UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has agreed to investigate the neutrality of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees’ (UNRWA). Three institutes will be participating in the independent review: the Raoul Wallenberg Institute in Sweden, the Chr. Michelsen Institute in Norway and the Danish Institute for Human Rights, all led by former French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.
The panel review is the latest in a series of moves led by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is exploiting the humanitarian disaster caused by Israel’s military aggression in Gaza and the West Bank as the means to advance the genocide against the Palestinian people. Main donors to UNRWA have already withdrawn their financial support, and Israel bombed the Belgian development agency’s buildings in Gaza, after the government in Brussels announced that it will continue to fund UNRWA.
Blinken has not seen the Israeli evidence, but still insists that it is “highly, highly credible”
Israel has refused to reveal its intelligence dossier so far, stating that the allegations against UNRWA’s staff members are the primary reason for withholding information. The US has claimed that it has not seen the evidence, but it still insists that it is “highly, highly credible,” according to Secretary of State Antony Blinken. However, given its habitual lies, and the fact that Israel has not provided any public evidence so far, the US is lending support to Netanyahu’s narrative that “UNRWA’s mission has to end”. The UK’s Channel 4, which obtained a copy of the dossier, stated that there is no supporting evidence in the document to prove the allegations made by Israel.
Nevertheless, UNRWA has already suspended the employees who Israel alleged had participated in the 7 October incursion into Israel. Yet Israel’s contention is not with individuals who may or may not have been involved in the attacks, but with the agency’s existence and its work providing a much-needed lifeline for Palestinian refugees. UNRWA’s neutrality, therefore, is a concept which Israel is trying to destroy, despite the fact that neutrality itself is loaded with implications, many of which lead back to Israel’s colonial existence, violence and genocide, as well as the legitimate Palestinian right of return.
The UN normalised Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948, to the point that it also eliminated all political accountability for Israel in its version of the Palestinian right of return, calling the coloniser entity the Palestinian people’s neighbours. UNRWA is forced to operate on similar terms, dependent for survival on donors from among Israel’s accomplices while also being coerced into taking no firm stance in its humanitarian endeavours. The latter is such that, in several statements in the past issued by the agency, Israel was completely eliminated from the narrative of violence which it has forced upon Palestinians since 1948.
The bottom line, and the most important at the moment, is Netanyahu’s focus which is already intent on the elimination of the Palestinian people. If UNRWA stops its operations, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon also risk mass starvation, not only those in Gaza. Israel is implementing its genocide on several fronts, leaving no stone unturned. The international community is playing along with this macabre game of oblivion. It is the agency that is allegedly at fault, not the Palestinians. Hence, they are just more collateral damage as far as the international community is concerned if UNRWA stops functioning.
However, it needs to be said that the whole world has allowed Israel to dominate each and every narrative when it comes to Palestinians. The latest manifestation of this is the show of opposition to UNRWA’s existence. It points to an obvious fact that the international community needs to accept and assert for the narrative to change: UNRWA’s very existence is a direct consequence of Israeli settler-colonialism.
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