Tag Archives: Jonathan Cook

UNRWA’s flawed business model

Americans who have advocated for Palestinians’ human rights in Congress and elsewhere have experienced personal threats, intimidation and much worse over the years. James Zogby’s description of those battles filled me with gratitude that there were (are) Americans who have never given up fighting for justice for Palestinians. (The Struggle For Palestinian Rights: Then And Now, August 4, 2018)

In several significant ways the Palestinian reality, whether under occupation or in exile has worsened in recent years, taking a horrific toll on both Palestinian lives and aspirations. Although US politicians may now feel comfortable mouthing support for a “two-state solution,” it is difficult to imagine how such a solution can be implemented. It is even more unlikely that some of the same elected officials who say they support two states would consider taking the tough positions to force Israel to end the occupation in order to allow a viable Palestinian state to come into being. Their profession of support for two states, therefore, appears to be hollow and designed more to side-step their responsibility to address Israel’s abuse of Palestinian human rights and justice.

Nevertheless, I remain more optimistic than I was 40 years ago. The developments that have occurred have had a profound impact. The situation may be more difficult, but the movement for Palestinian rights is stronger, larger, more diverse, and more deeply committed to justice. There is new energy and new hope that we are turning a corner in our ability to secure justice for Palestinians. James J. Zogby is the president of the Arab American Institute.

I wish I could find hope in this political environment.  Last week, the Trump Administration announced it’s ending US support for UNRWA, the UN agency created to assist the Palestinian refugees when the State of Israel was created.

Great_March_of_Return_2016-

What this means is that overnight, UNRWA has lost 1/3 of its budget. What this means is that Palestinian children may not be attending UNRWA schools this year. What this means is that the Palestinian engineers, doctors and other professionals working for UNRWA may join the unemployment rolls and will not be able to provide services to refugees.

US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the business model and fiscal practices of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) made it an “irredeemably flawed operation.”

“The administration has carefully reviewed the issue and determined that the United States will not make additional contributions to UNRWA,” she said in a statement.

Nauert added that the agency’s “endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years.”

Now the US considers human rights through the “business model” lens rather than through the lens of internationational human rights.

Let’s put this in perspective for Americans who don’t follow these things as closely as they should.

First, no one wants to be a refugee less than a Palestinian. 

I’ve heard many Zionists argue that Palestinian refugees are just beggars who don’t know anything besides living on handouts from the international community. Those same Zionists have never met or talked with a Palestinian, as I have, and so they’re uninformed (to put it mildly). Using their same logic, one might argue that Israelis are just beggars who don’t know how to survive without the largesse of US aid to the tune of over $38 billion over the next 10 years.  U.S. taxpayers have given much, much more $$ to Israel since its creation 70 years ago than it has given to the Palestinians who were involuntarily and forcibly removed from their homes, businesses and villages to make way for the new state of Israel.  The “refugee” status is not one of their own making.

From a business model perspective, the state of Israel is a “flawed operation.”

Second, the State of Israel (not UNRWA) is responsible for the growth in the number of Palestinian refugees.

The Trump Administration argues that UNRWA has an unsustainable business model because the growth of the number of refugees is unsustainable.  Now Trump wants to change the definition of who qualifies as a refugee. The UN and international community count those Palestinians who were displaced from the region in the 1948 and 1967 wars, as well as their descendants—even if they possess the citizenship of the Arab country to which their ancestors fled—as refugees.

In fact, no one wants to go out of business and become obsolete more than the folks at UNRWA. Just ask them, as I have. The failure of the State of Israel to reach an agreement with the Palestinians and end the occupation has resulted in the growing refugee crisis. Rather than use carrots and sticks to force Israel to come to terms with reality and end its occupation, thereby resolving the refugee crisis, the U.S. government has enabled this “unsustainable business model” to grow and flourish. Shame on Congress. Shame on President Trump and all of his predecessors.

Third, the newly created State of Israel supported the creation of UNRWA to focus on the needs of Palestinian refugees.

Jonathan Cook, a British writer and freelance journalist living in Nazareth, Israel spells out the history of UNRWA succinctly:

UNRWA was created to prevent the Palestinians falling under the charge of UNHCR’s forerunner, the International Refugee Organisation. Israel was afraid that the IRO, formed in the immediate wake of the Second World War, would give Palestinian refugees the same prominence as European Jews fleeing Nazi atrocities.

