Think tank offers $1 million to UNRWA after Trump cut, proposes reforms to agency

 

(JNS) The Middle East Forum (MEF) think tank announced that it is offering a $1 million donation to UNRWA, the United Nations agency dedicated to Palestinian refugees, following a $65 million funding cut by the U.S.

Palestinian boys raise their hands at a school in Gaza supported by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in September 2011. Credit: U.N. Photo/Shareef Sarhan.

The Trump administration announced the cut on Jan. 16. According to the State Department, the U.S.—UNRWA’s largest donor—sent the agency $60 million to keep it operating through the end of the year, but withheld additional planned funding of $65 million and is encouraging other countries to share the burden.

After the U.S. decision, UNRWA called on “people of good will in every corner of the globe where solidarity and partnerships exist for Palestine Refugees” to “join us in responding to this crisis and #FundUNRWA.” Belgium and the Netherlands proceeded to pledge $23 million and $15 million to UNRWA, respectively.

MEF President Daniel Pipes responded to the U.N. agency’s call by stating, “We are prepared to help UNRWA, conditional on it making some reforms. We are delighted to contribute in solidarity if UNRWA takes steps to end the Palestine refugee problem.”

According to Pipes, the think tank’s $1 million contribution would come with the condition that UNRWA “end the automatic registering in perpetuity to the descendants of refugees, those who hold a nationality, and those who live in their purported homeland, the West Bank and Gaza.”

Pipes added that “making these technical changes puts [UNRWA] in line with all other refugee agencies and reduces the number of Palestine refugees from 5.3 million to around 20,000. Our $1 million donation will go a long way to meet the humanitarian considerations of this small and diminishing number.”

Under the agency’s rules, UNRWA can adjust the definition of a refugee and has done so in the past. In 1965, UNRWA’s commissioner-general unilaterally extended refugee status to all descendants of Palestinian refugees.

MEF said its offer will be valid until June 30, 2018, and that the group’s management will decide when the conditions for payment are met. 

Posted on January 19, 2018 .