Washington, D.C. | adc.org | September 7, 2023 – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to release the $75 million in United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) food aid for Palestinian refugees currently being blocked by Senator Jim Risch (R-ID). This inhumane hold on aid is a brazen attempt to hold civilians, many of whom are children, hostage using food as a weapon. ADC’s understanding is that Secretary Blinken has the authority to release the funds right now.
In a letter sent to the Secretary, ADC highlighted that ensuring the provision of food assistance to refugees in need is desperately needed, is a direct reflection of American values, and is in the best interest of US diplomatic and security interests. According to UNRWA, if the money is not released soon, 1.2 million Palestinians, including nearly half a million children, will stop receiving food aid, and the next ten days are critical to preserving the flow of aid. There is no moral or humanitarian reason for the continued denial of this assistance, and Secretary Blinken has an obligation to supercede Sen. Risch’s hold on the funds.
Sen. Risch’s hold on the funding is particularly devastating for Palestinians in Gaza, where food insecurity is already at a tipping point. Right now, cuts to the World Food Programme’s budget have reduced the number of Palestinians in Gaza that are served from 300,000 to 100,000, and a further reduction in food assistance will have a catastrophic impact on the health of those Palestinians. In addition, UNRWA food represents 60% of Gaza’s overall monthly commodity imports. Any interruption of these imports will have disastrous consequences for the economy in Gaza, worsening what is already an economic and humanitarian crisis.
ADC National Executive Director Abed Ayoub said, “Senator Risch’s decision to withhold $75 million in essential UNRWA food aid for Palestinian refugees – a lifeline that supports some of the most vulnerable members of society – is inhumane. Time is running out, so it is essential that humanity and compassion prevail over politics. We urge Secretary Blinken to utilize his power to override this hold and ensure that food assistance reaches those in dire need. We believe in an America that champions human rights and humanitarian assistance, and we should expect that our leaders will act accordingly.”
Desperately needed refugee assistance should never be used as a political hostage. Food is a basic human necessity, not a political weapon. Senator Risch can stop playing politics with human lives or Secretary Blinken can override him, either way this funding must be released as soon as possible.