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The plan to end UNRWA will not take away Palestinians’ right of return

Palestinians in Gaza gather to call for the UN to continue its services in the beleaguered Strip [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]
Palestinians in Gaza gather to call for the UN to continue its services in the beleaguered Strip [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

A frenzied American attack against Palestinian fundamental principles is a continuation of colonial plans in Palestine, aiming to legitimise the presence of the occupation state and integrating it into its Arab surroundings. The deal of the century is a synonym for a malicious plot aimed at eliminating the Palestinian cause. It’s like a destructive rolling ball that targets Arab and Islamic dignity. Through this malicious deal, President Donald Trump is trying to put a heavy weight onto the Arab nation, causing it to feel shame and leading it to surrender while he imposes his vision and schemes onto a region where his top priority is the judisation of Palestinian land.

What’s so dangerous about Trump’s aggressive deal is that he’s trying to pass it gradually, piece by piece, with consecutive shocks that are not met with a serious reaction or effective responses, leading to a fully-fledged crime that has achieved its goals. So far, occupied Jerusalem has been declared the capital of Israel, and nothing happened; no one, from Jakarta to Casablanca, reacted to the judaisation of Muslims’ most holy site, which was done through a decision by America which is an ally to the majority of official Arab and Muslim regimes.

Palestinian demonstrators take part in the “Great March of Return” protest on the Gaza-Israel border in Rafah, Gaza on 3 August, 2018 [Abed Rahim Khatib/Anadolu Agency]

The course of events shows that the deal of the century targets the established fundamental principles of our Palestinian cause. After the occupied city of Jerusalem comes the targeting of the Palestinian refugee issue and Trump’s plan aims to terminate it by all means possible, because of all the historical support it has through international resolutions that confirm the guaranteed right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes abandoned during the wars and massacres launched by Zionist gangs in the aggression on the Palestinian people and their land.

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Foreign Policy magazine issue of 3 August revealed a number of White House Advisors’ internal emails in which Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and his chief advisor called for sincere efforts to block the work of UNRWA for the interest of Palestinians, adding in his correspondence that UNRWA perpetuates the status quo, is corrupt, ineffective and does not help peace.

This is in line with what Jason Greenblatt said in a meeting with the European consuls in occupied Jerusalem in February 2018, when he said that the American plan seeks to end the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, adding: “It is not reasonable for the agency to work forever, we must put a specific date to end its work.

Palestinians in Gaza protest against US cuts to UNRWA on 13 February, 2018 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Palestinians in Gaza protest against US cuts to UNRWA on 13 February, 2018 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]

Reduction of services provided by UNRWA, firing employees, and the threat to stop many of the services provided to Palestinian refugees comes within the context of the Trump-led plan, with the belief that the refugee issue will end with the termination of UNRWA. This shows a narrow vision about the Palestinian cause. The issue of refugees cannot be purely humanitarian, where refugees only dream of a bag of flour or a box of sardines provided by UNRWA through funds of voluntary contributors. It cannot be ignored that Palestinian refugees have a national political cause, a pursuit of freedom from the occupation, and a legitimate ambition to become independent and have the right to self-determination.

UNRWA witnessed the crime of displacing the Palestinian people from their land. Under Resolution 302 of the General Assembly of the United Nations on 8 December 1949, UNRWA was created with the intention to provide direct relief and employment programmes for Palestinian refugees. It began its work on 1 May 1950 and despite the many reservations on the policies of UNRWA its existence helped change the term refugee from being a mere part in the text of international documents to a bigger presence under the umbrella of a large institution officially affiliated to the United Nations. In its charter it is stipulated that UNRWA’s mission ends with the achievement of the right of return of refugees to their homes.

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It is clear that America’s targeting of UNRWA is an attempt to eliminate the issue of Palestinian refugees, so will America succeed in blocking, reducing or ending the work of UNRWA? It could be possible since the US is the largest donor and supporter of UNRWA projects. So, why don’t we start working on finding new supporters and financiers who can fill the severe shortage in UNRWA’s funds by mobilising Islamic countries and friendly countries for this task?

Palestinian protesters gather during clashes with Israeli security froces in a tent city protest where Palestinians demand the right to return to their homeland, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the "Nakba", and against U.S. embassy move to Jerusalem at Israel-Gaza border at the Israel-Gaza border, in al-Bureij in the center of Gaza Strip on 14 May, 2018 [Mahmoud Khattab/Apaimages]

Palestinian protests the right to return to their homeland, on the 70th anniversary of the Nakba in Gaza on 14 May, 2018 [Mahmoud Khattab/Apaimages]

This requires great effort and promotion for the idea but can guarantee continued work of UNRWA in providing services to Palestinian Refugees. And in the worst case scenario, in which we assume that the American scheme can terminate the work of UNRWA, it cannot nullify or eliminate the right of return, and no power in the world can force Palestinian refugees to waive the right of return to their homeland, which is a firm and unshakable right that cannot be waived and does not fall under the statute of time; it is a right inherited by generations and dozens of international resolutions, foremost of which is UN Resolution 194, which affirms the indisputable right of return.

Faced with these facts shame will be upon anyone who will go along with Trump’s plans to end the refugee cause, which has human, legal, historical and national aspects to its justice and legitimacy. And our people will not allow anyone to sign any agreement or approve any deal paving the way towards a grave of the national cause in exchange for some projects and partial solutions under the pretext of realism or the imbalance of power.

This article first appeared in Arabic in Felesteen, on 5 August 2018

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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