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Food Is Not A Weapon: Jewish Groups Call On MFAT To Re-commit To Lifesaving Aid

“Alternative Jewish Voices and Dayenu call on Foreign Minister Peters to increase – or at a bare minimum to maintain – NZ’s funding to UNRWA for humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. In the midst of a humanitarian catastrophe, we cannot abandon people who are being starved,” says Marilyn Garson, co-founder of Alternative Jewish Voices (AJV) and former UNRWA contractor.

“UNRWA provides vital aid to the besieged population of Gaza. No other agency can replicate their logistics and infrastructure. Their ongoing operations are critical to mitigating the effects of the humanitarian emergency in Gaza. UNRWA employs over 13,000 people in Gaza. Israel has accused fewer than 0.1% of those staff of complicity in Hamas’s 7 October attacks. These staff members have been fired and their actions are being investigated by the UN’s highest investigative body. Suspending UNRWA funding because of a few allegedly bad apples is collective punishment of Gazans. Imagine how enraged Palestinians must feel, hearing that donor states are withholding food while they are starving in flimsy tents through Gaza’s bitter winter storms.” says Garson.

“On Friday, the International Court of Justice found that Israel must take action to prevent the genocide of the Gazan people. The Court also determined that Israel must ensure the delivery of basic services and essential humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza. Suspending funding to UNRWA could make states complicit in genocide. New Zealand claims to have a principled foreign policy. On principle, we need to act against genocide and help save lives.” says Garson.

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AJV co-founder Marilyn Garson was employed by UNRWA-Gaza from 2013 to 2015. She adds: “UNRWA is a diplomatic and humanitarian proof that Palestinians are one people. There have long been a few Zionist voices arguing that Palestinians’ national consciousness protracts their resistance. They say that, if Palestinians would just forget their nationhood, they could be dispersed quietly. In that sense, they say that UNRWA extends the problem. I would say that Israel’s refusal to acknowledge Palestinian rights extends UNRWA, not the other way around. Ask any Palestinian: their national consciousness is not going away.”

Background information supporting this media release

Alternative Jewish Voices is a collective of non-Zionist Jews. Dayenu is a group of New Zealand Jews opposed to racism and the illegal occupation of Palestinian land. More information can be found at https://ajv.org.nz/ and https://www.instagram.com/dayenunz/

The United Nations Refugee and Words Agency (UNRWA) is mandated to serve Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan until there is a just solution to their dispossession. By funding UNRWA, donor states refuse to normalise that dispossession.

In blockaded Gaza, UNRWA provides health, education, housing and services to 1.7 million refugees, 70% of the population. It is also a critical provider of employment, liquidity, population records and essential humanitarian aid. It is especially vital in emergencies. No other agency has a fraction of UNRWA’s skilled staff, logistics or infrastructure for shelter and distribution – whatever fraction of that capacity remains intact.

UNRWA and the UN’s highest investigative body are responding to unspecified allegations that a small number of staff somehow supported Hamas’s actions on October 7. Without waiting for their report, the US, Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy ceased delivery of their aid commitments.

UNRWA is entirely dependent on voluntary funding. It is not funded through UN contributions. National voluntary contributions were committed some time ago. Budgets and plans have been made on the assumption that those promises would be kept.

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