Palestinians in Gaza held a protest today calling for UNRWA to stop delaying the rebuilding of demolished homes and its recent efforts to refer the work to other parties.
Angry citizens burned tyres in front of the UNRWA headquarters, west of Gaza City, calling on the UN administration to take serious and immediate action to ensure reconstruction.
They condemned recent statements issued by UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini saying the agency is increasing its partnerships with other UN bodies, with many fearing this a prelude to donors ceasing funding to UNRWA.
“The United Nations must plug its financial deficit in order to compensate the owners of the destroyed homes,” the protesters said.
The organisation’s management must take the necessary measures to end the suffering of Palestinians whose homes were destroyed by Israel’s bombing of the Strip, they said. Those who are delaying the projects must be held to account, they added.
Israel has been lobbying hard to have UNRWA closed down as it is the only UN agency to have a specific mandate to look after the basic needs of Palestinian refugees. If the agency no longer exists, argues Israel, then the refugee issue must no longer exist, and the legitimate right for Palestinian refugees to return to their land will be unnecessary. Israel has denied the Palestinians’ right of return since the late 1940s, even though its own membership of the UN was made conditional upon Palestinian refugees being allowed to return to their homes and land.
UNRWA depends almost entirely on voluntary donations from UN member states, making it extremely vulnerable to pro-Israel lobby groups which are influential in various key capitals.