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Israel advances bill to designate UNRWA as a ‘terrorist organisation’

May 30, 2024 at 1:26 pm

A Palestinian woman walks past a damaged wall bearing the UNRWA logo at a camp for internally displaced people in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 28, 2024 [EYAD BABA/AFP via Getty Images]

The Israeli parliament today passed a preliminary motion to approve a bill designating the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) as a “terrorist organisation”.

Introduced by Yulia Malinovsky MK from the Israel Our Home party, the bill received support from 42 Knesset members with six opposing. It mandates that the “Anti-Terrorism Law” be applied to UNRWA, and ceasing all communications and relations between Israel and the agency. The bill also calls for the closure of UNRWA offices in Israel and applies the provisions of the Penal Code related to “terrorist organisations” to the UN agency.

If passed in its final reading, the “Bill to Abolish the Immunity and Privileges of UNRWA” would cancel the privileges currently provided to employees of the agency. Diplomatic immunities extended to UNRWA staff would be revoked by Israel’s foreign affairs minister.

Meanwhile, the Israel Land Authority (ILA) yesterday informed UNRWA that it must vacate its East Jerusalem premises in Ma’alot Dafna within 30 days, following Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf’s order to evict the UN agency for Palestinian refugees from all state land. East Jerusalem was annexed illegally by the occupation state and is legally and technically still occupied territory.

In a letter to UNRWA, the ILA claims that the agency owes NIS 27,125,280 ($7.3million) for operating on Israeli land without consent for the past seven years. The ILA letter also instructs UNRWA to, “Immediately stop any illegal [sic] use, destroy everything you have built in violation of the law [sic], vacate the land of any people or items and return it to the Authority within 30 days from the date of this letter.”

According to the Times of Israel, when Goldknopf first announced the planned eviction, he accused UNRWA of “acting in the service of Hamas and even took part in the brutal massacre on 7 October,” alleging that it acted against Israel while based on Israeli soil.

Israel has repeatedly equated UNRWA staff with Hamas members in efforts to discredit them and the agency itself, providing no proof of its allegations. The apartheid state has also 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 that 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.

READ: Borrell: EU rejects attempts to label UNRWA a ‘terrorist organisation’