Saturday, March 2, 2024

Defunding UNRWA ‘disproportionate and dangerous’: EU

The Eurooean Union foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has rejected cuts to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Several countries, led by the US, have suspended funding the UN agency in response to Israeli allegations that UNRWA employees were involved in Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel.

Borrell, said on Sunday that defunding UNRWA would be “both disproportionate and dangerous”.

A string of countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom and Italy, have paused funding to the aid agency, which has opened an investigation into several of its thousands of employees and severed ties with those people.

UNRWA on Thursday announced its entire operations in the Middle East, not only in Gaza, would likely be forced to shut down by the end of February if its funding remains suspended.

Writing on the European Union’s diplomatic service website, Borrell wrote that “while the emotions prompting suspensions of funding are understandable, political responsibility has to look beyond emotions and consider the consequences of such a step. Defunding UNRWA would be both disproportionate and dangerous… [it is] an irreplaceable supplier of lifesaving aid to the Palestinians”.

While acknowledging the need for a full investigation into Israel’s claims that some of the UN Palestinian refugee agency’s staff took part in the 7 October attack by Hamas, Borrell said that it was inconceivable other organisations would be defunded entirely based on the alleged behaviour of individuals.

“Such a disproportionate response would be difficult to conceive elsewhere. If some doctors in a European hospital were involved in criminal activities, there would be a thorough investigation and all appropriate actions would be taken,” he said.

“However, no government would ever stop funding the health service, as this would primarily punish the people who receive these services. The wrongdoing of individuals should never lead to the collective punishment of an entire population.”

He added: “Advocating for the end of UNRWA often confuses cause with consequence. The agency’s continued existence, since it was established in 1949, is the direct consequence of the fact that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has never been resolved.

“We should concentrate all our efforts on addressing this deeper cause and finally implementing the two-state solution advocated by the international community and all EU member states. UNRWA’s mission will automatically end once a sovereign Palestinian state, living peacefully side-by-side with Israel, has been established.”

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