Israeli attack on UNRWA aid another genocidal act

Israel’s allegations against the UNRWA aid organisation in Gaza have been rapidly exposed as lies.

But the claims that 12 UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees) employees participated in Hamas’s 7 October attack saw a swathe of Western governments rush to freeze funding to the organisation—including Australia, the US, Germany, the UK and Canada.

This graphically confirms the Australian government’s direct complicity in the genocide in Gaza. UNRWA is by far the largest aid organisation in Gaza, employing 13,000 staff, and is absolutely essential to the population’s survival.

Israel made the allegations in a confidential six-page dossier sent to UNRWA donors the same day the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that its conduct plausibly constitutes genocide.

In just over a week Israel’s story fell apart. Channel Four in the UK obtained Israel’s dossier and said that it “provides no evidence” for the involvement of UNRWA staff members in the attack.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has already been forced to backtrack, saying the Australian government “have asked for further evidence”.

Despite this, and Israel’s history of baseless lies, the employees were immediately sacked. UNRWA has been left crippled, warning it will be have to cease its operations by the end of February unless funding is restored.

Its former spokesperson Christopher Gunness commented that the withdrawal of funding from donor governments “will undoubtedly lead to mass starvation”.

This is an outrageous and devastating attack on the millions of displaced people in Gaza. Following Israel’s deliberate restriction on aid it is further proof of its genocidal intent.

Among its interim measures the ICJ ordered Israel to “take immediate and effective steps to ensure the provision of basic services and humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza”. Instead it conspired to further cut aid off.

UNRWA was established in 1949 to deal with the 750,000 Palestinian refugees expelled from their homes during the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing that established the state of Israel.

Today it supports some six million Palestinian refugees both within the West Bank and Gaza and surrounding countries.

It provides a huge range of essential services in education, health, infrastructure, loans, and emergency and social services.

Its schools have contributed to Palestinians being among the best educated in the region, with some of the highest literacy rates in the world, despite the huge numbers still living in refugee camps, in poverty and under armed occupation.

Since 7 October nearly 45 per cent of Gaza’s population have been sheltering in UNRWA schools, clinics and other public buildings. Nearly the entire population now relies on UNRWA for basic necessities, including food, water and hygiene supplies.

Israeli hostility

Israel has long wanted to get rid of UNRWA. After its dossier was released, Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said, “We have been warning for years: UNRWA perpetuates the refugee issue, obstructs peace, and serves as a civilian arm of Hamas in Gaza.”

The organisation is a thorn in the side of Israel because it represents the inconvenient truth that their state exists only due to the continued exclusion of millions of Palestinian refugees.

UNRWA recognises the Palestinians displaced to Gaza, the West Bank, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan as refugees entitled to education, healthcare and other services until they can exercise their right to return as affirmed by UN resolution 194.

Israel opposes the right of return and wants to see Palestinians in the region assimilated into neighbouring countries. Its ultimate aim is to deny the Palestinians their right to exist as a people and have them disappear.

The size of the Palestinian population, even in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, is a threat to Israel’s continued existence as an exclusively Jewish state.

UNRWA has faced constant attacks. In 2018, Donald Trump announced a complete end to US funding, cutting hundreds of millions of dollars later restored under Joe Biden.

Eliminating it fits with Israel’s overall genocidal aims in Gaza—displacing the population, crushing resistance and overseeing a new regime under Israel’s direct control.

In December the Times of Israel revealed a foreign ministry report laying out a three-stage plan to push UNRWA out of Gaza.

According to the piece, “The first involves a comprehensive report on alleged UNRWA cooperation with Hamas; the next stage would see reduced UNRWA operations in the Palestinian enclave, amid a search for a different organisation to provide education and welfare services.

“In the third stage, according to the report, all of UNRWA’s duties would be transferred to the body governing Gaza following the war.”

Netanyahu has already declared, “I think it’s time for the international community and the UN itself to understand that UNRWA’s mission has to end.” It is the urgent task of the global movement for Palestine to stop him.

By Cooper Forsyth


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