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UNRWA's crisis is not really about employee salaries

When the UNRWA Commissioner-General threatened the reduction of services and the postponement of the school year, he aimed to pressure donor countries to fulfil their obligations towards the aid organisation. He also wanted to warn against the danger of leaving over half a million Palestinian school children in the streets, and the impact it would have on the stability in the region.

The Commissioner-General is not part of the financial crisis; he is a part of the solution. Therefore, continuously meeting with him, arranging pressure cards and confrontations, may serve the refugee issue more than being negative towards the man and assuming his is part of the conspiracy against Palestinian refugees.

All Palestinian refugees should get involved in the battle against reducing UNRWA services, and should take action across camps in the five areas, including Jordan. The workers' committees in Jordan decided to move their activity to the refugee camps, beginning with the Wahdat Refugee Camp. This may mark the beginning of major changes called for by the popular committees in the West Bank after a meeting held in Qalandiya Refugee Camp. During this meeting, they called on all political, national, popular and official parties to meet inside the refugee camps. They also called on a large number of students to gather and put their chairs on main roads at specific times in major cities. In addition to this, they called for the raising of black flags on the rooftops of homes in protest at the UNRWA decision, as well as for a popular sit-in in Ramallah in front of the headquarters of the UN and other international institutions.

The Commissioner-General will employ all of the aforementioned popular activities to pressure donors to cover the financial deficit. He is personally invested in the success of his mission, and therefore the threat to shut schools or the actual closing of the schools for a few days is not a decision taken lightly. This is especially true if the public voice their anger in the five refugee areas and if he is able to break through the political reassurance threshold by means of the reaction of Palestinian refugees.

The closure of schools is important to pressure donors. An official Jordanian and Palestinian announcement was made saying it is unable to accommodate refugee students in their schools in accordance with public interest. This was overlooked by the UNRWA workers union when they announced that they would approve the beginning of the school year as scheduled, stressing that teachers are willing to serve the students without receiving salaries.

The crisis faced by UNRWA is a political crisis before being a financial crisis. The catastrophe of the potential dissolution of UNRWA will affect all refugees and is not limited to the issue of the employee salaries. The resumption of studies without addressing the financial deficit, however, will mean that such grassroots efforts have gone in vain.

Closing schools for a week or a month will not defeat the will or determination of Palestinian refugees. This determination must be invested in national activities that students can perform outside the classroom, such as demonstrations and protests, which should be used to create political incitement aimed at reminding the international community of the Palestinian villages and cities that are being violated by the Zionists. We must not dare to reduce the catastrophe of the refugees to an issue of employees and their ability to be patient and freely volunteer. The issue is not the employees; the issue is the refugees represented by the PLO that has disregarded its political role and left the UNRWA workers' union to demand that its Commissioner-General head to the UN to push for passing a UN resolution that makes it compulsory to fund UNRWA's annual budget.

The UNRWA Commissioner-General knows his duties and has accumulated experience in gathering funds. He knows how to pressure the donors for the sake of all the refugees by means of the employee salary crisis.

Translated from Quds net, 11 August, 2015.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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