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In early January, a former Israeli Foreign Ministry official said “It will be impossible to win the war if we do not destroy UNRWA. This destruction must begin immediately.”
A few weeks later, UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, had its funding cut after Israel accused 12 of its more than 30,000 employees of involvement in Oct. 7th (its since reduced the number of alleged offenders to six — half the original amount). Their purported evidence came mostly from “interrogations” of Palestinian prisoners — aka, most likely torture. The Biden administration admitted that it hadn’t corroborated Israel’s claims, but nonetheless announced a suspension of US funding for UNRWA. Other countries, including Germany and Canada, have followed suit.
Former UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness joins the show to refute Israel’s claims. “Just as UNRWA is being held up to be accountable,” he says. “I think we have to hold the donors up to accountability and ask: ‘What did Israel give you?’ and ‘Did you independently verify it?’”
Antony Blinken himself told the press: “We have not independently verified this evidence but we think it’s very credible.”
Chris asks: “How would you know it’s credible if you haven’t independently investigated?”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also called for ending the agency in yet another sign that the move was political. “UNRWA’s mission has to end,” he said. “UNRWA is self-perpetuating in its desire to keep alive the Palestinian refugee issue.”
So the state which is lobbying thousands of munitions every day, including 2,000-pound bombs, is accusing an unarmed refugee agency of perpetuating the conflict?
Chris argues that the opposite is true. “UNRWA wants nothing more than to go out of business. And UNRWA goes out of business when the refugees are granted full dignity, human development, prosperity, justice, and accountability in the context of a just and durable solution.
Someone who is working hard to achieve this goal is the founder of HEAL and the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund Steve Sosebee. He shares stories of the many heroes and losses he has encountered in his thirty years working in Palestine.
He also shares a way to help.
“Just to see their entire lives destroyed is very, very saddening and I think all of us have a responsibility to help rebuild and show them love and compassion and give them opportunities to heal. That’s what my goal is for the rest of my life.”
Hear these important voices share their messages in this unpaywalled Useful Idiots double header.
Plus, catch this week’s Thursday Throwdown: Morning Joe wants to play Battleship with Iran
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