There is a lot of talk among the UNRWA leadership on cutting aid to the Palestinians. UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) helps educate and provide basic social services to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. It has been in place since the Nakba and is entirely funded by contributions from UN member states. Now, due to a critical budget shortage of $101 million, the agency may cut education for 500,000 Palestinian children.
Up to 22,000 teachers may lose their jobs and more than 600 schools will be affected. They have already cut aid for housing for Palestinian refugees who fled from Syria. But to cut the education of half a million children? I met many of the teachers who work in UNRWA schools in Jordan and they are terrified of the future. They don’t know whether the reports are real or not; if they will have jobs come September or not.
They are not only worried about themselves, but about the education of the children and the children’s future. Many of them said they would continue to teach regardless of whether they are paid or not, at least as long as they can, because they believe it’s unfair to leave children in the streets without an education. Let’s go to point one. Budgets. Is $101 million a big amount for the whole world to contribute? The top five donors in order of ranking are: US, EU, UK, Sweden and Norway.
So what happened all of a sudden? These countries are so broke they cannot finance tiny sums for the Palestinians! Actually, the issue is not really money. Israel has been trying to dismantle UNRWA for many years. It wants to remove the status of ‘refugee’ from the Palestinians. By removing the refugee status, there is no Palestinian case for returning home or even for a people and nation called Palestinians or Palestine. Until now, that effort has been unsuccessful. But as the whole Arab world is now in turmoil, Israel is using pressure in the UN to accomplish this mission.
This is a very dangerous and a political crisis for the Palestinians, and I consider it a second nakba for the Palestinians. (The Nakba happened in 1948 when the state of Israel was created and Palestinians in the hundreds of thousands were kicked out and forced to become refugees in neighboring Arab states.) Regarding the UNRWA budget, it’s almost embarrassing and a shame to talk about it because any wealthy Arab businessman could cover it easily. But the issue is actually political. It’s not enough to kick people from their country and take their land inch by inch and create settlement and barrier walls – they also want to take their education and a source of jobs and the charity that people give to help them survive. How ruthless.
If Israel doesn’t want UNRWA to help the Palestinians, may I know why Germany is still paying compensation for the ruthless deeds of Hitler and his followers? Actually, if there is fairness in the world, Israel should be compensating the Palestinians.
By Badrya Darwish