As with the decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, US President Donald Trump surely had his electoral base in mind when deciding to slash funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which looks after Palestinian refugees.
Trump’s decision, however, can not be divorced from a long-standing Israeli animus towards the agency, whose current difficulties have been broadly welcomed by Israeli politicians – including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Israeli officials and pro-Israel groups make two main arguments in their attacks on UNRWA: Palestinian refugees are “fake” and the UN agency “perpetuates” the conflict. Read more
Last month, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the dismantling of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). The call was unprecedented in terms of Israeli policy to date, and also marked an escalation in anti-UN rhetoric and steps by Israeli government officials.
Netanyahu, speaking at a weekly cabinet meeting, revealed that he had discussed the need to dismantle UNRWA with US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley: “I told her it was time the United Nations re-examine UNRWA’s existence”, he said. Read more
On January 3, two Palestinians were removed from an Aegean Airlines flight from Athens to Tel Aviv, after Jewish Israelis claimed that they constituted a “security risk”. The incident made headlines worldwide. A month later, a Tel Aviv-based cleaning company sparked outrage with a flyer that priced its staff based on ethnicity. The story was also covered around the world.
For some, these kinds of episodes are proof of the racism that critics claim permeates Israeli society; for others, they are examples of isolated bigotry and idiocy. In fact, neither interpretation is quite right. While stories resonate and go viral, they can mask the fact that in Israel racism is the law. Read more