Israel did not want the two cases compared, especially as they were so intimately connected. It was the rise of Nazism that bolstered the Zionist case for a Jewish state in Palestine, and Jewish refugees who were settled on lands from which Palestinians had just been expelled by Israel.

Also, Israel was concerned that the IRO’s commitment to the principle of repatriation might force it to accept back the Palestinian refugees.

Israel’s hope then was precisely that UNRWA would not solve the Palestinian refugee problem; rather, it would resolve itself. The idea was encapsulated in a Zionist adage: “The old will die and the young forget.”

President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu will not make the “problem” disappear by changing the definition of “refugee” or by blaming UNRWA for failing to solve the “problem” or by reframing the refugee crisis as an “unsustainable business model.”

Human rights are not grounded in business practices. Security is not won or maintained with weapons and armaments. Refugees are not numbers, they’re our neighbors.

Please donate to my UNRWA fundraising campaign. Donations are tax-deductible and will be used to support critical mental health services for Palestinians in Gaza.

Gaza boys flag beach

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Day #35 – August 10, 2014 – Gaza Unsilenced!

Last summer we heard ad nauseam from Mark Regev, the Israeli spokesperson, on every mainstream television channel telling us the Israeli spiel about Operation Protective Edge.   Over and over and over again.

I wanted to hear from my friends in Gaza.

When electricity was restored (typically only a few hours each day) they would “appear” on Facebook and Twitter (al-hamdulillah). A few were even interviewed by international media via Skype.

Now their voices have been unleashed, thanks to Helena Cobban at Just World Books and the co-editors of a new book, Gaza Unsilenced. Refaat Alareer and Laila El-Haddad have collected many strong writers from Gaza and beyond to share the reality of what happened last summer from the perspective of those living (surviving) there.

I found the book in Baltimore at Red Emma’s yesterday.  In future blog posts, I’ll be sharing thoughts about the stories I read in Gaza UnSilenced. You can buy your copy online for $21 here.  Spread the word . . . please spread their voices.  Israel wants to control the narrative, diminish the Palestinians’ right to fight back with their words, and we must not let that happen. Check out the Table of Contents below.

Gaza Unsilenced - Just World Books

Gaza Unsilenced – Just World Books

Introduction

  1.  Everyone Is a Target: The Human Toll

The Story of My Brother, Martyr Mohammed Alareer (Refaat Alareer)

The Boy Who Clung to the Paramedic: The Story Behind the Photo (Belal Dabour)

My Son Asks if We Are Going to Die Today (Ghadeer al Omari)

“Wake Up, My Son!” None of Gaza’s Murdered Children Are Just Numbers (Ali Abunimah)

Devastated Family Remembers Cheerful Boy Cut Down by Israeli Fire on Gaza Beach (Rami Almeghari)

Gaza: Israel Puts Paramedics in Its Crosshairs (Mohammed Suliman)

Losing a Good Friend (Mu’taz Hilal Muhammad al-‘Azayzeh)

In Gaza’s al-Shuja’iya: “I Just Survived a Massacre” (Mohammed Suliman)

An Eyewitness to Genocide: A Night in Khuza’a (Sarah Algherbawi)

Israeli Army Uses Gaza Children as Human Shields (Rania Khalek)

Psychological Damage of Gazan Children Will Have Long-term Consequences (Lynda Franken)

A Gaza Mother amid the Airstrikes (Eman Mohammed)

Gaza: A Human Tragedy (Sarah Ali)

2.   Destitute by Design: Making Gaza Unlivable

“The Tank Shells Fell Like Rain”: Survivors of the Attack on UNRWA School Report Scenes of Carnage and Destruction (Sharif Abdel Kouddous)

Poems of Mass Destruction at Gaza University (Refaat Alareer)

Israel Destroys al-Wafa Hospital as Staff Evacuates All Patients (Allison Deger)

Water Disaster Hits Every Single Person in Gaza (Ali Abunimah)

Farming in Gaza near the Buffer Zone (Rina Andolini)

Farming under Siege: Working the Land in Gaza (Tom Anderson and Therezia Cooper)

Gaza Olive Harvest Hit Hard by War (Rami Almeghari)

Farmers Forced to Stop Growing Strawberries in Gaza (Rami Almeghari)

Destroyed Factories in Gaza: An Attempt to Rise Again (Palestine Information Center)

Gaza Fishermen “in God’s Hands” (Patrick O. Strickland and Ezz Al Zanoon)

