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USAID to lay off 85% of local employees on Palestinian projects

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In the latest blow dealt by the American government to the Palestinians, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which was responsible for millions of dollars of aid projects in the occupied Palestinian territory, will be laying off some 85% of its local staff in the coming weeks.

A Thursday report from NPR citing U.S. government communications speculated that the Trump administration ordered the job cuts as part of the lead up to unveiling its peace plan, which is set to be released in the coming months.

USAID is expected to reduce its number of local staff from 100 employees to 14, NPR said, quoting an anonymous USAID worker who said they had “begun to take steps to reduce our staffing footprint.”

NPR noted that the majority of the staff to be laid off are Palestinians from the occupied territories and Palestinian citizens of Israel, while a smaller number are Jewish Israelis.

Reacting to the news of the layoffs, former director of the USAID mission for the Palestinian territories Dave Harden told NPR, “the administration is firing a national treasure. People dedicating their lives to fighting for America and fighting for peace…We are abandoning them.”

Earlier this year, USAID officially ceased all operations in Gaza and the West Bank following a 2018 decision to shutter the agencies work in the occupied territories, leaving thousands of local Palestinian institutions and businesses that benefit from USAID funding empty handed.

For more than two decades, USAID invested some $5.5 billion into infrastructure, education, health, and economic projects in the occupied Palestinian territory.

USAID billboards and signage can be found across cities and villages in the West Bank and Gaza, promoting the agency’s funding of new roads, water facilities, clinics, and schools.

Daniel Shapiro, the former US ambassador to Israel under Obama, told NPR that the Trump administration was making a “huge mistake” regarding the USAID staff cuts and ceasure of operations, saying “none of this makes any sense.”

Since taking office, President Trump has slashed some $500 million in US aid to Palestinians, leaving many organizations like UNRWA, as well as the Palestinian government itself, strapped for cash.

Policies over the past few months, like shutting down USAID operations, defunding UNRWA and the World Food Programme, downgrading the consulate in Jerusalem, and recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan Heights are aimed at further alienating Palestinians leading up to Trump’s widely anticipated “Deal of the Century,” something Palestinian leaders have called “political blackmail.”

“The American administration doesn’t care about the Palestinian people, they are only interested in pleasing the Israeli politicians,” Mohammed al-Masri, the head of Fatah in Bethlehem told Mondoweiss.

“When the US cut the funding for USAID, and now is firing all the local employees, it is only strengthening the distrust that Palestinians already have for the American government,” he said.

Al-Masri highlighted the fact that the services and projects provided by USAID were apolitical, and served only to provide humanitarian and economic relief to the Palestinians.

“The Americans are just trying to put more pressure on the the Palestinian government so when it comes time to put their peace plan on the table, we will be forced to accept whatever they offer us.”

Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss.

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6 Responses

  1. Kay24 on April 19, 2019, 8:37 pm

    The American people are not interested in the well being of the Palestinians, they are more interested in pleasing Netanyahu and the Zionists.

    • Citizen on April 20, 2019, 2:20 am

      Well, that’s certainly true of our corporate mainstream news media. That most Americans don’t go online to monitor foreign policy but rather to buy stuff, gossip, or track sports, certainly does not help the situation.

    • Misterioso on April 20, 2019, 9:11 am


      I understand your despair and frustration. However, as poll after poll, well attended demonstrations and events on university campuses and on the street along with articles in the media attest, a considerable shift within the American public, including more and more enlightened Jews, in favor of the Palestinians has taken place in the past decade and it is constantly gaining momentum. In fact, comprehending what is taking place, Zionists everywhere are panicking. They are circling the wagons and trotting out lie after lie. It is no longer possible to hide and rationalize their monstrous crimes against the indigenous Christian and Muslim Palestinian Arabs, which include mass murder, brutal occupation, dispossession, collective punishments, ethnic cleansing and in general, escalating violations of hard won international humanitarian law. America is waking up!!

      • Jejasalo on April 20, 2019, 11:01 am

        I think you’re right. At least I hope so!!

      • Kay24 on April 20, 2019, 12:19 pm

        Despair is putting it mildly! The sooner the people wake up the better, and the sooner members of Congress stop taking shekels and do what is best for America, and show genuine concern for the Palestinians, whose suffering gets worse every day, the better. After all aren’t we supposed to care for human rights as a democracy?

  2. Jejasalo on April 20, 2019, 11:23 am

    Generally speaking, it is indeed another blow to Palestinians for the Trump administration to cut off USAID funding. For people on the ground this will mean still more hardship. I hope history will look back at this process as the moral and ethical disgrace that it is.

    Watching UNRWA funds from the US get slashed to near zero was painful. In the case of USAID, however, it is less so. USAID has long been suspected of having ties to the CIA. It was implicated in the attempt to buy off voters in the Palestinian elections of 2006 (assuring they would vote Fatah).

    Even more damning, however, USAID made it a prerequisite way back during the second intifada for organizations receiving its funds to sign forms stating that they wouldn’t be used for “terrorist” purposes. The organization I worked for refused (as it should have) but then acquired a greater burden having to search for funding elsewhere.

    Personal experiences led me to discover one person in my hometown who was directly involved with USAID. It was an open secret that he’d been (& likely still was) connected with the CIA. I remember him once scornfully referring to the “so-called ‘refugee camps’” in Beirut. He often talked openly of having been in Cuba and Iran at separate times as well.

    All this is to say that USAID should not be missed too badly. I realize that’s easier to be said by someone not losing her job, however.

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