Fri 19-July-2024

Israel not only wants to destroy UNRWA, but all humanitarian endeavours

Thursday 4-April-2024

To eliminate the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) completely, Israel is pushing a false narrative that it operates as “part of the terrorist infrastructure of Hamas”, in response to the UN’s independent report on allegations that just 12 out of 13,000 UNRWA staff members were involved in Operation Al-Aqsa Flood. This is, one might add, part of Israel’s efforts to destroy UNRWA, at a time when the apartheid state is openly committing genocide against the Palestinian population, and the international community is either observing passively or giving active support to the Israeli army.

Last week, Israel sent its proposal to dismantle UNRWA to the UN. It suggests that UNRWA’s roles and responsibilities are taken up by another international organization, possibly the World Food Program (WFP) or a new agency that deals specifically with food distribution to Palestinians in Gaza.

An unnamed UN official was quoted by the Guardian as saying, “If we allow this, it is the slippery slope to us being completely managed directly by the Israelis, and the UN directly being complicit in undermining UNRWA, which is not only the biggest aid provider but also the biggest bastion of anti-extremism in Gaza.” The statement is not devoid of a colonial framework.

“Anti-extremism in Gaza” is a euphemism for legitimate Palestinian anti-colonial resistance, which exists solely because of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

It is now surely time for UN officials to recognize and state the obvious: that Israel is managing the entire scenario, and the UN is already its willing accomplice. Notwithstanding UNRWA’s humanitarian work, the UN opted for the humanitarian paradigm as a weak compensation for Palestinians’ forced displacement by Zionist colonization. The current genocide is the latest stage in decades of massacres and ethnic cleansing, and humanitarian aid is being manipulated by Israel and all involved in the humanitarian paradigm.

However, let’s take a moment to see how Israel treats other humanitarian organizations and their work that are not part of UNRWA. According to NGO Save the Children, “Essential food and medical items are being obstructed from entering Gaza for days, weeks or even months.” Furthermore, Israel has just killed seven aid workers who were part of the World Central Kitchen charity which cooks and distributes food to Palestinians in Gaza. It was an Israeli missile that killed the workers from Australia, Poland, the UK and Canada, as well as their Palestinian driver, so there has been no outrage from their governments, which believe that Israel only acts in “self-defense”.

The bottom line is that Israeli impunity is unlimited, and this will extend to whatever agency takes up the role of humanitarian aid supplier if the colonial, genocidal entity gets its way. The same scenario will unfold. Aid will be held up at the borders, humanitarian workers will be targeted and killed. And Palestinians will still be starved to death. All while Gaza continues to be levelled to the ground. Why? Because Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided so, and the international community is willing to let him ethnically cleanse the occupied Palestinian territory.

The humanitarian paradigm embodies the contradiction of simultaneously being the most visible and the most invisible component of colonialism. UNRWA cannot exist or function without financial contributions from Israel’s allies, and other humanitarian initiatives encounter limitations that are both financial and strategic. What we can take from Israel’s proposals and actions is that there is no intent to let Palestinians survive, and it will not only destroy aid, but also massacre those who dare to attempt to deliver it, alongside the Palestinians most in need of their aid.

-Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger. Her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America. Her article appeared in MEMO.

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