Response to Caroline Glick article in Jerusalem Post

27 July 2011

27 July 2011

Dear JPost Editor,

I write to thank Caroline Glick for her article which makes clear the importance of the refugees in any possible peaceful dispensation and the importance of continued generous American support for UNRWA’s efforts to promote human development and universal values in this key constituent for peace, until a just and durable solution can be found to their plight, based on international law and UN resolutions. 

The notion that the blockade of Gaza is legal and that Gaza does not experience any “blockade induced” shortages is without any basis in fact. The ICRC has described the blockade as “a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law”. UNRWA itself is attempting to implement a US$ 660 million reconstruction plan and we have been able to take into Gaza around five per cent of what we need. That is just one example among many that puts the lie to this gross misinformation.

Ms Glick’s assertion that UNRWA has given “consistent support for the Palestinian war against Israel” is also unsubstantiated because there is no evidence to support this wild claim. As if to prove the point, her attempts to influence the US Congress with this specious argument have been unsuccessful, as the paragraphs from the House Foreign Affairs Committee Bill which call for a withdrawal of American support have been removed, a fact of which Ms Glick appears unaware. The Israeli government and responsible pro-Israel advocates in the US demonstrated to the Committee Chairman the negative impact on Israeli national security interests that would have resulted from the retention of the anti-UNRWA provision.  Her thesis failed to make its unsubstantiated point among Members of Congress who know better.

Ms Glick also gives too much credit to a minority group of Members of Congress, who claim that without Israeli objections they would have eliminated UNRWA funding already--just like they‘ve "eliminated" the UN and a list of others. UNRWA has received strong bipartisan support over the years from both the Executive (Clinton, Bush, Obama Administrations) and Legislative branches because responsible US officials understand, as do informed Israelis, the important humanitarian and stabilising role played by UNRWA.

Yours faithfully,

Chris Gunness
UNRWA Spokesman

Background Information

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and is mandated to provide assistance and protection to a population of some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight. UNRWA’s services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.

Financial support to UNRWA has not kept pace with an increased demand for services caused by growing numbers of registered refugees, expanding need, and deepening poverty. As a result, the Agency's General Fund (GF), supporting UNRWA’s core activities and 97 per cent reliant on voluntary contributions, has begun each year with a large projected deficit. Currently the deficit stands at US$ 68 million.

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