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The 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan is mired in a web of deceit

December 17, 2020 at 12:42 pm

Palestinian children stand next to bags of food aid in Gaza Strip on 24 January 2018 [Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images]

The 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan designed for Palestinians living in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) is expected to reach 1.8 million out of 2.45 million people who have been identified as vulnerable and in need of humanitarian aid, with 70 per cent of the allocated funds going to Gaza. A joint press release by the Palestinian Authority’s Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh and the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator Lucia Elmi says a lot about the absence of political accountability, though, which in turn creates a niche for the business of humanitarian aid to flourish in terms of maintaining the cycle of abuses.

Managing to mention the ramifications of Israel’s colonial occupation, without mentioning Israel directly, Elmi stated, “While lasting solutions are being sought, we count on donors and partners to help us be there for those who need us the most in order to live with dignity.”

A lasting solution requires decolonisation and the end of Israel’s colonial occupation of Palestine, which the UN will not countenance, so Elmi’s statement is debatable. What’s more, the Plan is already at a disadvantage; by last month, only 67 per cent of the required funds for this year’s HRP had been obtained. The increase in the number of Palestinians requiring humanitarian aid means that more funding is needed, which the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the oPt is addressing with a bout of optimism reeking of the way that the international community is revelling in the PA’s capitulation to Israel since the change in the US presidency was announced.

There are grounds for optimism, claimed OCHA: “The recently announced resumption of PA-Israeli coordination is expected to ease the PA’s financial crisis.” Moreover, the UN entity is also hoping that the Biden administration will “lead to a resumption of funding to UNRWA on the part of what, previously, has been the Agency’s major donor [the US].” Trump stopped the funding in 2018.

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In other words, the UN institutions are glad that another round of collaborative human rights violations orchestrated by Israel and the Palestinian Authority can be exploited for the purpose of funding humanitarian aid projects. The fine line between humanitarian aid and human rights abuses is no more. The US supports Israel and can also regain its position as the largest donor of UNRWA, with funding that is a pittance when compared with the military aid donated by Washington to fund Israel’s state violence. Do the Palestinian people deserve to be conned in such a way in the name of human rights?

Only nine per cent of the HRP’s funding will be going towards the protection of Palestinian rights and allegedly holding “duty-bearers” accountable. “The aid of this strategic objective,” explains the document, “is to enhance protection by promoting and advocating for the respect of IHL [International Humanitarian Law] and IHRL [International Human Rights Law], demanding accountability, and mitigating the negative effect of violations.” Who this is addressed to is not made clear by the document. Certainly not Israel, which knows the principles of international law well enough to formulate loopholes in order to bypass any and all stipulated measures.

Diplomacy will never be done with promoting what it fails to address. But perhaps, just for once, the Humanitarian Response Plan should consider the fact that it is supposed to be providing services for the Palestinian people, not for mere statistics. If humanitarian actors intend simply to service the latter, they should drop the charade, end the deceit and illustrate the cycle of complicity instead.

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