US, EU Force Palestinian Refugee Agency, UNRWA, to Work for "Israel's" Interests

Donor countries have the ability to extort and blackmail the refugees and Palestinian society. This blackmail is exactly what has happened - which is why the US is the largest donor - and explains why attempts to provide UNRWA with stable budgets have failed.

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The US and UNRWA signed an agreement on July 14 in which Washington again provides money for Palestinian refugees in 2021 and 2022, but the deal was conditioned by political considerations: the UN agency had to work as a contractor for the US, and thus Israeli, objectives. It must now operate under political criteria dictated by Washington in exchange for its funding, which includes the possible de facto revocation of Palestinian refugee status. The political clauses accepted by the agency contradict UNRWA's mandate as an international humanitarian body and violate its principles of independence and impartiality, although they are repeatedly cited in the agreement. The document is so destructive to the purposes and neutrality with which the agency is supposed to operate that UNRWA has tried to make it go as unnoticed as possible. In its press release, it highlighted its delight at the resumption of US funding. One has to search the text of the press release for a brief sentence about the agreement, stating that it "establishes shared objectives and priorities" between UNRWA and the US, without explaining them. To go deeper, one must read the document. UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini is the signatory to the contract with the US, and he has also failed to explain anything about the agreement despite arrogating to himself the ability to alter the agency's mandate.

UNRWA was in a situation of financial catastrophe after Donald Trump suspended donations to the organization in January 2018. As a result, it halted numerous services and laid off hundreds of workers. These financial problems are ongoing as UNRWA intentionally relies on charity and not on UN budgets, unlike UNHCR. Thus, donor countries have the ability to extort and blackmail the refugees and Palestinian society. This blackmail is exactly what has happened - which is why the US is the largest donor - and explains why attempts to provide UNRWA with stable budgets have failed.

Trump's decision to stop funding was a collective punishment of the Palestinians for their rejection of the so-called "Deal of the Century", a proposal drafted by Netanyahu. The US-Israeli text implied the ultimate Palestinian surrender, accepting existing ghettos and apartheid, and giving up inalienable rights such as the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Joe Biden announced that he would resume donations to UNRWA, but omitted that he would subject the agency's work to conditions, something that was revealed in the first letter the US sent to UNRWA in March 2021.

UNRWA becomes a security contractor for the US and "Israel"

The agreement signed by UNRWA with the US has provoked the rejection of Palestinian society. BADIL is an important organization that defends the rights of Palestinian refugees and has consultative status with the UN. This organization denounces the fact that Washington has succeeded in making US laws, and therefore Israeli interests, the framework for UNRWA's actions. BADIL explains that the US has managed to impose restrictions: Palestinian refugees can receive services from UNRWA and therefore, those excluded have, de facto, their identity as refugees revoked.

The obligations imposed by the US on UNRWA are manifold. UNRWA is henceforth prohibited from providing assistance to those linked to groups designated as "terrorists" by the US and "Israel". Both designate any indigenous Palestinian who resists occupation, forced displacement, or dispossession of property as a terrorist. UNRWA will not only be required to vet refugees but also its workers, contractors, suppliers, and non-state donors every six months, including the social networks of agency staff. This turns UNRWA into a giant spy agency and a security contractor over millions of people and companies that have to monitor and report to the US on a regular basis. It is paradoxical that UNRWA has to investigate its non-state donors, while the US donor and occupier "Israel" are indicted in war crimes trials at the International Criminal Court. It also mandates biometric registration of all Palestinian refugees, despite recent experiences with Rohingya and Afghan refugees, with all NGO and US biometric data in the hands of the Myanmar regime and the Taliban.

BADIL denounces that UNRWA workers have already been fired in the application of these measures on the political activity of its employees. The UNRWA Workers' Union has rejected the conditions imposed and the singling out of its members.

This ban on political activity disaffected with "Israel" violates international law, but is not limited to political organizations. Numerous Palestinian social organizations are defined as terrorists, for example, the Agricultural Work Committees, or the Health Work Committees, with part of their staff in prison for months, including the Spanish-Palestinian Juani Rishmawi, Juana Ruiz Sánchez. 

