Palestinians are subjected to humanitarian blackmail

Ramona Wadi

Middle East Monitor  /  Augustus 24, 2023

In his recent briefing to the UN Security Council, the international organization’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, noted that the current situation in the occupied West Bank is further impacted by the funding deficits and fiscal problems faced by the Palestinian Authority. What Wennesland failed to point out is that the UN’s humanitarian paradigm was designed to fail, and purposely so. The reason humanitarian aid has failed is that the paradigm forced upon Palestinians deals only with the repercussions of Israel’s human rights violations.

Meanwhile, since before the Nakba, there has been no international effort aimed at halting the Zionist settler-colonial project in Palestine.

“We are a long distance apart from the sentiments prevailing when the Oslo Accord was signed 30 years ago on 19 August,” Wennesland said in his introductory comments. The Oslo Accords, however, institutionalized Israel’s colonial violence while requiring Palestinians to end their anti-colonial resistance. This ushered in an even greater need for humanitarian aid, given that the space for the Palestinians’ anti-colonial politics was completely eliminated.

What the Oslo Accords achieved was the consolidation of the humanitarian project with no end in sight. Decades since Israel’s establishment, donors have been prioritizing trade deals with Israel, while allocating relatively paltry sums for the Palestinians’ humanitarian needs which increase year on year in line with Israel’s colonial violence and expansion. Since the UN rhetoric on finding a just solution is based upon the defunct two-state paradigm, donor funding will never match the needs of Palestinians, which are political and humanitarian. The deficit was created by the UN when it decided that Palestinians do not have a say in their political trajectory. Donor countries are merely fulfilling the role the UN created for them, and which they adhered to, while profiting from their complicity with Israel.

Wennesland warned that the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) needs $75 million to provide food assistance for the rest of this year for 1.2 million Palestinians in Gaza. The World Food Program (WFP), on the other hand, which recently suspended its services, needs $41m to meet the needs of Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem. Only 30 per cent of humanitarian assistance for Palestinians has been funded from the beginning of 2023 until now.

“I encourage member states to maintain and increase their funding to UN agencies and humanitarian partners to ensure that they can continue delivering vital services on the ground,” stressed Wennesland.

While there is no ignoring the fact that basic needs for Palestinians must be met, the UN needs to be held accountable for the failed humanitarian paradigm it created as a result of protecting Israel’s settler colonial existence and expansion. The paradigm is not serving Palestinians; humanitarian programs are underfunded. On the other hand, Israel’s impunity is bolstered by economic, diplomatic and military agreements.

Funding the humanitarian paradigm is unsustainable; donors know that there is no “two-state solution” in sight and that Palestinians remain trapped in perpetual refugee cycles. The answer lies in dismantling the Israeli settler-colonial enterprise, which would enable Palestinians to emerge from the refugee predicament and own their politics without being subjected to humanitarian blackmail.

Ramona Wadi is an independent researcher, freelance journalist, book reviewer and blogger; her writing covers a range of themes in relation to Palestine, Chile and Latin America