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Qatar is becoming Gaza’s only reliable donor, but the massive cash influx is still only a band-aid

Fadi O. Al-Naji on
A Palestinian man rides his motorcycle in front of the image of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, adorn's a barrier where a project funded by Qatar is under construction, in Gaza City on October 21, 2012. (Photo: Ashraf Amra/APA Images)

Qatar first began funding Gaza in 2012, in conjunction with the rise to power of Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and has since sent more than $1 billion. But the Gaza Strip suffers from the world’s highest rate of unemployment and poverty, and Qatari money hasn’t reduced the decline. “To really address the humanitarian crisis, we need to find solutions, not just temporary relief,” says Yahya Qaoud, a political researcher with the Palestinian Center for Policy Research and Strategic Studies.

As Kushner pushes Palestinian prosperity in Bahrain, UNRWA struggles to cover shortfall following US funding cuts

James Reinl on
Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Pierre Krahenbuhl speaks during a press conference, in Gaza city on May 23, 2019. (Photo: Mahmoud Ajjour/APA Images)

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees raised $110 million at a pledging meet in New York on Tuesday, but warned that it still needs more cash and may have to cut food handouts to some 1 million Gaza residents over the summer, and might not be able to open schools. The UNRWA event was held on the same day as the administration of US President Donald Trump launched its long-awaited and controversial plan for peace between Israelis and Palestinians in Bahrain.

UNRWA rejects US calls to end agency’s mandate

Yumna Patel on
Jason Greenblatt addresses the UN in May 2019 about the US peace plan.

UNRWA officials are hitting back after a US proposal to remove the agency’s mandate by calling on countries hosting Palestinian refugees to take over food aid services. The US blames the humanitarian effort for prolonging the refugee issue. While UNRWA says political failures have sustained the issue.

O’Rourke says special relationship with Israel goes against US values of equality and dignity

Philip Weiss on

Beto O’Rourke says at a campaign stop in New Hampshire that Israeli human rights violations hurt the U.S. “These truths that we hold so dear — that we are all created equal– ‘all of us’ needs to mean, ‘All of us,’ not relationships of convenience for short term security gains but relationships that allow us to continue to be the example for so much of the rest of the world.”

Dispatch from Palestine: A year in review

Yumna Patel on

Looking back on this year, it is difficult to choose one moment, one tragedy, or one political decision that stands out among the rest. Palestinians witnessed a tumultuous year in 2018, as they saw hundreds killed from the West Bank to Gaza, their rights slowly stripped away inside Israel, and the heart of Palestinian identity, Jerusalem, pushed further out of reach. But as evidenced by the ongoing fight for the rights of refugees in Gaza’s Great March of Return, the fight against expulsion in places Silwan and Khan al-Ahmar, and the fight for equal rights as citizens in Israel, the fight for Palestinian rights continued as well.

‘This is just the beginning’: Palestinian refugees in Jerusalem fear municipality takeover of UNRWA

Yumna Patel on
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat (center) talks to municipal workers on October 23 in Shufat Camp.

The residents of the Shufat Refugee Camp in occupied East Jerusalem were recently surprised to find sanitation workers from Israel’s Jerusalem Municipality, escorted by Israeli border police and garbage trucks, picking up trash in the streets, which is normally the job of UNRWA sanitation workers. The cleanup, was ordered by Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat as the first step in his plans to “end the refugee lie” and shut down UNRWA operations in Jerusalem completely.

‘Trump will only accelerate the creation of a new political movement in Palestine’: Nidal al-Azza on the impact of US policy towards Palestine

Yumna Patel on

Nidal al-Azza, 50, is a Palestinian activist and leading advocate for Palestinian residency and refugee rights. Al-Azza sat down with Mondoweiss to discuss the current US foreign policy in Israel and Palestine, and the effects of Trump’s political decisions on the Palestinian people, Palestinian leadership, and the future of the Palestinian cause.

What’s so special about UNRWA?  Less, and more, than you would think.

Marilyn Garson on

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.”

Jerusalem mayor vows to kick out UN agency for Palestinian refugees

Allison Deger on

Today Jerusalem’s mayor Nir Barkat promised to kick out the UN agency responsible for refugee services, saying the move will support Israeli “sovereignty and unity of Jerusalem,” and called to “increase the Israelization” of East Jerusalem.

