According to leaked emails penned by Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior advisor overseeing peace efforts in the Middle East, the UN refugee agency UNRWA “is inefficient and doesn’t help peace.”
It’s safe to say there are 5,266,603 registered refugees across the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon who would disagree with that statement. Among the services provided by UNRWA are education, health care, and relief and social services.
Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at IPS, appeared on Al Jazeera to discuss the real message being sent by the U.S. decision to cut funding for UNRWA.
This is “an expression of the incredible cruelty of this administration,” said Bennis. “They’re prepared to simply wipe out the basic needs — food, medical care, [and] basic education — of this incredibly large and disempowered community.”
Are there other motives behind the decision to cut funding? Bennis fears this decision is a step toward the end goal of ultimately refusing Palestinian refugees their right to return home.
“This is not just about UNRWA,” she said. “This is not just about cutting the funding. This is about eliminating the understanding that there are Palestinian refugees who have the right to return to their home” under international law.
Plainly, this is an attack on Palestinian refugee rights.
While there are ongoing talks of a peace plan and a peaceful resolution, the situation continues to worsen. Rather than negotiate, the trend is for the U.S., moving in sync with Israel, to dictate outcomes.
First, the U.S. took negotiations about Jerusalem off the table. Now they are taking refugees off the table. “I suppose next will be the other two, settlements and borders,” said Bennis.
The goal is what they call, “the end of the conflict. Not the end of occupation. Not the end of injustice,” said Bennis. “Purely the end of resistance.”
Bennis believes some of these policies could be reversed by future administrations, but the damage will have already been done.
“You can’t reverse the impact on children who will die because they can’t get medical care. You can’t reverse the impact on students who will no longer be able to go to school. You can’t reverse those things… you can’t reverse the past,” said Bennis.