. Ultimately, we move closer and closer to changing the US policies that enable Israel’s denial of Palestinian rights.

Why the municipal campaigns approach? Because we know it works. From the South African anti-apartheid movement to environmental justice campaigns that focus on divestment from fossil fuels to prison abolition, municipal campaigns are a tried-and-true strategy that prove the effectiveness of organizing locally to impact national and global causes.

citiesforpalestine.org lays out eight ideas to help you start thinking about what campaign would work for your community. These ideas are intended to be implemented as part of an overall commitment by communities to invest in freedom while divesting from injustice. That means understanding the connections between local demands related to the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice, and equality and the demands of Black, brown, and Indigenous communities.

You will also find on the website a toolkit to help you with implementing a municipal campaign in your community. It has all the nuts and bolts of planning and carrying out a municipal campaign, like tips about research, coalition building, and engaging with elected officials.

Finally, we hope you will be inspired by this list of past successful municipal campaigns across the country. These wins have been vital to strengthening the global struggle for Palestinian rights. We’re proud to continue working with partners across the country to invest even more time and resources into empowering you to do this type of local work.


WHAT’S THE CAMPAIGN ABOUT?

Invest in justice by building genuine connections between US and Palestinian cities, towns, villages, or refugee camps through a sister city relationship. Sister Cities promote ties between community members in both places to learn about each other’s lives and work together on projects to support one another.

Continue reading

June 5, 2018
Protest Israel’s Ambassador in Milwaukee

Milwaukee County Progressives No Palestine Exception
Jewish Voice for Peace – Milwaukee

Tuesday, June 5, 11:15 AM – 1:30 PM
Milwaukee County War Memorial
750 N Lincoln Memorial Dr
Milwaukee, WI   [Map]

Since March 30th, Israeli snipers and military have killed at least 113 unarmed Palestinian in Gaza, and wounded more than 12,000. On May 14 alone, 19 medics were shot. Now one of Netanyahu’s closest allies, Ron Dermer, is coming to Milwaukee!

Dermer is also close to Trump relative Jared Kushner, who withheld his role in funding illegal settlements on the West Bank when Trump put him in charge of bringing “peace” to the Middle East. Our taxes are paying for these murders. We cannot be silent.

Sponsors

    United Action Oshkosh
    Milwaukee County Progressives No Palestine Exception
    Friends of Palestine Wisconsin
    Madison-Rafah Sister City Project
    Milwaukee FRSO
    Peace Action Wisconsin
    Welfare Warriors
    Jewish Voice for Peace – Milwaukee
    Milwaukee Anti-war Committee
    Wisconsin Bail Out The People Movement
    Milwaukee Coalition Against Trump
    Students for Justice in Palestine – University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Gaza hospitals and clinics are overwhelmed


Gaza Needs Your Help

DONATE NOW!

I am far from Gaza right now, in the UK, but I am speaking with my friends, my family and my medical colleagues there every day. I know doctors and nurses are working night and day to treat the people injured in the recent massacres.

The aftermath of this massacre is overwhelming every health facility in Gaza. I’m writing now to ask you for your help to fund a medical shipment.

Here are some statistics that show the enormous challenges health workers in Gaza are facing:

  • The Israeli army killed 112 Palestinians and injured 13,190 since the March for Return began on March 30th
  • 13 Palestinian children killed and 2,096 injured
  • Continue reading

Donate for Gaza Now

I know you’re horrified by the news from Gaza—the slaughter of unarmed protesters who are simply demanding freedom; the deliberate targeting of medical staff and journalists; The murder and maiming of women, children and so many young men.

Families in Gaza desperately need medical aid and food. With your help now, MECA can provide them:

  • MECA Gaza staff can purchase medicine and medical supplies in Gaza and deliver immediately to hospitals and clinics.
  • There is terrible poverty and hunger in Gaza due to the Israeli siege. MECA will distribute emergency food parcels to more than 1,000 families in greatest need.

I ask you, please, just to give, as much as you can. People are desperate in Gaza and they need your help now.

Every dollar will go directly to Gaza. And with your contribution you’ll be sending a powerful message of solidarity.

Please Give What You Can.

DONATE


 

Shukran (Thank you),
Dr. Mona El-Farra
MECA Director of Gaza Projects
 

Gaza: Do Palestinian Lives Matter?

A Palestinian child holds a sign on Land Day.

Samir El-Omari and Barbara Olson, Madison365, May 11, 2018

For the past six weeks, Gaza has been in the news as residents have been protesting near the barbed wire fence and free-fire “no-go” zone that traps them under Israel’s siege and blockade of the impoverished territory.

The protests began on March 30, commemorated by Palestinians as “Land Day” annually since 1976, when six unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel (including three women) protesting government confiscation of their lands for Jewish-only settlements in the Arab-majority Galilee area were shot dead by the Israeli army and police, who were not punished.

In Gaza and elsewhere this “Great March of Return” demonstration by all factions and sectors of Palestinian society asserts their international legal right to return to the villages and towns Israel expelled them from in 1948 – lands that for Gazans lie just a few miles away on the other side of the barbed wire, and to which they have been forbidden to return solely because they are not Jewish. The demonstrations are set to culminate on May 15, Nakba (Catastrophe) Day, when Palestinians protest their ongoing dispossession by Israel and the western powers.

In the early hours of March 30, before any demonstrations had started, Israeli soldiers fired a tank shell at two farmers “acting suspiciously” in their fields, blowing one to pieces and injuring the other. Later that day, snipers Israel had placed behind earthworks along the fence with openly-declared shoot-to-kill orders began firing on the unarmed protesters. At least 18 were killed and more than 1400 injured that first day. As of this writing, the death toll stands at over 50, including five children and two journalists. Over 6,000 have been injured, with hundreds suffering devastating injuries caused by exploding bullets that rip through flesh and bone according to Doctors without Borders. No Israelis have been injured.

Amnesty International has demanded Israel “stop the use of lethal and other excessive force,” calling for a world-wide arms embargo on Israel. Human Rights Watch called the killings “unlawful” and “calculated,” saying Israeli officials green-lighted the killing of unarmed demonstrators and deploring “the longstanding culture of impunity within the Israeli army.” (Israel responded by ordering the expulsion of HRW’s Jerusalem office director Omar Shakir.)

U.S. taxpayers annually give Israel $3.8 billion in military aid. The made-in-the-USA tear gas they use is the same used in “riot control” in poor American cities like Ferguson, MO. Amnesty International believes many exploding bullet injuries “bear the hallmarks of US-manufactured M24 Remington sniper rifles shooting 7.62mm hunting ammunition, which expand and mushroom inside the body.”

The “Leahy Law” is supposed to prohibit these weapons from being used to commit human rights abuses. In reality most of the American political class from the President on down ignores the law and chooses impunity over accountability for Israel every time.

A few, including Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy, have spoken out. Rep. Mark Pocan has called on Israel to “exercise utmost restraint in the use of deadly force and to fully comply with international law.” It is especially urgent that Senator Tammy Baldwin and others in Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation follow Pocan’s lead as we get closer to May 15, the day after Trump officially moves the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in a deliberate provocation to all Palestinians that risks greater and wider bloodshed.

Veteran Israeli peace activist Amoz Gvirtz wrote that this “popular unarmed civil struggle” by Palestinians “demanding an end to the siege and justice for themselves, without endangering our lives or our security” must be supported.

Continue reading