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An honourable way out of complicity in genocide does not exist

March 7, 2024 at 3:50 pm

People gather to stage protest against ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza and demand ceasefire for Gaza on March 02, 2024 in Berlin, Germany. [Halil Sağırkaya – Anadolu Agency]

Canada is considering the resumption of funding the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), amid the macabre spectacle of humanitarian aid drops and limited delivery, which worked more as traps for Palestinians than a temporary alleviation of hunger. According to Norwegian Foreign Minister, Espen Barthe Eide, more countries might reconsider their decision, if it can be managed in a way that enables governments to save face.

“But then, of course, they need an honourable way out, which means they are hoping, I think – without speaking for individual countries – that they will get something from these investigations that suggest that they can say: “Well, we needed to suspend, but now we’re back’,” Barthe Eide explained.

An honourable way out of complicity in genocide does not exist. Certainly, governments may be able to rely on the fact that Israel has, so far, failed to provide credible evidence to justify its allegations that UNRWA staff members were involved in the 7 October incursion into Israel. But genocide is a war crime, and starvation as a weapon of genocide is not only dishonourable, but intentional.

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There was no pondering about the best way to stop funding UNRWA, despite the repercussions of such decisions on the Palestinian people in Gaza. A mere announcement that played into Israel’s genocidal narrative was reason enough, it seemed, for donor countries to not only renege on their pledges, but also to become complicit in genocide. To reverse the decision, however, governments are seeking recognition of their supposed benevolence, after knowingly contributing to starving Palestinians – some of them to death.

As the world awaits the ICJ's verdict, Israel's genocide continues - [Cartoon / Mohammad Sabaaneh]

As the world awaits the ICJ’s verdict, Israel’s genocide continues – [Cartoon / Mohammad Sabaaneh]

Now that the UN has shifted its focus on Gaza’s famine, the humanitarian paradigm comes into play again. Israel massacred Palestinians seeking aid, and seeks to close down UNRWA permanently.

This means that there is not much the international community can claim to have accomplished, if it does not contribute to the colonial mess it created decades ago when it recognised Israel and set up UNRWA as a substitute for the Palestinian people’s stolen land.

Indeed, the only contribution to Palestinians has been funding UNRWA, and much of that focus has been on the Agency itself rather than the Palestinian people. One could also argue that the international community is keen on funding the humanitarian program it created for the sake of keeping it going. Certainly the priority is not the Palestinian people; otherwise, no government would have embarked as accomplices upon Israel’s genocidal starvation policy, not even temporarily, because genocide is always a war crime.

So, if, or when, the decision is reversed, let there be no oblivion of the fact that governments will not be funding UNRWA out of any compassion for Palestinians, or in the name of human rights, or even standing in opposition to Israel, which it could have done by forcing the genocide to a halt. It simply does not serve the international community, for now, to lose the façade it built as a result of UNRWA’s existence, which has become as permanent as the Palestinian people’s forced refugee status.

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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.