From the moment I started addressing Israel in the context of the crime of genocide, I became acquainted with the numerical counter-argument. The argument usually goes something around the lines of “Israel really sucks at genocide, the Palestinian population has increased eight- fold.” As time went by, since 2014, we’ve seen the word ‘genocide’ more commonly applied to Israel’s practices against the indigenous Palestinian people, and the numerical counter-argument became more common as well, including numerous chart memes, illustrating the point, which are making the rounds on social media (left).
In the summer of 2012, UNICEF and UNRWA asked if Gaza will be liveable by 2020. At the time- five years into Israel’s siege, and post Israel’s 2008 and 2012 carpet-bombing campaigns- one might have been led to think that if the situation only had eight more stable years to go until apocalypse, then it probably doesn’t look too good already. What one might have missed is that Gaza in 2020, as in 2017, as in 2012, is what genocide looks like.
United Nations, New York, 20 March 2014 – “The iconic image of a huge crowd waiting for UNRWA food parcels in the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, Damascus has gone up on the “Jumbotron” billboard in New York’s Times Square. This sends a powerful message to the world diplomatic community down the road at UN Head Quarters that the world has had enough of Syria’s pitiless conflict. The photo which went viral on the internet within minutes of being released has come to symbolize the revulsion of the world with what is taking place in Syria. The showing in Times Square follows a successful, celebrity backed social media campaign by UNRWA to secure support from 23 million people worldwide, the pre war population of Syria. As the image went up, a crowd below held up pita bread as a symbolic gesture of support for the starving masses in Syria.” (UNRWA Spokesperson, Chris Gunness)
By Randa Farah
With the world media focusing on the crisis in Syria, it has been forgotten that Syria is home to some 400,000 Palestinian refugees. This includes 14,000 Palestinians who inhabit a refugee camp in the bombarded city of Homs, and who rely on UNRWA, the UN Agency tasked with assisting Palestinian refugees, for their daily needs.
Hamas’s recent condemnation of the Assad regime is unlikely to endear it to the Syrian government, but in fact over the years Syria has treated the Palestinians relatively well, if one compares the way Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt have treated their Palestinian refugee communities. Moreover, unlike Israel, Syria has never threatened the UN Agency or plotted its demise, a move that could precipitate a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions.
The most recent Israeli threats against UNRWA include an attack by Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, that blamed the Agency for perpetuating the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In conjunction with a PR firm and the right-wing, US-based StandWithUs organization, Ayalon has created a series of videos on youtube that attempt to promote Israel’s image and spin the history of the conflict. His most recent video is on Palestinian refugees. Ayalon proposes that UNRWA be dismantled and blames it for prolonging the refugee issue and the conflict. Instead, he proposes that Palestinian refugees be placed under the UNHCR’s mandate. In fact, however, the primary reason why UNRWA still exists is due to Israel’s consistent rejection of UN General Assembly resolution 194 (III)calling for the right of refugees to return and compensation.
By Ian Williams (MEI)
In January, Canada stopped contributing to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). It is the latest in a series of decisions that have seen Ottawa ‘out-Israeling’ Washington. It had previously stopped funding KAIROS (Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives), an NGO that had been supporting human rights groups in Israel and the Occupied Territories. In each case, the government of Stephen Harper seemed to be responding to, or rather pandering to, rabidly pro-Israeli Jewish groups in Canada. Israel itself has certainly never encouraged an end to the funding of UNRWA, an institution that for decades has, in effect, been paying some of the bills for the occupation.
Although camouflaged internationally by a similar drift in British and Australian policy, Ottawa has moved far from its own earlier positions, and possibly farther than either London or Canberra. Indeed, the Obama administration’s muted criticisms of Israeli policy sound relatively ferocious compared with Canada’s gestures towards the administration of Binyamin Netanyahu.
Once upon a time, Canada was a paragon of international virtue: supportive of the UN and happily putting distance between itself and its southern neighbour on the Middle East. Then came Stephen Harper. Ottawa did not join the Iraq war, but that was more a function of strong Canadian public opinion and Harper’s parlous electoral position than any considered choice.
Today marks the second anniversary of the criminal siege of Gaza. Here is a statement signed by over 40 NGOs, humanitarian and UN organizations denouncing Israel’s blockade:
We, United Nations and non-governmental humanitarian organisations, express deepening concern over Israel’s continued blockade of the Gaza Strip which has now been in force for two years.
These indiscriminate sanctions are affecting the entire 1.5 million population of Gaza and ordinary women, children and the elderly are the first victims.
The amount of goods allowed into Gaza under the blockade is one quarter of the pre- blockade flow. Eight out of every ten truckloads contains food but even that is restricted to a mere 18 food items. Seedlings and calves are not allowed so Gaza’s farmers cannot make up the nutritional shortfall. Even clothes and shoes, toys and school books are routinely prohibited.
More from Safa Joudeh who describes the targeting of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Headquarters and the evacuation of her home.
We WON’T be victimized: An attack too close to home
La Repubblica, January 17th 2009
I thought I was dreaming, or still hearing explosions. After all I’d only been asleep for an hour and a half, and it wasn’t far fetched that the tanks may be firing from outside our front door. Wednesday night into Thursday morning had seen the most intense bombardment of Gaza city so far, and last I’d heard before drifting off was that the Israeli forces had advanced as far as the end of our streets, into the Tel al Hawa neighborhood. They’d already seized buildings there, so what’s to prevent them from making their way a little further in.
Continue reading “An Attack too Close to Home”