Experts Share Views on Trump Cutting Funding to United Nations Relief and Works Agency

In his most recent display of desperation over the failure to advance the so-called ‘ultimate deal’ by giving the Israelis everything they ask for, President Trump is taking it out on Palestinian refugees who rely heavily on humanitarian assistance, particularly in Gaza where the economic and humanitarian situation is dire.

Experts Share Views on Trump Cutting Funding to United Nations Relief and Works Agency

People awaiting humanitarian assistance from UNRWA in the Yarmouk Camp, Damascus, Syria. 2014.

Yousef Munayyer, Political analyst at the Arab Center of Washington, DC, executive director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and former executive director of the Jerusalem Fund and Palestine Center:

“In his most recent display of desperation over the failure to advance the so-called ‘ultimate deal’ by giving the Israelis everything they ask for, President Trump is taking it out on Palestinian refugees who rely heavily on humanitarian assistance, particularly in Gaza where the economic and humanitarian situation is dire.

“By slashing funds to UNRWA, Trump is severing a decades-old relationship and commitment by the United States to Palestinian refugees who continue to lack protection and citizenship while Israel denies them the right of return to the homes they were expelled from during and after Israel’s establishment. This shameful decision should be seen in the broader anti-humanitarian and anti-refugee attitude of this administration, which has found new and unique ways to take the Israeli/Palestinian morass and make it increasingly worse.”

Sara Roy, Senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University and author of The Gaza Strip: The Political Economy of De-development (2016):

“The decision by the Trump administration to dramatically reduce funding to UNRWA is immoral and senseless. UNRWA is a human development organization that allocates the majority of its budget to education followed by health and other social services. At a time when the stability of a moderate education of the kind UNRWA provides is at a premium, a significant reduction in funding imperils the functioning of UNRWA’s nearly 700 schools and the wellbeing of the 500,000 children who attend them.

“Forcing UNRWA to suspend if not terminate its essential services will weaken if not undermine one of the region’s most viable institutions and sources of stability. UNRWA is also a vital source, perhaps the only source of predictability in a regional environment of gross insecurity and growing disarray. In an era when the United States and its allies are investing hundreds of millions of dollars in ‘stabilization’ programs that target youth, women, marginalized groups, education, and livelihoods in this volatile region, it beggars belief that we are defunding a proven and cost-effective partner in this work, UNRWA.”

Noura Erakat, Human rights attorney, Assistant Professor at George Mason University, editorial board member of the Journal of Palestine Studies, and Co-Editor of the e-zine Jadaliyya and the book, Aborted State? The UN Initiative and New Palestinian Junctures (2013):

“The Trump administration’s decision to cut funding to UNRWA unless the PLO returns to the negotiations table with Trump mediating is like a choice between suicide and starvation. The US-brokered bilateral talks conducted over the past 25 years have provided diplomatic cover to Israel to continue its expansion of illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank.

“Cutting funding to UNRWA aid in order to compel Palestinian participation in a sham negotiations process is doubly insulting - first, for conditioning humanitarian aid for survival on self-defeating political negotiations, and second because the ‘peace process’ framework has abandoned the fate of Palestinian refugees altogether.

"Israel has made clear that it will not recognize the legal right of return for Palestinian refugees who it has expelled from their homeland. In cutting funding to UNRWA, Trump is making clear that Palestine refugees are both the most vulnerable population and most threatened population by Trump’s policies, as well as the one with the least to gain by continued Palestinian involvement in US-sponsored bilateral talks.”