Geoffrey Aronson comments on the Trump administration’s cruel and unjustified decision to cut off aid for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA):
The fog enveloping Trump’s deal of the century is clearing, revealing a U.S.-led effort to simply remove Palestinians from the diplomatic and humanitarian equation. This policy is far more ambitious than Obama’s ill-famed preference to “lead from behind.” But rather than solve the issue, Trump is implementing a destructive and destabilizing plan to simply wish the Palestine problem away.
The Trump administration’s hostility to the Palestinian people has been impossible to miss, and this latest decision shows just how intense and obnoxious that hostility is. Whatever flaws the UNRWA may have, slashing its funding is a senseless and destructive act. It is a heavy-handed attempt to force Palestinians to submit to even more concessions as part of a bogus “peace” plan, and like the administration’s other policies of collective punishment it will just lead to increased resistance and resentment. Cutting this funding ensures that the very serious humanitarian crisis in Gaza will get worse, and it will worsen condition for Palestinian civilians everywhere else. There is no excuse for cutting off aid to stateless and displaced people, and that is especially true when that aid has been a mainstay of U.S. policy for decades. No U.S. interests are served by starving an aid agency of resources and causing millions of innocent civilians to suffer needlessly.
The Palestinian civilian population and neighboring countries that have taken in Palestinian refugees will be the ones most adversely affected by the decision:
Adnan Abu Hasna, a spokesman for UNRWA in Gaza, told a local radio station that if funds to the organization were suddenly stopped, the entire education system would be in danger of collapsing, with only enough money to last through September.
Hit particularly hard would be Jordan, where the 2 million Palestinian refugees — a fifth of the country’s population — use UNRWA’s services. Providing them all health care, education and shelter would fall to the cash-strapped Jordanian government.
The effects of this decision will be disastrous, and they will occur very soon if other funding is not found to fill the gap:
Gunness, the agency’s spokesman, told Al Jazeera that if UNRWA didn’t receive emergency cash injection in the next 30 days, when its funds are expected to run dry, a “doomsday scenario” could unfold.
“Let there be no mistake; this decision is likely to have a devastating impact on the lives of 526,000 children who receive a daily education from UNRWA; 3.5 million sick people who come to our clinics for medical care; 1.7 million food insecure people who receive assistance from us, and tens of thousands of vulnerable women, children and disabled refugees who come to us.
“If we don’t fill a funding gap of $217m very quickly, they are all likely to suffer”.
The Trump administration has a knack for reneging on international commitments without justification, and it always does so without making any preparations for the consequences that inevitably follow. Slashing UNRWA funding threatens to destabilize Jordan, bolster Hamas, and deprive millions of people of basic services that they have relied on for decades. Taken together with the rest of the administration’s actions against the Palestinians in the last year, it makes clear that the U.S. is reflexively hostile to any and all Palestinian aspirations. The Trump administration is beating up on some of the most vulnerable people in the world for no good reason.