Statement on recently announced US funding cuts to UNRWA

A Palestinian man walks past the building of the UNRWA headquarters in Gaza City on January 8, 2018. (Photo MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)

“It has long been clear that, for anyone who wants a genuine and sustainable Israeli-Palestinian two-state resolution, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has been part of the problem that prevents that from happening. By using a unique definition of ‘refugee’ to encompass ever-growing numbers of Palestinians descended from the refugees of the 1948 war, by discouraging them from resettling, and by promoting to them, and all but promising, a legally baseless and functionally impossible ‘right of return’, UNRWA has made peace much harder to achieve.

“In view of this, efforts to pressure and, if necessary, defund UNRWA in its current form, and reform it, are essential steps toward promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace and, on that level, the withdrawal of UNRWA funding by the Trump Administration is welcome. Yet by the same token, no one wants to see Palestinians lose access to education, health care and other welfare services that UNRWA provides – both for humanitarian reasons, and because, as Israel’s security sector has pointed out, withdrawing such funding and services risks causing an escalation in violence from the West Bank and Gaza. AIJAC therefore calls on the Australian government to reassess its contributions to UNRWA with a view to reallocating that money so that it continues to help provide essential services and development aid to Palestinians without the dangerous baggage that UNRWA brings to the provision of such services – baggage which is counterproductive to the long-standing bipartisan Australian policy of promoting a genuine, negotiated two-state resolution.”

Readers also may find of interest research by AIJAC’s Naomi Levin on Australian aid to the Palestinians, including via UNRWA, specifically these two articles: