Marilyn Garson


Donald Trump has fully, finally, abandoned America’s commitments to UNRWA. Marilyn Garson worked for UNRWA from 2013-2015, and writes that although UNRWA is no one’s ideal she advocates for the agency because it is vital, and because it is vastly preferable to the alternatives at hand. Garson writes, “UNRWA’s skills are not unique, but not one of them can be quickly replicated or scaled by others – particularly not in Gaza, Syria, or the West Bank. That is UNRWA’s real, underlying strength:  it is there. That’s what has made it a straw man target for Donald Trump’s hatred.”

According to multiple reports, in early September the Trump administration will issue a report recognizing no more than half a million Palestinian refugees, will reject any right of return, and ominously will ask Israel to ‘reconsider’ UNRWA’s mandate to operate in the West Bank. Marilyn Garson writes, “Trump and those around him have spent the year trying to obviate – rather than solve – Palestinian claims. Now they wish to deny the refugee status of 90% of Palestinians. If Trump has his way, only a few elderly refugees will remain.  The Right of Return will be moot. It would not exist now, he says, if UNRWA didn’t keep it alive. He will make the right disappear by de-funding UNRWA and de-registering its five million phantom refugees.  The realization of Palestinian rights may be a marathon, but right now, it is also a sprint.  The race is on, to be made to vanish or to be seen and heard.”

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has closed the only crossing point for commercial goods to enter and leave the Gaza Strip.  He is unhappy that Palestinian protestors have deployed incendiary kites. Rather than address the illegal blockade which gave rise to the protests, Netanyahu has decreed that Gazan Palestinians will be permitted no trade, no shops and no goods to buy, as if he bestows those things as favours. Two million Gazan Palestinians are living in his War of the Worlds fever dream.

Younger people are better at separating Judaism from support of Israel, wrrites Marilyn Garson, “Their co-activism imagines co-existence. British youth say kaddish for the Gazans who have died, and IfNotNow is protesting Birthright. Their parents need a positive, pro-Jewish walkout – a NotTooLate.”

Trump and Netanyahu

Israel is alienating liberal Zionist support by killing unarmed protesters, by its more overt annexation of the West Bank, by its domestic racism, and its gleeful embrace of Donald Trump.  Marilyn Garson says that Netanyahu is ripping open a space of liberal doubt and a campaign for Palestinian rights can fill that vacancy.

“On the first night of the bombing, the Israeli navy shelled Beach Camp to the north, firing explosives into a thickly populated refugee camp that had no weapons to return fire. A few blocks inland, members of my team taught their children to dance to the peculiar backbeat of naval fire, to distract them from their fear. The colleagues living nearest me wanted to leave their families, to pick me up and shelter me in their homes,” writes Marilyn Garson, who worked for Mercy Corps and UNRWA in Gaza between 2011 and 2015, where she lived through two wars. Read her incredible memoir of that tumultuous time, which included her coming to understand her connection to Judaism while under fire from Israeli warplanes.