Gaza’s Economy Shattered by Israeli Siege (Rosa Schiano)

The Great Game in the Holy Land: How Gazan Natural Gas Became the Epicenter of an International Power Struggle (Michael Schwartz)

The Ancient Mosques of Gaza in Ruins: How Israel’s War Endangered  Palestine’s Cultural Heritage (Ahmad Nafi)

3.   Elsewhere in Palestine . . . 

Administrative Detainees on Hunger Strike Issue Their Will as They Stand “at the Edge of Death” (Shahd Abusalama)

Merciless Israeli Mobs Are Hunting Palestinians (Rania Khalek)

As Israel Bombs Gaza, It Kills Palestinians in the West Bank Too (Maureen Clare Murphy)

The Constant Presence of Death in the Lives of Palestinian Children (Nadera Shalhoub-Kevorkian)

Palestinian Civil Society in Israel Demands Urgent Action on Gaza (The Arab Association for Human Rights)

Israel Arrests Activist for Hosting Skype Chat with Resistance Icon Leila Khaled (Patrick O. Strickland)

Arrabeh’s Eid in Gaza’s Shadow (Hatim Kanaaneh)

Why Palestinian Citizens of Israel Are No Longer Safe (Ron Gerlitz)

4.  Gaza Burns, the World Responds: Analysis and Commentary

Something Rotten in the Operations Manual (Sharif S. Elmusa)

Institutionalised Disregard for Palestinian Life (Mouin Rabbani)

International Solidarity with Palestine Grows with Israeli Assault (Beth Staton)

Gaza Traces (Kim Jensen)

Controversial, Illegal, and Documented: Israeli Military Strategies in Gaza (Sami Kishawi)

Why Gaza Fought Back (Ramzy Baroud)

Blaming the Victims (Diana Buttu)

The Palestinians’ Right to Self-Defense (Chris Hedges)

No Exit from Gaza: A New War Crime? (Richard Falk)

Egypt’s Propagandists and the Gaza Massacre (Joseph Massad)

Collective Punishment in Gaza (Rashid Khalidi)

5.  The Pen, the Keyboard, and the F-16: Creative Resistance in the Digital Age

War on Gaza, Social Media and the Efficacy of Protest (Hatem Bazian)

Social Media: The Weapon of Choice in the Gaza-Israel Conflict (Yousef al-Helou)

In Asymmetric Twitter War over Gaza: Palestinians Are Winning (Belal Dabour)

Selection of Tweets, July 5 – August 26 (Farah Baker)

Tweets from a Doctor in Gaza, July 26 (Belal Dabour)

Palestine Unbound (Excerpt) (Steven Salaita)

Palestinian Artists Illustrate the Deadly Realities in Gaza (Mariam Elba)

Three Poems for Gaza (Nathalie Handal)

Palestine, Summer 2014 (Kim Jensen)

The UN Counted the Number of Our Dead (Samah Sabawi)

Ferguson and Gaza (Zeina Azzam)

From Dawn to Dusk (Lina H. Al-Sharif)

An Unjust World (Nour ElBorno)

Seafaring Nocturne (Lena Khalaf Tuffaha)

This Miraculous Terrorism (Omar J. Sakr)

6.   51 Days Later, and Counting: The Untenable Status Quo

How Israel Is Turning Gaza into a Super-Max Prison (Jonathan Cook)

Under Siege: Remembering Leningrad, Surviving Gaza (Ayah Bashir and Esther Rappaport)

Investigators: Israel Fired on Civilians Carrying White Flags (Charlotte Silver)

Revealed: Gaza Orphans Israel Trip Was Government-Backed PR Stunt (Ali Abunimah)

Uncovering the Truth in Khuza’a (Ruairi Henchy)

A Call From Gaza: Make Israel Accountable for Its Crimes in Gaza — Intensify BDS! (Gaza Civil Society Organizations)

One Thing They Can’t Bomb (Ned Rosch)

We Shall Live to Tell the Stories of War Crimes in Gaza (Hana Baalousha)

Who Benefits from Billions Pledged for Gaza Reconstruction? (Maureen Clare Murphy)

Editors’ Afterwords

Re-humanizing Gaza (Laila El-Haddad)

When Will We Go Back Home? (Refaat Alareer)

Names of the Dead

Notes

Bibliography

About the Contributors

Acknowledgments

About the Editors

 

 

 

 

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