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The Real Reasons behind Washington’s War on UNRWA

By Ramzy Baroud | Dissident Voice | September 27, 2018

The US government’s decision to slash funds provided to the United Nations agency that cares for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, is part of a new American-Israeli strategy aimed at redefining the rules of the game altogether.

As a result, UNRWA is experiencing its worst financial crisis. The gap in its budget is estimated at around $217 million, and is rapidly increasing. Aside from future catastrophic events that would result in discontinuing services and urgent humanitarian aid to five million refugees registered with UNRWA, the impact of the US callous decision is already reverberating in many refugee camps across the region. Currently, UNRWA has downgraded many of its services: laying off many teachers, reducing staff and working hours at various clinics.

Nearly 40 percent of all Palestinian refugees live in Jordan, a country that is already overwhelmed by a million Syrian refugees who sought shelter there because of the grinding and deadly war in their own country.

Aware of Jordan’s vulnerability, American emissaries attempted to barter with the country to heed the US demand of revoking the status of the two million Palestinian refugees. Instead of funding UNRWA, Washington offered to re-channel the funds directly to the Jordanian government. Thus, the US hopes that the Palestinian refugee status would no longer be applicable. Unsurprisingly, Jordan refused the American offer.

News of this failed barter resurfaced last August. It was reported that US President Donald Trump’s special envoy, Jared Kushner, tried to sway the Jordanian government during his visit to Amman in June.

Washington and Israel are seeking to simply remove the ‘Right of Return’ for Palestinian refugees, as enshrined in international law, from the political agenda altogether.

Coupled with Washington’s strategy to “remove Jerusalem from the table,” the American strategy is neither random nor impulsive.

“It is important to have an honest and sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA,” Kushner wrote to the US Middle East envoy, Jason Greenblatt, in an email last January. The email, among others, was later leaked to Foreign Policy magazine. “This (agency) perpetuates a status quo,” he also wrote, referring to UNRWA as “corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace.”

This notion that UNRWA sustains the status quo – meaning the political rights of Palestinians refugees – is the main reason behind the American war on the Organization, a fact that is confirmed through statements made by top Israeli officials, too.

Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, Danny Danon, echoed the American sentiment. UNRWA “has proven itself an impediment to resolving the conflict by keeping the Palestinians in perpetual refugee status,” he said.

Certainly, the US cutting of funds to UNRWA coincides with the defunding of all programs that provide any kind of aid to the Palestinian people. But the targeting of UNRWA is mostly concerned with the status of Palestinian refugees, a status that has irked Tel Aviv for 70 years.

Why does Israel want to place Palestinian refugees in a status-less category?

The refugee status is already a precarious one. To be a Palestinian refugee means living perpetually in limbo – unable to reclaim what has been lost, and unable to fashion an alternative future and a life of freedom and dignity.

How are Palestinians to reconstruct their identity that has been shattered by decades of exile, when Israel has constantly hinged its own existence as a ‘Jewish state’ on opposing the return and repatriation of Palestinian refugees? Per Israel’s logic, the mere Palestinian demand for the implementation of the internationally-sanctioned Right of Return is equivalent to a call for “genocide”. According to that same faulty logic, the fact that the Palestinian people live and multiply is a “demographic threat” to Israel.

Much can be said about the circumstances behind the creation of UNRWA by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1949 – its operations, efficiency and the effectiveness of its work. But for most Palestinians, UNRWA is not a relief organization, per se; being registered as a refugee with UNRWA provides Palestinians with a temporary identity, the same identity that allowed four generations of refugees to navigate decades of exile.

UNRWA’s stamp of “refugee” on every certificate that millions of Palestinians possess – birth, death and everything else in between – has served as a compass, pointing back to the places those refugees come from – not the refugee camps scattered in Palestine and across the region, but the 600 towns and villages that were destroyed during the Zionist assault on Palestine.

These villages may have been erased, as a whole new country was established upon their ruins, but the Palestinian refugee remained – subsisted, resisted and plotted her return home. The UNRWA refugee status is the international recognition of this inalienable right.

Therefore, the current US-Israeli war does not target UNRWA as a UN body, but as an organization that allows millions of Palestinians to maintain their identity as refugees with non-negotiable rights until their return to their ancestral homeland. Nearly 70 years after its founding, UNRWA remains essential and irreplaceable.

The founders of Israel envisioned a future where Palestinian refugees would eventually disappear into the larger population of the Middle East. Seventy years on, the Israelis still entertain that same illusion.

Now, with the help of the Trump administration, they are orchestrating yet more sinister campaigns to make Palestinian refugees vanish, wished away through the destruction of UNRWA and the redefining of the refugee status of millions of Palestinians.

The fate of Palestinian refugees seems to be of no relevance to Trump, Kushner and other US officials. The Americans are now hoping that their strategy will finally bring Palestinians to their knees so that they will ultimately submit to the Israeli government’s dictates.

The latest US-Israeli folly will prove futile. Successive US administrations have done everything in their power to support Israel and to punish the supposedly intransigent Palestinians. The Right of Return, however, remained the driving force behind Palestinian resistance, as the Gaza Great March of Return, ongoing since March, continues to demonstrate.

The truth is that all the money in Washington’s coffers will not reverse what is now a deeply embedded belief in the hearts and minds of millions of refugees throughout Palestine, the Middle East and the world.


Dr. Ramzy Baroud is an author and a journalist. He is athor of The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle and his latest My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story. He can be reached at ramzybaroud@hotmail.com.

September 27, 2018 - Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , ,

5 Comments »

  1. “The US government’s decision to slash funds provided to the United Nations agency that cares for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, is part of a new American-Israeli strategy aimed at redefining the rules of the game altogether”. W

    While the USA squeezers the life out of the Palestinian refugees, its Congress has just passed a bill giving Israel US$3.8BILLION each year for the next 10 years. This is on top of the multitude of private, tax deductable “Charities” that pump much more funds into Israel each year, paid for by U.S. Taxpayers(NO, not the corporations that use TAX HAVENS), but ordinary American wage earners…..
    The USA Government has NO SHAME at all.

    Comment by Brian Harry, Australia | September 27, 2018 | Reply

  2. In today’s world it is anti Semitic to mention the words “Palestinian” or “Palestine.” In today’s global mainstream media it is also anti Semitic to mention the truth.

    Comment by John P. | September 28, 2018 | Reply

    • “LIKE”

      Comment by Brian Harry, Australia | September 29, 2018 | Reply

  3. I scanned this quickly a few hours ago and then again just now. Although I always admire Dr. Ramzy Baroud’s passion for Palestine and especially treasure his book “My Father was a Gazan Freedom Fighter,” I am disappointed that here he has failed to call out essential truths that impact the entirety of ZioUSraeli designs for dominance and control over the “holy” land and the Mideast region. To wit, he does not call out Kushner as not only “Trump’s special envoy” but Trump’s Orthodox Jew and uber Zionist son-in-law who has personal, familial, and institutional ties to illegal Ziosettlements/colonies eating up the illegally occupied West Bank of Palestine. Likewise, Dr. Baroud doesn’t expose Jason Greenblatt (“US Middle East envoy”) as a Jew and uber Zionist. No opportunity should be lost to expose double standards of these magnitudes that make pointless the US never-ending claim to be “objective” in its ME dealings, especially as those dealings touch on and affect the ultimate victim — the Palestinians –suffering from endless decades of injustice and dispossession as the Zionist entity resorts to a clever and invidious campaign, turned on or off at its will — of warfare, wordfare, and lawfare achieve its ends.

    But all these machinations don’t end there: successive POTUSes have assigned the ilk of the odious Dennis Ross and the grinning Martin Indyk, both Jews and uber-Zionists, to lead the parades and charades of “peace process” that is always a deck stacked against the Palestinians. I’m sure there are others, but memory fails me…. (I do recall an anecdote that amused me at the time: I think it was Obama who sought to appoint Ross as special envoy to Iran. The Iranians speedily informed the US that a Ross appointment was a “no go”….)

    Comment by roberthstiver | September 28, 2018 | Reply

  4. the fact that the Palestinian people live and multiply is a “demographic threat” to Israel

    Sure is. Those grunting subhuman goyim, diluting and contaminating what is supposed to be our Jewish state. The issue of how to get rid of them is a subject of lively debate in OP. Shall we kill them all? Expel them all? Sterilize them all? What about a plague that will kill only goyim? So far they haven’t managed to develop one, despite decades of research.

    Comment by traducteur | September 28, 2018 | Reply


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