This week Japan will be extending its support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA)—an act which goes against the foreign policy of the Trump administration.
At the beginning of the year, the Trump administration stated that it would be holding back US$65 million of its planned US$125 million donation. This was followed earlier this month by a decision to freeze its financial assistance completely. Jared Kushner, son-in-law and advisor to US President Donald Trump, contends that UNRWA’s assistance increases dependency among Palestinians, and that it preserves an expectation that one day they may return to their homes. According to an article in Foreign Policy, Kushner wrote in an email that there must be a “sincere effort to disrupt UNRWA” as it “perpetuates a status quo, is corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace.”
As a result of its loss of US funding, UNRWA announced last month that it will have to cut more than 250 jobs in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
UNRWA is currently suffering from a US$270 million budget deficit, meaning that the agency might need to suspend some operations, potentially destabilizing the region to a certain degree as Palestinians would not be able to receive the help that they need. Some of UNRWA’s projects include the provision of educational facilities for children, health centers for the sick, as well as microfinance initiatives to help provide opportunities of sustainable income for Palestinian refugees.
The Japanese government is taking a much different line from the Trump administration. It will be releasing US$5.4 million as emergency aid for UNRWA, apparently not accepting Kushner’s contention that the organization “doesn’t help peace.”
Japan has always been a valued donor. Since 1973, it has advised and assisted UNRWA commissioner-generals in carrying out the agency’s mandate. In 2017, Japan contributed just over US$43 million in aid.
Aside from Japan, the United Nations has also called upon others in the international community to provide continuous support for the work conducted by the UNRWA.
The political and social situation in Palestine has been deteriorating since 1948, and President Donald Trump’s recent decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem has intensified the crisis further.
During the Palestinian Great March of Return between March-May 2018, 111 demonstrators in total were killed, including Razan al-Najjar, a nurse who had been providing treatment to the wounded. It was reported by the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza that there were also 12,733 injured, including children, women, medics, and journalists.