If there are no refugees, there will be no one to return: Understanding Trump’s war on UNRWA and Palestinian refugees

Marilyn Garson on

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.”

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

Yumna Patel on

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.

UNRWA does not perpetuate the conflict, the conflict perpetuates UNRWA

Marilyn Garson on

Gaza’s Great March of Return has reinvigorated a specious argument against UNRWA:  by upholding Palestinians’ rights as they are written into international human rights law and UN resolutions, UNRWA’s very existence is said to perpetuate the conflict. The real aim of this argument is to eliminate the refugee issue entirely.

US funding cuts for UNRWA, the legacy of a failed American dream

Jo Kelcey on

Last month’s decision by the Trump Administration to substantially cut funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has cast a dark shadow over the lives of the 5 million refugees it supports, and marks a turning point in US relations with the agency which the US government was instrumental in creating and shaping. Jo Kelcey reviews this history and writes, “Early plans for UNRWA show an unquestionably strong American influence. They also reveal the dissonance of US policy in the Middle East.”

‘Without UNRWA we have nothing’: Palestinian refugees speak out against US aid cuts

Jaclynn Ashly on

Palestinians in Bethlehem’s Aida refugee camp have expressed their mounting anxiety over a US decision to slash funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Ahmad Abu Salem, who owns a small shop in Aida camp, tells Mondoweiss, “UNRWA is all we have. We don’t have any alternatives if they continue cutting services. We would have no jobs and nowhere to go. If these cuts continue the situation here could explode. Without UNRWA we have nothing.”

UNRWA ‘aid’ is aid only in the lexicon of Orwellian newspeak

Tom Suarez on

The money the US gives to UNRWA is not ‘aid.’ It is an infinitesimal downpayment on restitution owed Palestinians. The US remains Israel’s principal benefactor, and underwriter of Israel’s anti-Palestinian terror. US “aid” to Israel enables it to keep five million once-productive people destitute, leading lost lives in the squalor of scattered refugee camps, because they are the wrong ethnicity.

Without UNRWA I wouldn’t be alive today

Mohamed Mohamed on

The well-being of millions of Palestinian refugees is now being used as a weapon in the Trump administration’s political assault on Palestinians. Reduced U.S. funding to UNRWA, the U.N. agency responsible for offering services to Palestinian refugees, will result in direct cuts to education, healthcare, social services, infrastructure, microfinance, and emergency assistance. Mohamed Mohamed says, “It is no exaggeration to say that without these services, I might not be alive today.”

Trump move to pressure Palestinian leadership will ‘take away food and education from vulnerable refugees’

Allison Deger on

In a sign that the United States is ratcheting up pressure on Palestinian leadership, the Trump administration sent notice to the United Nations Refugee Works Agency (UNRWA) that it is withholding over half of this year’s annual commitment, paying $60 million and freezing another $65 million. The move indicates the U.S. is leveraging its financial support to pressure Palestinian officials into acquiescing to its vision for peace between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Reading Maimonides in Gaza

Marilyn Garson on

Marilyn Garson worked for Mercy Corps and UNRWA in Gaza between 2011 and 2015, where she lived through two wars in four years: “A UN official was quoted as saying that “the world watched in horror.” I felt only bitterness toward the world that did no more than watch.”

More than 30,000 people are still living in UNRWA schools in Gaza. What does that look like?

Gisha on

It’s been two-and-a-half months since Operation Protective Edge ended. During the operation, thousands of Gaza residents took shelter in United Nations (UNRWA) schools. Many have since returned to their homes, and others, whose homes were destroyed, were put up by family and friends. However, 18 UNRWA schools still house more than 30,000 people who have no home or temporary solution. They are waiting for Gaza’s promised reconstruction while living in classrooms that were modified into small one-room apartments.

Israel shells another UN school– and even the US is ‘appalled’

Annie Robbins on
Solidarity protests in Montevideo, Uruguay (photo: RebelArte)

Yet again Israel has attacked a UN school, today, this time near Rafah, killing ten. The school was housing 3000 displaced people, and the US State Dep’t says it’s “appalled” by the “disgraceful” shelling. Ban Ki-moon called the attack “criminal” and a “moral outrage.” Yes but what will anyone do to end Israel’s sense of impunity?