Western governments' withdrawal of support to UNWRA renders them complicit in genocide
The decision of 10 Western Countries to withdraw funding to the United Nations Works Relief Agency (UNWRA) – the principal agency providing humanitarian relief in the Gaza Strip, was announced somewhat bizarrely just hours following the historic ruling of the International Court of Justice in the Hague on Friday, which issued orders that Israel and all other parties involved in the Gaza conflict ‘must take Immediate and effective measures’ to relieve the unfolding humanitarian crisis, by allowing/providing humanitarian aid.
Several members of the British parliament, senior trade union leaders and human rights practitioners, declared the UK government’s decision to join those withdrawing financial support as rendering them complicit in the act of genocide and placing them directly at odds with the ICJ’s ruling.
Integrity of allegations against UNWRA workers is under question
The decision to ‘pause funding’ to UNWRA, was made by Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Finland, the US, Canada and Australia on the basis of Israeli produced intelligence which alleged that 12 members of UNWRA staff had taken part in the attack on Southern Israel by Hamas on October 7th. Several international analysts and pundits have questioned the integrity of the evidence and incriminating testimonies apparently gathered from captured Gaza residents during the now three month assault on the strip. It has been suggested that the evidence is spurious and much of it is likely to have been gathered using illegal torture methods and cannot be at all relied upon.
Yet curiously, despite these allegations having been aired at several earlier junctures by Israeli sources and dismissed as propaganda, they suddenly emerged as the ICJ issued its decision that Israel had a case to answer in respect of allegations of genocide brought by the South African legal team. Stranger still, is the fact that a withdrawal of funding flies in the face of the order to implement ‘immediate and effective measures’ to relieve the unfolding humanitarian crisis.
The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Gutteres, beseeched all the donor countries to not collectively punish all citizens of Gaza for alleged crimes of a small number of individuals out of a total working staff of over 13,000 in Gaza alone. He urged for them to provide a guarantee of continuity, which he said was essential to prevent an even greater catastrophe. He said:
‘While I understand their concerns – I was myself horrified by these accusations – I strongly appeal to the governments that have suspended their contributions to, at least, guarantee the continuity of UNRWA’s operations…The abhorrent alleged acts of these staff members must have consequences… But the tens of thousands of men and women who work for UNRWA, many in some of the most dangerous situations for humanitarian workers, should not be penalised’
The Commissioner General of UNWRA, Phillippe Lazzarini, declared the decision by donor countries to withdraw funding as shocking. He said:
‘These decisions threaten our ongoing humanitarian work across the region including and especially in the Gaza Strip…Our humanitarian operation, om which 2 million people depend as a lifeline in Gaza, is collapsing. I am shocked such decisions are taken based on alleged behavior of a few individuals asnd as the war continues, needs are deepening and famine looms. Palestinians in Gaza do not need this additional collective punishment. This stains all of us.’
The UK Foreign and Development Office issued a statement as they announced the freeze on funding. It read:
‘The UK is appalled by allegations that UNRWA staff were involved in the 7 October attack, a heinous act of terrorism that the UK government has repeatedly condemned,” a spokesperson said. “The UK is temporarily pausing any future funding of UNRWA while we review these concerning allegations. We remain committed to getting humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza’
All UNWRA's work in Gaza, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan is now under threat
Chris Gunness, the former chief spokesperson for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, speaking to Channel 4 News on Saturday, expressed his horror at the stance adopted by the Western donors in withdrawing support to UNWRA.
‘Well, lets be clear, the president of the court [ICJ] – an American, Judge Donoghue, made it clear in her judgement that impeding or restricting humanitarian assistance is a violation of the genocide convention. What does Rishi Suna and Joe Biden do the very next day? They cut humanitarian assistance. A state party to the convention is doing that.
Asked about the impact, Gunness responded:
‘It’s not just in Gaza. It means that the work that UNWRA is doing with these desperate people on the ground fleeing war in UNWRA facilities – all their aid is now under threat, but UNWRA also delivers humanitarian work in Syria in Lebanon, Jordan and the West Bank. Tonight as the Middle East risks a regional conflagration, all that human development work, thanks to these frankly irresponsible decisions, is now under threat… This is a bit like suspending funding to the NHS, because Lucy Letby killed some babies’
UK Party leaders strangely quiet on the matter
While the Leader of both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party in ther UK, both remained surprisingly quiet about not only the ICJ ruling and the withdrawal of humanitarian support to UNWRA, the former Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, speaking at a conference in London on Saturday, said:
‘It is disgraceful that the UK and others have withdrawn support from UNWRA today based on tenuous allegations…whilst the same body has had over a hundred members of its staff killed in Gaza…I know the dedication of their teams and their staff, they fed and educated Palestinian people for nearly four decades. So we have to demand the British government to restore its funding.
‘Yesterday, the ICJ found a plausible risk of genocide in Gaza. Today, the UK has joined others in suspending funding to UNWRA. This is collective punishment – our government should be ashamed of its moral depravity toward Palestinians starving to death’
'They are not only washing their hands and siding with the powerful, they are complicit in what is happening'
National Education Union, General Secretary, Daniel Kebede, perhaps went further in suggesting that the donor states who had withdrawn funding support were complicit in breaching the genocide convention and the ICJ order. He said:
‘And now the political class of the US, UK, Australia, Canada, Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, Finland who have withdrawn their funding to UNRWA have deepened the genocide. They are not only washing their hands and siding with the powerful, they are complicit in what is happening’
Francesca Albanese, the UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, stated on Twitter (X) that:
‘Defunding UNWRA at this critical time overtly defies the ICJ’s order to allow effective humanitarian assistance ‘to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in Gaza’. This will entail legal responsibilities – or the demise of the international legal system’
Famine in Gaza is now inevitable
Michael Fakhri, UN Special Rapporteur on the right of food, stated on Sunday following the announcement that:
‘Famine was imminent and inevitable…and collectively punished over 2.2 million Palestinians.’
Citing Fakhri’s comments, Diana Abbot MP, published a comment on Twitter (X) which read:
‘All the Western governments and leaders who support cutting UNWRA aid share joint responsibility for this imminent catastrophe’
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