Belgium scored last week in the Middle East with the increase of the support for UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees. The USA, on the other hand, the Palestinians are still under pressure. “The stability of the Middle East is in danger”, says UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness.
“It is not that UNRWA no disadvantages,” says the student, Abdul (22), who lives in the infamous Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila in Beirut. “But UNRWA provides free education …
“It is not that UNRWA no disadvantages,” says the student, Abdul (22), who lives in the infamous Palestinian refugee camp of Shatila in Beirut. “But UNRWA provides free education for the students here, primary health care. If all that stops, because UNRWA without money falls, it will be a very negative impact on the Palestinian refugees. We know how much children depend on the education of UNRWA.’
The ‘camp Shatila is infamous for the massacre which took place there in 1982 by christian militia under the watchful eye of Israel, that when Lebanon was invaded. In many ways, Shatila is also symbolic for the fate of many Palestinians. They had to escape from their country, ended up in provisional camps’. In the meantime Shatila decades of a neighborhood in Beirut, with rules which, inter alia, prohibit the camp expands, also grows the population.
Almost every meter of Shatila is therefore now used, concrete floors are on top of the previous built, streets are sometimes hardly a meter wide, electricity cables hang in a tangle above the streets. Even a part of the one and a half million Syrian refugees in Lebanon have found shelter. A room in Shatila is one of the cheapest options in the expensive Lebanese capital.
Already 67 years “temporary”
UNRWA is not the most well-known of the UN-organizations, however, plays a very specific role in the Middle East, also in Shatila. In 1949, the General Assembly of the United Nations the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’, in after the Israeli independence war of 1948, when an estimated 700.000 Palestinians had to flee for the war or on the run were hunted.
Partly they came to visit neighboring countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, partly on the West Bank and in Gaza. Until the 1967 war, a new influx of refugees created, and Israel also the Palestinian Territories militarily occupied.
On that refugee crises had to UNRWA at the time a temporary answer, provide humanitarian aid, but because there will never be a solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, UNRWA, more than 68 years later, is still active. With international funding – also Belgian taxpayers ‘ money – trying to UNRWA, the largest needs to relief, aid for the poor through education and health care to micro-credit for young people who want something to build.
The number of Palestinian refugees is now estimated at more than five million – through the children and grandchildren of the original war refugees. Also that the descendants can, indeed, hardly to one side. Many have only a ‘vluchtelingenpaspoort’. The countries in which they reside, are all in a fragile economic and political situation. For example, in Lebanon, Palestinians are excluded from many jobs, to the already fragile labour market open for Lebanese.
“I have my own primary and secondary schools, followed in UNRWA schools,” says Badea (33), who lives in a different one of the twelve Palestinian ‘camps’ that Lebanon is rich. ‘The economic and social conditions in the camps, but also in Palestine itself, are hard. So UNRWA is essential for our existence, our resistance and our struggle until we ever come to our country.”
Just these feelings of ‘resistance’ are the American government under president Donald Trump apparently a thorn in the eye. Since taking office promises Trump ‘peace plan’ for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. At the beginning of december, he announced suddenly that the US Jerusalem will recognize as the capital of Israel, and their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem will move. Jerusalem since 1948, a divided city, the Palestinian eastern part was in the 1967 war conquered by Israel, and in 1980, unilaterally annexed – what never by the international community was recognized.
That the Palestinians then Trumps announcement as a “slap in the face’ betitelden and the USA no longer as a” neutral intermediary in the peace negotiations described, was the occasion for the government-Trump the American attachment to UNRWA to reduce.
“The Us government has announced a sixty million dollars to contribute to our efforts to get the schools open, hospitals, and emergency aid from food to money, for one of the most vulnerable refugees in the world”, responded to the Swiss commissioner-general of UNRWA, Pierre Krähenbühl, last week.
‘Although that’s a significant amount, it is much lower than previous contributions. In 2017 was the full contribution of the U.S. above the $ 350 million, ” says Krähenbühl. “Since UNRWA in 1950 operations began, has any U.s. government – from president Truman – our agency is powerful and generous supported.’
“What is at stake is education for 525.000 boys and girls in the seven hundred UNRWA schools, and their future”, says the auditor-general. ‘The dignity and safety of millions of Palestinian refugees is at stake.’ And he called on ” people of good will in every corner of the world to the financing crisis of UNRWA to remedy, under the hashtag #FundUNRWA. Need crowdfunding help if the US their support decimate?
A part of the alternative is that other countries support their push. Belgium put it last week, soon after Trumps announcement, already his neck. Minister of development Cooperation Alexander De Croo promised in the next three years, 19 million euros to UNRWA, and given the financial difficulties which UNRWA currently faces, the Belgian annual contribution to be immediately transferred’. In the communication of Foreign Affairs was explicitly referred to the American decision.
“I have a lot of respect for the efforts of UNRWA, that in extremely difficult and dangerous conditions’, said De Croo. “The living conditions in Gaza, Syria, the West bank and elsewhere in the region are particularly difficult. For a lot of Palestinian refugees is UNRWA, a last life-line. Thanks to UNRWA, can half a million Palestinian children to school. It prevents them from falling prey to radicalisation and violent extremism.’
A state in the state
The most pressing is the situation in the Gaza strip, where UNRWA operates. With a population of two million people, who live behind borders by Israel and Egypt largely closed to be held, the united nations organization considered essential.
“You can UNRWA as a state in the state in Gaza, says a human rights activist from Gaza, who prefers to remain anonymous. “The poverty in Gaza is rising, but the UN create jobs and keep the poor in life. After Trumps announcement are the inhabitants of Gaza are now very pessimistic, afraid that now everything falls apart, even mass famine threatens. Because the situation is already so fragile.”
That was also the message of UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness in an interview with the website Al Bawaba this week: “Look, the stability of the Middle East is in danger.’ According to Gunness denies his organization to be pessimistic, and that the crowdfunding will help. “There is already enough pessimism in the region.’