US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson supports developing a sustainable funding mechanism for UNRWA, but it is unclear whether he can convince anyone else in the Trump administration of such an approach.
A Palestinian employee of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency holds a sign during a protest against a US decision to cut aid to the organization, Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Jan. 29, 2018.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson supports a sustainably funded United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which departs from the position of the Donald Trump administration. He made the assertion during a Feb. 14 press conference in Amman with Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi.
On the topic of US funding for UNRWA, Tillerson remarked, “[The United States] did release $60 million in order to ensure that teachers’, hospital workers’ salaries would continue to be paid uninterrupted.”
Tillerson made no mention of the publicly stated reason why the United States withheld another $65 million on Jan. 16 that had been committed to the UN agency to help cover its $800 million annual budget. Both Trump and his UN ambassador, Nikki Haley, have conditioned aid to UNRWA on the Palestinian’s “return to negotiations.”
Tillerson correctly noted in Amman that UNRWA is a UN agency, not a Palestinian organization. As such, he stated, “The UNRWA funding is an international commitment. Many countries are donors to UNRWA. And part of, I think, what we would like to see — and I know the foreign minister and I have had many discussions about this as well — is we need to put UNRWA on a more sustainable footing.”
The idea that a senior US official is talking about a sustainable funding model for the agency is diametrically opposed to Trump’s earlier moves to politicize UNRWA. Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, welcomed Tillerson’s comments. “We have been opposed to politicizing UNRWA, and I am happy that Mr. Tillerson is dialing back the attempt to insert politics into this important humanitarian agency,” Mansour said, speaking to Al-Monitor by phone from New York.
While Mansour welcomed the change in tone by the top US diplomat, he questioned the willingness of the United States to pursue the sustainable funding issue to its natural conclusion. “If we want to make UNRWA sustainable, we need to increase the UN’s contribution to its annual budget, bring in major economic entities like the World Bank and ensure that international support to UNRWA is multi-year and not made in short-term contributions.”
Mansour said that the United States’ expectation that Arab countries could contribute more to UNRWA is unrealistic. “Arab countries have pledged to cover 7.8% of UNRWA’s annual budget, and they have lived up to this commitment. It is difficult to ask them to pay more while they have so many other challenges in the region.” The percentage, established decades ago, was reconfirmed by the Arab League in 2009.
The United Nations pays the salaries of 120 senior personnel at UNRWA, which employs some 30,000 persons. Mansour said that in 1973, the United Nations had agreed to pay senior UNRWA staff directly from UN headquarters in New York. “We need to expand on that by having a much bigger part of UNRWA’s needs come from the UN annual budget,” said Mansour.
Mansour is skeptical that this will happen. He said that attempts to suggest doing so to Haley were summarily rebuffed. “She told me to remove Article 7 from the agenda of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and the US will ensure sustainable funding from the UN. Article 7 makes discussion of the human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territories a permanent agenda item at the Geneva-based council. According to the UN Human Rights Commission, the permanent agenda article reads ‘Human Rights Situation in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories.’”
Mansour said he was promised plenty of money to keep UNRWA working for years if that agenda item were removed. “I told her that I represent Palestine in the UN in New York and that she should take this up with the Human Rights Council representatives in Geneva.”
The idea of sustainable financial support was well-received by UNRWA headquarters. Christopher Gunness, the UNRWA spokesman in Jerusalem, told Al-Monitor that the UN agency welcomes efforts to place UNRWA on sustainable financial footing, saying that it is in line with the 2017 report of the UN secretary-general, which was endorsed by the UN General Assembly. The report deals with the organizational sustainability of the UN and its subsidiaries.
“We welcome efforts to place UNRWA on a financial footing which allows sustainable, sufficient and predictable funding,” Gunness said. “[UNRWA’s] current unprecedented financial crisis shows more than ever before the urgent need for the international community to achieve this aim in reality and on the ground, which it has endorsed at the diplomatic level.”
Mansour said he doubts Tillerson’s welcomed position will win the day in Washington. “[Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu wants UNRWA gradually shut down and replaced by a smaller UN agency, while most Republicans in the US are ideologically in favor of major reductions in financial aid, including US money going to the UN,” Mansour noted.
UNRWA is an important humanitarian agency whose sustainability should not be politicized. Support for the welfare of Palestinian children forced to live as refugees because of successive wars in the Middle East should not be a political football to be kicked around. The idea of a sustainable funding mechanism is a necessary one, and there is a clear international consensus on it. The time is now to turn this global will to help Palestinian refugees into a stable funding mechanism.
Mar 13, 2018 0
Protesters rally against Turkey’s attacks on Kurds and others in Afrin, at the White House on January 26, 2018. (Shutterstock)
Armed Syrian militias allied with Turkey have reportedly been demanding that Kurdish Christians in Afrin province convert to Islam or face execution. In a video circulated by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a militia fighter described the Kurds as “infidels” and offered them a choice between converting to Islam or facing decapitation.
“By Allah, if you repent and come back to Allah, then know that you are our brothers,” said the man. “But if you refuse, then we see.”
Raymond Ibrahim is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
Iraqi Archbishop Bashar Warda made the following observation during a recent speech: “Having faced for 1,400 years the slow-motion genocide that began long before the ongoing ISIS genocide today, the time for excusing this inhuman behavior and its causes is long since passed.”
