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
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process is in dire straits but observers differ on whether the framework of negotiations towards a two-state solution is in poor health, comatose or dead.
The arrival of Donald Trump in the White House, along with an Israeli government and opposition that are either explicitly opposed to Palestinian statehood, ambivalent or believe it is not the right time, are all further evidence of an era of uncertainty and danger. But there is also an opportunity for a rethink by the international community about how they relate to Israel and Palestinians. And it is vital that any new approach must end the subordination of Palestinian rights. Read more
In US President Donald Trump’s first week in office, three policy issues dominated the headlines: his plans to build a wall on the Mexican border, the President’s support for torture, and his executive order targeting refugees, residents and visitors from seven Muslim majority countries.
All three have prompted widespread outrage, in particular, the ban on refugees and blanket immigration restrictions being applied on the basis of national origin and religion. Read more
Last week, as Israelis celebrated their Independence Day, Palestinians in the country’s south held the annual March of Return, walking to the site of one of hundreds of Palestinian villages destroyed between 1947 and 1949.
This mass displacement and dispossession, known as the Nakba (catastrophe), is commemorated internationally each May. But in recent years, Israeli authorities have attempted to clamp down on events to mark the Nakba – most notably through a 2011 change to legislation pertaining to budget allocations. Read more
67 years ago, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine unfolded through expulsions, massacres, and demolitions. Hundreds of villages were emptied, then levelled; centres of Palestinian urban life and community disappeared; columns of refugees took flight at the barrel of a gun.
A society was dismembered and fragmented. In the months and years after 1948, the army of the State of Israel, formed from the militias who had occupied and ‘cleansed’ village after village, used bullets and landmines to keep out the refugees trying to return home. Read more
This week marks the 66th anniversary of the ethnic cleansing of Miska, a Palestinian village whose roughly 1,000-strong population was expelled in April 1948 by Haganah forces. Located around 10 miles from Qalqilya, Miska boasted 100-200 houses, an elementary school for boys, and a mosque.
The community was targeted and destroyed by pre-Israel Defense Forces (IDF) militias, as part of a policy of “clearing out [the area’s] Arab inhabitants“. The expulsion of the villagers,according to historian Benny Morris, was carried out “with Haganah/IDF General Staff and/or cabinet-level sanction”. Everything was destroyed except the school and the mosque. Read more
Condoleeza Rice’s recently published memoirs contains an interesting passage about Palestine/Israel. Rice relates a conversation she had with Tzipi Livni in March 2004, with the discussion particularly focused on Livni’s concerns regarding the Palestinian refugees’ right of return.
The Israeli politician’s central opposition to the refugees’ return — that it could “change the nature of the State of Israel, which had been founded as a state for the Jews” — is nothing new. But the former Secretary of State’s response is instructive.
I must admit that though I understood the argument intellectually, it struck me as a harsh defense of the ethnic purity of the Israeli state when Tzipi said it. It was one of those conversations that shocked my sensibilities as an American. After all, the very concept of ‘American’ rejects ethnic or religious definitions of citizenship. Moreover, there were Arab citizens of Israel. Where did they fit in? Read more