Canada approves $90m for UNRWA as Israel tries to close down the agency

A Palestinian man stands in front of the emblem of the UNRWA in Gaza City (Said Khatib - AFP)

Middle East Monitor  /  December 29, 2020

Canada has approved a $90 million humanitarian assistance package for Palestinian refugees through the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The package is intended to be what the Canadian government has described as “part of the path toward peace and prosperity in the Middle East.”

“The Honourable Karina Gould, Minister of International Development, today announced Canada’s continued support of up to $90 million over 3 years for Palestinian refugees,” said a government pre-Christmas press release. “This support will help respond to the rising needs of vulnerable Palestinian refugees in UNRWA’s five areas of operation (the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Syria, Lebanon and Jordan).”

The minister pointed out that the needs of Palestinian refugees are “undeniable”, especially during a global pandemic. “They face high rates of poverty, food insecurity and unemployment. Canada’s continued support for UNRWA builds upon the country’s long-standing commitment to Palestinians while also contributing to stability in the region.”

She added that Canada’s funding will also reinforce UNRWA’s ongoing efforts to uphold UN values and humanitarian principles, including neutrality within the agency and its operations. “These efforts are essential to the effective delivery of its work and to Canada’s continued support.”

The humanitarian aid package comes at a critical moment for both Palestinian refugees and UNRWA. In Gaza, refugees have been subjected to the effects of Israel’s crippling siege for 13 years. In Syria, 91 per cent of Palestinian refugee households are said to be living in absolute poverty. In Lebanon, over 89 per cent of Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria are in critical need of sustained humanitarian assistance.

UNRWA, meanwhile is going through one of its most difficult periods in history since it started operations in 1949 by providing assistance to the 750,000 Palestinians who were ethnically cleansed from their homes by Zionist militias during Al-Nakba (The Catastrophe).

While a lack of funds from donors has been a constant battle, the biggest threat to UNRWA now comes from an Israeli led campaign to close down the agency. The Zionist state believes that the continued existence of UNRWA keeps alive the question of Palestinian refugees, who have been denied by Israel for more than seven decades of their legitimate right to return to their land.

Yesterday The Electronic Intifada, citing France’s Le Monde newspaper, reported that the UAE may be backing the Israeli plan to close down UNRWA. Apparently UAE officials are said to be considering “a plan of action aimed at making UNRWA progressively disappear, without conditioning this on any resolution of the problem of the refugees.”

The article noted how this would help Israel achieve its longstanding goal of “liquidating” the rights of Palestinian refugees altogether. It also quoted the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who denounced UNRWA as “an organization that perpetuates the problem of the Palestinian refugees.”