That Muslims have cleansed non-Muslim peoples by the sword since the seventh century to the present is of course factually well-documented. But what of the more subtle “slow-motion genocide”? How does that work? The answer is connected to another question: Why did so many non-Muslims become Muslim in the first place?
Many modern day Muslims and Western apologists claim that the ancestors of today’s 1.5 billion Muslims converted to Islam due to its intrinsic appeal; that the modern day coercion and persecution committed by the Islamic State and others is an aberration.
Conversely, many Muslim and non-Muslim historical records make clear that most people embraced Islam, not out of sincere faith, but for a myriad of reasons—from converting in order to enjoy the boons of being on the “winning team” to converting in order to evade the dooms of being on the “losing team.”
A high-ranking defense official revealed to the Senate on Tuesday that Iran has fully incorporated a Russian long-range anti-aircraft missile system into its military, seriously upgrading its ability to threaten the US and Israeli military interests in the region. But the general’s report failed to take into account divine intervention which has plagued the system in the past.
Lieutenant General Robert P. Ashley, Jr., Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday about Iran’s “generational improvement in capabilities,” according to Bloomberg News.
Despite evidence of a serious deterioration in relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel, one researcher contends that Israeli Arabs continue to show a strong link to a Jewish and democratic Israel.
Israeli Arabs protest the initial approval of a bill to enforce lowering the volume on loudspeakers broadcasting the Muslim call to prayer, Kabul, Israel, March 11, 2017.
In Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s school of morality and politics, accepting a bribe is no reason to unseat an elected premier, nor is a hostile takeover of the country’s media. He insists that a prime minister should not be replaced because of criminal indictments or guilty verdicts. According to Netanyahu, a prime minister can only be “replaced at the ballot box,” although what he means is that a prime minister can only be “replaced by Jews at the ballot box.”
March 17 marks two years since his horrible election-day video warning — “Arab voters are coming out in droves to the polls” — and calling on Jews to turn out en masse. It’s hard to know how many votes he picked up for the Likud with this alarmist message, but the damage he caused to relations between Jews and Arabs is discernible.
The Palestinian security forces in Gaza are just as tough as the Israelis on the youths who try to cross the border looking for work.
Two Palestinian teenagers look at the rubble of destroyed buildings, Gaza City, Gaza, June 10, 2015.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — More Gazans are seeking to flee to Israel in search of jobs in light of the high unemployment rate and the worsening economic conditions in the coastal enclave. On Feb. 16, Palestinian security forces stopped three young Gazans from crossing into Israel through the southern Gaza Strip. Four young men were also arrested Feb. 13 and interrogated by the Ministry of the Interior.
Despite a warning from the security apparatus in Gaza back in August that any Palestinian who attempts to cross over into Israel would be arrested and imprisoned, they keep trying.
Israeli concerns are also growing about the attempts by Gazans to sneak into its territory. The Israel Defense Forces arrested four young men attempting to cross into Israel Feb. 1 and another Feb. 2.
A visit to Morocco shows that the claim
of Palestinians to a “right of return” has little historic, moral or legal basis.
Jews lived in Morocco for centuries before Islam came to Casablanca, Fez, and Marrakesh. The Jews, along with the Berbers, were the backbone of the economy and culture. Now their historic presence can be seen primarily in the hundreds of Jewish cemeteries and abandoned synagogues that are omnipresent in cities and towns throughout the Maghreb.
The Arab press has evinced an inordinate interest in the future of Binyamin Netanyahu over the past few weeks, due to the various ongoing investigations against him and against several people who held key positions in his entourage. Arab interest is motivated by hopes for the prime minister’s downfall and a resulting disintegration of Israel’s Rightist camp, leading to the Left’s assuming the leadership of the Jewish State. The Left, after all, has proven time and time again that it is willing to pay a higher price than Netanyahu for a piece of paper on which the word “peace” appears.
AIPAC’s mission to cultivate and maintain bipartisan support for Israel in the United States is an important mission. Unfortunately, the messages AIPAC’s leaders delivered during the organization’s annual policy convention this week in Washington indicate that they are at a loss for how to achieve their mission in the contentious political environment now prevalent in the post- Obama America.
You’ve undoubtedly heard that Jerusalem represents the third holiest city in Islam.
That is provably untrue.
Or, perhaps you’ve read in Wikipedia or heard on CNN that the Al-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest place of worship in Islam.
That, too, is a provable lie.
Or, maybe you heard about the vote by UNESCO in 2016 that denied any Israeli connection to the Temple Mount, referring it only by the Islamic name, “Haram al-Sharif.”
After weeks of outrage at the close ties between top Democrats and Louis Farrakhan, the leader of an anti-Semitic hate group, the media finally condemned anti-Semitism by a top political official.
President Trump and OMB Director Mick Mulvaney had referred to outgoing NEC Director Gary Cohn as a “globalist.” And “globalist,” according to Think Progress, the Huffington Post, Salon, and Vox, is an “anti-Semitic slur.” Those are the same media outlets that had no problem using “globalist” as a slur when targeting Trump. HuffPo had published a piece tarring him as “Trump: The Globalist Plutocrat” and Vox had described Trump going to Davos, “the world’s biggest party for globalist elites.”