Defunding UNRWA is to be complicit in genocide

The West doubles down on sadistic collective punishment of Palestinians

According to a Times of Israel report dated 30th January – Israel has a detailed plan to push the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) out of Gaza. Established in 1948, UNRWA is the primary agency that provides essential humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza and manages “refugee” camps throughout the occupied territories and neighbouring countries.

Infograph via AJE

According to the report, there are three stages to the removal of UNRWA. The first “involves a comprehensive report on alleged (now being walked back) UNRWA cooperation with Hamas, particularly on October 7th. Curious, however, that these claims only surface immediately after the ICJ ruling and not in the almost four months prior.

The next stage would involve a reduction in UNRWA operations in Gaza and a search for an alternative organisation to provide education and welfare services. This follows claims by various individuals including Elon Musk and Venture Capitalist, Kenneth Ballenegger who wrote on X:

After the war, Israel should handle Gaza like China handles Xinjiang. Full surveillance state. Re-education camps. Sterilizations.

I don’t need to point out the hypocrisy of endorsing a re-education (indoctrination) program for Gazans/Palestinians while condemning China and accusing it of cultural genocide in Xinjiang.

This indoctrination policy has been combined with the wholesale destruction by Israel of schools and universities in the Gaza enclave.

In the third stage, according to the report, all of UNRWA’s duties would be transferred to the body governing Gaza following the war.

I talked about the Zionist plans for military rule in Gaza post-war on UK Column News. This would be followed by a collaborationist authority decided upon by Arab nations that have normalised relations with the Zionist entity under the Abraham Accords.

There have been reports on Israeli media that the Biden administration will task the CIA and the U.S. military with the training of a Palestinian “police force” which will, ultimately, govern Gaza. This is dependent upon the destruction of Hamas which has until now proven impossible.

According to an article in The Cradle:

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on 1 February told a visiting delegation of ambassadors to the UN that the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is “Hamas with a facelift.”

“Funds from countries all over the world have been funneled through UNRWA and used to strengthen terror infrastructure and to pay terrorists,” Gallant alleged, adding that the agency “lost its legitimacy to exist in its current form.”

Sweden has also paused funding. They are the fourth largest donor, providing $ 60.9 million per year. Spain has refused to withdraw funding.

Amal Saad is a lecturer in politics at Cardiff University in the UK. Saad went on X with the following statement:

The West’s defunding of UNRWA doesn’t just contribute to genocide, but tacitly justifies it. The readiness with which it cut off Gazans’ lifeline was shaped by Israel’s conflation of UNRWA with Hamas, which in turn erases the distinction between civilians and combatants.

The Israeli intel report which informed the West’s decision to defund, not only alleges that 12 UNRWA staff were involved in Oct 7, but that 23% of all males were tied to Hamas and half of its employees had family links to it. UNRWA staff were hence criminalised and dehumanised.

Given that UNRWA is one of the largest employers in Gaza, it represents a microcosm of Palestinian society. The ease with which funding was cut off is the direct product of this association between the two: Palestinians become disposable objects because UNRWA is Hamas.

Like the “human shields” trope, the discourse about Hamas’ “enmeshment” in UNRWA doesn’t just serve to demonise Hamas, but to reduce all Palestinians to terrorist sympathisers who provide Hamas with a “permissive environment”, in military-speak.

The problem is, that like Hizbullah and similar hybrid actors, Hamas’ armed resistance function alongside its governance functions and social welfare provision, make it deeply embedded in the community of which it’s part; its constituency becomes a “resistance society.”

Irrespective of terrorist listings, punishing a society supportive of Hamas or Hizbullah is no different from punishing a civilian population because of the actions of their state. International law doesn’t define a noncombatant according to his/her views or political affiliation.

Criminalising a society could be used to justify genocide, as Israel is currently doing. It’s for this reason, aid agencies adhere to the core principle of impartiality in armed conflicts, meaning they can’t discriminate on the basis of political conviction, much like UNRWA.

By imposing collective punishment on Palestinians because of Hamas “infiltration” into UNRWA, the West aids and abets Israel in its “war on terror” Dahyeh/Gaza Doctrine. The “resistance society” becomes a “terrorist society” that (in violation of IL) loses its civilian protection.

Under the Geneva Conventions combatants enjoy POW status and noncombatants are protected. But the US created a new political category of “unlawful combatants” who have no protection. This explains why the US justified Israel’s extra-judicial executions in the Jenin hospital.

By criminalising UNRWA and Palestinian society, the West comes dangerously close to creating a perverse new category of “unlawful noncombatants”, who are not just expendable but deserving of genocide. It’s no exaggeration to say that defunding UNRWA is a step in that direction.

The Lemkin Institute

The Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention has also issued a statement in which it argues:

Further, it [defunding UNRWA] represents a shift by several countries from potential complicity in genocide to direct involvement in engineered famine. It is an attack on what remains of personal security, liberty, health, and dignity in Palestine.


We further warn that withdrawing funding for UNRWA functions as a fulcrum by which genocidal acts against Palestinians will spread from Gaza to other critical, endangered zones for Palestinian life. During a period of famine, to implement either permanent cancellation or a pause of funding potentially puts states that have previously committed funds in violation of the Genocide Convention.


The damage of any pause in funding will be irreparable. It is further shocking that the international media has not reacted to these threats with alarm. The Lemkin Institute urges journalists and editors to report robustly on the humanitarian and legal dimensions of withholding humanitarian aid to Palestinians.


Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz tweeted on January 27 to not only applaud Canada for joining the US in defunding UNRWA but to push for the end of UNRWA entirely, so as to not perpetuate “the refugee issue,” by which he means the Palestinian national group’s post-Nakba restitution claims.


We finally urge international legal bodies to prosecute all leaders who have chosen to participate in genocide against Palestinians in Gaza in addition to those who are responsible for complicity in the crime.

As part of the Year of Prevention, the Lemkin Institute will host a series of Friday online symposia highlighting topics with universal relevance to genocide prevention. The date for the Gaza symposium is May 3rd 2024.

I would also add that during my time in Gaza in 2012/13 the huge majority of Gazans told me they did not want to be dependent on “aid” from the West via UNRWA. True justice and liberation means a self-sufficient society that can live with dignity and independence.

We are so far from that ideal because of the Zionist siege, blockade, enforced starvation strategy, genocidal campaign since the 7th October. There has to be external relief provided to the Palestinians to prevent their annihilation and the withholding of that relief by Western regimes doubling down on a sadistic policy must be prosecuted and punished if we are to remain human in a world where Humanity is under attack.

0 thoughts on “Defunding UNRWA is to be complicit in genocide

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *