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UNRWA announces layoffs due to Trump cut, setting off chaos in Gaza

Israel/Palestine
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Scenes of chaos erupted in Gaza City on Wednesday, after UNRWA — the UN agency responsible for providing services for Palestinian refugees — announced that it would be laying off hundreds of its employees following massive US budget cuts this year.

One Palestinian man, an employee at UNRWA, attempted to set himself on fire.

Videos of the incident show dozens of people grabbing the man, whose identity remained unknown, as he doused himself in gasoline outside the UNRWA headquarters.

As he was carried away, his colleagues poured water on him, while women cried and screamed in the background.

Dr. Amal al-Batsh, deputy chairperson of union for UNRWA workers, was participating in an ongoing sit-in protest at the headquarter building when the incident took place.

“The man who tried to set himself on fire has been a long-term employee with UNRWA,” al-Batsh told Mondoweiss.

“He has two children that are handicapped, and he is the sole breadwinner for his immediate and extended family, around 20 people,” she said.

The man was one of an estimated 1,000 UNRWA employees who will be affected by the job cuts.

According to al-Batsh, 125 workers from the agency’s emergency program were immediately dismissed, 570 employees were told that they would be hired only on a part time basis until the end of the year, while 270 were told that their contracts would also be terminated at the end of the year if the financial crisis is not resolved.

That budget meltdown is the direct result of the US administration’s decision to suspend more than half of the annual funding – $65 million out of $125 million – which it had previously given UNRWA.

In a statement, UNRWA said its emergency assistance is “critically under-funded in the occupied Palestinian territory, where the US contribution for emergency programming — almost $100 million per year — is no longer available and has forced us to take mitigating measures,” referring to the Trump administration’s decision to suspend more than half of its annual funding to the agency.

“The human-impact of this decision is devastating, it is a tragedy,” al-Batsh told Mondoweiss, as she described the dire situation of countless UNRWA employees.

“The man who tried to light himself on fire, he is not the only one in a terrible situation,” she said, adding that many of the employees who received termination letters had been working at the agency for upwards of 20 years.

“When they received the letters, people were screaming and crying, that they will not be able to pay rent for their families, that they won’t be able to pay for their children’s’ educations, and that some won’t be able to even afford food,” al-Batsh said.

One man, she said, cried as he realized he won’t be able to pay for his two daughters to continue medical school. Another woman, who is diabetic and suffers from several health issues, fainted and was rushed to the hospital upon receiving the news.

Al-Batsh argued that terminating 1,000 employees and their salaries is a drop in the bucket compared to the agency’s current deficit, which stands at $217 million.

“The collective salary of these 1,000 staff members amounts only to $3 million,” she said. “In the big picture, how will that possibly solve the financial crisis?”

And while UNRWA said that the financial crisis has forced the agency to “give priority to refugees with the most critical needs”  and to “protect core services,” al-Batsh says the impact of the move extends far beyond the employees that lost their jobs.

Many of of the staff who were let go, al-Batsh noted, were working in psychosocial programs that provide psychological support to children inside their schools and communities.

“In Gaza there is a severe need for these services, due to the war, due to the siege, we all need psychological support,” she said, adding that the program serves some 14,000 people in Gaza.

Some of the employees who were terminated work in the UNRWA health department, and help children with speech and hearing disabilities.

“These kids are going to lose this service, and at the end of the day, they will suffer the most, because they will lose their ability to have an education and a future,” al-Batsh said.

“The cuts will affect workers in the relief and services department, who make poverty assessments and contribute to the food assistance programs,” she said.

“More than one million people in Gaza receive aid from UNRWA. If we reduce these services by more than half, how can the people survive?”

As sit-in protests continue at the UNRWA headquarters compound in Gaza City, massive demonstrations will take place in the coming days, with some 13,000 UNRWA employees in Gaza expected to take part.

According to al-Batsh, if the employees in question are not returned to their posts within 21 days, the workers union will launch an open-ended strike.

Al-Batsh predicts the UNRWA protests will spill into the ongoing Great March of Return protests along the eastern Gaza borders with Israel, as frustration continues to mount over the devastating economic and humanitarian situation in the besieged coastal enclave.

“I expect you will find many of the employees who lost their jobs at the borders in the coming days,” she said, expressing fears over the escalating crisis in Gaza.

“The situation in Gaza is not ‘on the brink of a humanitarian crisis.’ We are far past the edge, and it is only getting worse from here.”

yumnapatel
About Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is a multimedia journalist based in Bethlehem, Palestine. Follow her on Twitter at @yumna_patel

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26 Responses

  1. just
    just
    July 26, 2018, 4:25 pm

    The US is largely responsible for the misery of the Palestinians of Gaza!!! Through their enabling of Israel over these many years and their arming of the IOF, they are guilty as hades.

    They just compounded it. No surprise there. Americans, wake UP!

    • Marnie
      Marnie
      July 27, 2018, 2:48 am

      Of course this isn’t newsworthy in the u.s., it isn’t jews who are suffering but jews responsible for the suffering and have received the gift that keeps on giving in the form of tRUMP and his evangelical zionist followers and sheldon adelson’s never-ending supply of dollars, otherwise I don’t know how this can continued to be ignored by MSM in amerikkka……oh right. If only Ireland were the u.s.

  2. Misterioso
    Misterioso
    July 27, 2018, 11:01 am

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/un-bloc-palestine-leader-snub-israel-us-a8463466.html

    “UN bloc of developing countries elects Palestine as next leader in snub to US and Israel
    Decision from major group representing diplomatic voice of 80 per cent of the world’s population comes at a time of heightened tensions in the region.”

    By Bethan McKernan
    The Independent, July 26/18

    EXCERPT:
    “Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations Riyad Mansour speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting ( Getty )

    “A United Nations bloc of developing countries has elected the observer state of Palestine as its next leader in a symbolic snub to the US and its ally Israel.

    “The Group of 77, which has grown to encompass 135 countries since its formation in 1964, was formed to promote its members’ collective economic interests and enhance their joint negotiating capacity. It now represents a total 80 per cent of the world’s population.

    “The choice of the Palestinians as the group’s chair for 2019 is a diplomatic win for Ramallah at the expense of Israel and Washington DC. Both have argued against strengthening the Palestinians’ international political clout until a peace settlement is reached in the intractable Arab-Israeli conflict which agrees on the formation of an independent Palestinian state.”

    • Maghlawatan
      Maghlawatan
      July 27, 2018, 12:18 pm

      “The choice of the Palestinians as the group’s chair for 2019 is a diplomatic win for” AL QUDS.

      Ramallah is NOT the capital, ya’ní.

      • Talkback
        Talkback
        July 27, 2018, 12:45 pm

        Ramallah is the de facto administrative capital of the PNA.

    • m1945
      m1945
      July 28, 2018, 2:22 pm

      The UN is prejudiced against Israel.

      For example, the UN criticized only one country for its treatment of women. It was not Saudi Arabia where women were not allowed to drive. It was not Egypt or Iraq or Yemen where girls suffer from female genital mutilation. It was not Palestine or Jordan or Iran where women are subjected to honor killings. It was Israel – a country that has had a female prime minister & female fighter pilots.

      The 10 worst countries for human rights are: Syria, Sudan, DR Congo, Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Myanmar, Yemen & Nigeria. So why are there more UN Resolutions against Israel than against the 10 worst countries combined?

      There is no boycott of China even though China invaded Tibet & transferred millions of Chinese settlers into Tibet.
      There is no boycott of Turkey even though Turkey occupies part of Cyprus and Turkish settlers have moved into occupied Cyprus.
      There is no boycott of Morocco which occupies part of Western Sahara.
      Unlike China, Turkey and Morocco, the Israel’s occupation began because Israel was attacked. Also, unlike China, Turkey and Morocco, Israel offered to end the occupation if Palestinians would sign a peace treaty.

      • eljay
        eljay
        July 28, 2018, 3:32 pm

        Jack Green @ July 28, 2018, 2:22 pm ||

        Zionists routinely praise Israel as a “moral beacon”, a “light unto the nations”, a “Western-style democracy” and even a “progressive paradise”.

        But for some reason Zionists never defend Israel by comparing it to the best countries in the world. Instead, they invariably defend it by comparing it to the worst countries in the world and pointing out that Israel isn’t quite as bad as those countries.

        The list of countries that Israel wasn’t quite as bad as used to be rather small: Saudi Arabia, Mali and African “hellholes”.

        At some point it was expanded to include 19th-century America and China.

        Recently, Syria, Russia and Egypt were added to the list.

        And now we are being urged to understand that Israel isn’t quite as bad as Saudi Arabia, Mali, African “hellholes”, 19th-century America, China, Syria, Russia, Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan, Iran, Sudan, DR Congo, Pakistan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Turkey and Morocco.

        Zionists must be very proud that their “moral beacon”, “light unto the nations”, “Western-style democracy” and “progressive paradise” state isn’t quite as bad as all of the counties on that greatly-expanded list.

      • Keith
        Keith
        July 28, 2018, 4:26 pm

        JACK GREEN- ” So why are there more UN Resolutions against Israel than against the 10 worst countries combined?”

        Because Israel continues to illegally occupy the West Bank and Gaza defying continual UN resolutions calling on it to observe international law and the UN Charter and previous resolutions?

      • Talkback
        Talkback
        July 28, 2018, 4:43 pm

        Jack Green: “… the Israel’s occupation began because Israel was attacked …”

        ROFL. Seriously? Does anybody still believe this lie after more than half a century?

        Jack Green: “Israel offered to end the occupation if Palestinians would sign a peace treaty.”

        Oh, so it only takes the Palestinians to sign a peace treaty and Israel will give up its illegal occupation, its illegal blocakde, its illegal settlements and its illegal annexation of East Jerusalem?

      • annie
        annie
        July 28, 2018, 9:08 pm

        it amazes me jack got through that entire monolog without mentioning hamas! lol:

      • oldgeezer
        oldgeezer
        July 28, 2018, 11:10 pm

        Any 10 worst list for human rights that excludes Israel is wrong. Israel makes the tip 3.

        Israel has never made such an offer that didn’t require the Palestinians forgoing their basic rights.

      • oldgeezer
        oldgeezer
        July 28, 2018, 11:26 pm

        Jack most of those resolutions are merely reminders. The issue is Israel has never adhered to a UN resolution whether GA or SC.

        That is why there are so many.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        July 29, 2018, 12:35 am

        “The UN is prejudiced against Israel.

        There is no boycott etc.

        So what? The crimes of other countries do not make Israel innocent.

  3. Mayhem
    Mayhem
    July 28, 2018, 8:47 pm

    It amazes me that the primary culprit Hamas in the sorry demise of Gaza is not even mentioned here. What if Hamas was to spend on its people what it wastes on trying to destroy Israel?

    • m1945
      m1945
      July 28, 2018, 10:10 pm

      Keith

      Israel does not occupy Gaza.

      Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is legal because Israel was attacked just as our occupation of Japan was legal because we were attacked.

      The 10 worst countries aren’t observing international law and the UN Charter and previous resolutions. If they were, they wouldn’t be the 10 worst.

      • oldgeezer
        oldgeezer
        July 28, 2018, 11:27 pm

        Israel was not attacked. It was the aggressor

      • Keith
        Keith
        July 29, 2018, 12:00 am

        JACK GREEN- “Israel does not occupy Gaza.”

        Of course it does. We have covered this many times on Mondoweiss. Israel still effectively controls Gaza. You disagree? If the situation was reversed, you wouldn’t be screaming anti-Semitism? Get real Jack, you wear your anti-Gentilism on your sleeve. That is, after all, a central component of Zionism. Gentiles as the eternal Jew-hating enemy.

      • Talkback
        Talkback
        July 29, 2018, 1:24 am

        Jack Green: “Israel does not occupy Gaza.”

