Palestinian men carry food aid given by UNRWA in Gaza City, Gaza on 15 January 2018
By Ramona Wadi
Palestinians are in dire need of humanitarian aid. So dire, in fact, that the EU has no qualms about conditioning financial aid in terms of acquiescence to the two-state paradigm.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) is not an exception to this type of political blackmail. During a meeting with the organisation’s Commission General Pierre Krahenbuhl, EU Representative Federica Mogherini declared: “Supporting the agency means supporting peace and security in the Middle East. And this is in our strategic interest. UNRWA is essential for the very perspective of a two-state solution.”
UNRWA strives to maintain a purely humanitarian approach, as evidenced in its rhetoric. Yet its donors are politicising funds into “strategic interests”. The two-state hypothesis is also incompatible with the Palestinian right of return – the most Palestinians can hope for in such a scenario is a symbolic gesture that will only affect a small percentage of all Palestinian refugees. UNRWA’s mission is to provide access to basic services such as education and healthcare to Palestinian refugees. What, exactly, does the EU mean when it manipulates its aid into a strategic interest? And is UNRWA in a position to refute the organisation becoming part of the political meddling decided by the political powers?
If UNRWA is forced into reducing its services further due to lack of funding, Palestinian refugees will face additional hardships. Yet its mandate to function in response to the ramifications of political violence by Israel to which the EU and the rest of the world turns a blind eye is restrictive and not without reason, as decided by the oppressive political complicity which required UNRWA’s existence in the first place.
If the rights of Palestinian refugees are now being diminished further in order to accommodate the EU’s strategic interests related to the two-state imposition, UNRWA’s role is becoming jeopardised, not only by US President Donald Trump’s decision to redefine who qualifies as a Palestinian refugee. The EU’s role in subverting Palestinian rights is carried out openly and raises less controversy due to the fact that Trump has attracted global derision while the EU is still ensconced within a respectable façade.
We are told that the EU’s financial assistance to Palestinians “has a crucial impact” as regards humanitarian assistance. The EU should also be held accountable as to how its agenda is curtailing access to the rights of Palestinian refugees. Humanitarian aid is becoming problematic as the donors’ agenda will not allow the recipients to politicise their situation. Instead, it requires Palestinian refugees to become recipients without a cause, and that goes contrary to Palestinian anti-colonial struggle.
However, the conditioning of thought that Trump is a solitary, powerful enemy of the Palestinian prevails. Trump is not acting in a vacuum – his politics are exposing flaws in the international community which should have fuelled a masses’ internationalist solidarity with the Palestinians. On the contrary, political exploitation is gaining in strength through the expectation that people across the world remain shackled to aligning with what is conveyed as a respectable alternative.
The end result is creating a perception of the Palestinians from a prevailing colonial perspective. The only makeover is that instead of empires, we now speak of the EU.