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Israel Finds No Support for Dismantling UNRWA at UN Security Council

Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), briefs reporters at UN Headquarters. UN Photo/Mark Garten

April 18, 2024 (EIRNS)—While Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza, it is also trying to end the operations of United Nations Relief and Works Agency of Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the UN agency created on Dec. 8, 1949 to provide for Palestinian refugees who were displaced from their homes at the founding of Israel in 1948. However, Israel has found no support for its effort at the UN Security Council. AP reported last night that not one member of the UNSC, not even the U.S., expressed support for Israel’s claims that UNRWA is Hamas and must therefore be dismantled.

UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini told the Council that dismantling the agency would deepen Gaza’s humanitarian crisis and speed up the onset of famine. Lazzarini said that ending the agency’s operations also would have other “lasting repercussions” on Gaza, leaving a half-million children without education and “fueling anger, resentment, and endless cycles of violence.” In addition, it would jeopardize the transition when the war ends by depriving Gaza’s population of essential services, including health care, food, and other humanitarian aid, he said.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan claimed, without providing evidence, that UNRWA has been thoroughly infiltrated by Hamas, which controlled Gaza before the war. He also accused UNRWA of being part of a Palestinian plot to annihilate Israel and becoming “the world’s biggest advocate for a one-state solution” run by Palestinians.

“Today in Gaza, UNRWA is Hamas and Hamas is UNRWA,” Erdan proclaimed. “Israel cannot and will not allow UNRWA to continue in Gaza as it did in the past,” he said, telling the Council that alternative aid organizations and U.N. agencies can help Palestinians in the territory. “The time has come to defund UNRWA,” he said.

Lazzarini argued that the real aim of Israel’s efforts to end UNRWA’s operations is “about ending the refugee status of millions of Palestinians.” He called allegations that UNRWA is perpetuating their refugee status “false and dishonest.”

“The agency exists because a political solution does not,” Lazzarini said. He accused the international community of containing rather than resolving the more than 75-year-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. When a Palestinian state that can deliver education, health care, and social support is established, he said, UNRWA’s role will be finished.

AP notes that Israel got no support for getting rid of UNRWA at the Security Council meeting. All 15 Council members, including the United States, Israel’s closest ally, voiced support for the agency, along with Arab and European representatives. The delighted Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour told reporters after the meeting: “Wasn’t today’s debate impressive? Everyone except one” backed UNRWA.