        The occupier is the only country that makes this ludicrous claim.

        Jack Green: “Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is legal because Israel was attacked …”

        Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is illegal, because it is not interim and because Israel uses this occupation to illegally settle in the West Bank. And stop lying Jack Green. Everybody knows that Israel attacked Egypt on 5 June 1967.

    • oldgeezer
      oldgeezer
      July 28, 2018, 10:59 pm

      What if? Gazans were being dispossessed and oppressed by racist, expansionist Israel long before Hamasaki. As that is still happening in the West Bank and as Israel still carries out state terrorism there it doesn’t even take much of a guess.

    • Talkback
      Talkback
      July 29, 2018, 1:19 am

      Mayhem: “It amazes me that the primary culprit Hamas in the sorry demise of Gaza is not even mentioned here”

      Because the real primary culprit exists longer than Hamas and is primaribly responsible for the demise of Gaza.

      Mayhen: “What if Hamas was to spend on its people what it wastes on trying to destroy Israel?”

      What if Israel would stop destroying Gaza and its population and accept that Hamas wants to negotiate on the base of 67 lines?

  4. m1945
    m1945
    July 28, 2018, 10:16 pm

    Talkback

    Are you denying that in 1948, instead of declaring independence, the West Bank Palestinians asked for union with Jordan? Are you denying that Jordan attacked Israel in 1967? Are you denying that because the West Bank Palestinians had become one country with Jordan that when the Jordanians were attacking Israel it was also the Palestinians who were attacking Israel? Are you denying that the IDF pushed the Jordanian/Palestinian army all the way back into the West Bank? Are you denying that when a foreign army is in your country without your permission it’s called an occupation?

    • echinococcus
      echinococcus
      July 28, 2018, 11:11 pm

      …when a foreign army is in your country without your permission it’s called an occupation?

      Right. You guys are a foreign army in Palestine, not to mention its camp followers. Shoo.

    • oldgeezer
      oldgeezer
      July 28, 2018, 11:29 pm

      Btw jack. It is extremely racist of you to hold all Palestinians responsible for the acts of those who govern them. Just as it racist to hold all Israelis or Jews responsible for the criminal murderous scum bags in the GoI

    • Talkback
      Talkback
      July 29, 2018, 2:01 am

      Jack Green: “Are you denying that in 1948, instead of declaring independence, the West Bank Palestinians asked for union with Jordan? ”

      Are you denying that all the Palestinian wanted was the independence of their country and that they asked Jordan for helping them against Zionist conquer and expulsion?

      Jack Green: “Are you denying that Jordan attacked Israel in 1967?”

      Are you denying that Jordan was allied with Egypt that was attacked by Israel in 1967? Do you understand the concept of a defensive alliance?

      Jack Green: “Are you denying that because the West Bank Palestinians had become one country with Jordan that when the Jordanians were attacking Israel it was also the Palestinians who were attacking.

      Jordan’s annexation of the Westbank was as less recognized as Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

      Jack Green: “Are you denying that when a foreign army is in your country without your permission it’s called an occupation?”

      Nope. That’s exactly what the presence of settler Zionists and their militant, terrorist wing in historic Palestine has been for the last whole century. And of course the British troops until 1948.

  5. oldgeezer
    oldgeezer
    July 28, 2018, 11:16 pm

    @@jackie

    Israel was the aggressor in 67.

    It also used it’s terrorist forces to invade Jordan in 66 to attack two unprotected civilian villages inside Jordan in 66.

    Speculation was that it was a prelude to measure the Arab states reaction time for the planned 6th war. No matter the zionust terrorists attacked civilians and slaughtered them.

    Take off jack. Israel is a rogue terrorist state and it’s supporters are morally repugnant.

  6. Ossinev
    Ossinev
    July 29, 2018, 7:28 am

    @Jack Green
    “Also, unlike China, Turkey and Morocco, Israel offered to end the occupation if Palestinians would sign a peace treaty”

    When,who,how ?

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