Until now, it was the Israeli lobbies disguised as NGOs, UN Watch, and others, who carried out this massive surveillance of UNRWA employees, drawing up blacklists of workers and demanding their dismissal from the UN. UNRWA school teachers suffer intense spying by "Israel", and are denounced for defending the right of return of refugees (UN Resolution 194), the right of peoples' resistance (UN Resolution 3070), or for asserting that states have no intrinsic right to exist, especially apartheid regimes.

Now it will be UNRWA that will take on this task of censorship, not only over its workers but also by adapting schoolbooks to "Israel's" interests.

US and EU impose pro-Israeli content on Palestinian school children

The agreement between the US and UNRWA obliges the agency to "take action against content contrary to UN principles in educational materials". This euphemism means that UNRWA must henceforth remove any content that conflicts with the Israeli narrative. As a result of this clause, UNRWA has already instructed its teaching staff not to name the historical map of Palestine, the Palestinian cities invaded in 1948, the resistance, the prisoners, the wall, etc. The aim is to eliminate any Palestinian national content and to promote Israelization. This is what is already happening to native Palestinians with Israeli citizenship: in addition to suffering racist segregation, their school curriculum is annulling their identity and history

The European Parliament's Committee on Budgets approved an amendment making $23 million conditional on UNRWA because "hate speech, anti-Semitism and incitement to violence have not been removed from the agency's textbooks". The EU will require UNRWA to promote "coexistence with Israel" if the agency wants to receive the funds. Israeli lobbies such as Impact-SE thoroughly review Palestinian and other Arab textbooks. They then submit reports on Palestinian school content to political groups in the European Parliament, demanding the removal of terms such as "right of return", "colonization", "Zionist occupation" or "ethnic cleansing". They also demand the inclusion in Palestinian texts of falsified historical, biblical, or mythological narratives about "Israel", and the reflection that it is the Palestinians who have "rejected peace" on numerous occasions.

The US and the EU have succeeded in imposing on UNRWA what they have been imposing on Palestinian civil society organizations for decades: politically conditioning international humanitarian aid and funding to Palestinian society. Any Palestinian organization that uses terms such as colonization, apartheid, boycott, or the right of return of refugees is excluded from receiving official funding.

BADIL points out that what is happening is what South African anti-apartheid fighter Steve Biko put it: "The most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed".

US and EU aim to end UNRWA and empower "Israel's" disobey for refugee return 

It should be remembered that the existence of millions of Palestinian refugees, decades after their dispossession and expulsion, is a complete anomaly, a product of "Israel's" permanent disregard for the law and the mandate for the return and compensation of refugees. But the impunity granted to the Israeli regime by the West continues to allow Palestinians to be the largest and protracted refugee group on the planet, while in other conflicts the West pushes for the return or forcible return of refugees.

The West seeks to ensure that "Israel" maintains the racist demographic supremacy of its settler society over the indigenous Palestinians by preventing the return of the natives who were dispossessed and expelled. According to BADIL data, almost 9 million of the world's 13 million Palestinians (66%) are forcibly displaced, although UNRWA's mandate only covers 5.5 million.

Instead of contributing to the promotion of Palestinian rights recognized in international law, the one generation of the colonized Palestinian society seeks to weaken it and bury its demands, especially the right of return. Precisely forcing "Israel" to comply with the legality of refugee return would make UNRWA unnecessary. On the contrary, "Israel" and its allies seek to destroy the agency and the Palestinians' right of return. In between, for a stratum of the UN bureaucracy, the agency has become a way of life in itself that it is convenient to perpetuate outside of the Palestinians and their rights.

In a paradigm of post-truth, the US-UNRWA agreement repeatedly appeals to the agency's neutrality in order to achieve the opposite: to turn it into a security contractor for the US and "Israel". In this distortion, Palestinians are forced to suppress educational content "contrary to UN principles", which in reality are the terminology, rights, and international legality that protect Palestinians and are flouted by "Israel".

The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.
Daniel Lobato

Spanish Activist