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Coalition Government's Decision To Focus On Humanitarian Needs Welcomed

Palestinian Youth Aotearoa (PYA) welcomes the news that the Coalition Government will not suspend funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). This decision comes amidst allegations against UNRWA staff and subsequent funding suspensions by several countries.

Speaking on behalf of PYA, Fathi Hassneiah, stated: “We commend the human centred decision to maintain support to UNRWA while the UN investigates the claims against its employees. The decision to wait for a later assessment is a sensible and a balanced one.

Israel has a history of making allegations that end up being refuted including designating NGO’s and humanitarian organisations as terrorist. In June 2022, after eighteen months suspension the EU resumed funding to the civil NGO’s, Al-Haq and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, due to “unfounded terror allegations”.

The allegation timing of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has been questioned by a range of commentators. Israel and partisan organisations, such as UN Watch, have a history of smearing UNRWA and the United Nations.

“Premature decisions, before an investigation is complete, is inconsistent with principles of process in mature democracies. With a track record of unsubstantiated allegations from Israeli sources, scepticism is prudent,” said Fathi.

UNRWA is acknowledged as the sole agency with the capability to provide humanitarian assistance to the more than 1.8M displaced Palestinians. Seven countries have suspended sixty percent ($666.2mil) of the total $1,163.7 pledged by donors to URNWA in 2022.

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As Labour spokesperson David Parker urged, “this is no time to cut aid.” Gaza lacks basic medical supplies, food, water, power and sanitation due to bombardment. The UN warns of impending famine.

UN Secretary General Guterres warned “2 million civilians in Gaza depend on critical aid from UNRWA for daily survival but UNRWA’s current funding will not allow it to meet all requirements to support them in February.” As stated by UN Humanitarian Chief Martin Griffiths: “The people of Gaza have been enduring unthinkable horrors and deprivation for close to four months. Their needs have never been higher – and our humanitarian capacity to assist them has never been under such threat.

“With the ICJ interim ruling it is clear there should be higher expectations and increased scrutiny of all Israel’s actions. With the interim orders, all deaths are unacceptable. Preventable deaths from disease and lacking medical care are deplorable.

We encourage the New Zealand government to pressure not only Israel, but allies like Australia and Canada who are effectively making delivery of critical aid harder. The 26 January ICJ ruling included the order that “Israel must take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip”.

Australia, the US and the other five nations will be increasingly isolated and out of step with global opinion. The global South and we hope New Zealander’s can see the embarrassment of withholding humanitarian support to 1.8 million refugees and over 63,000 injuries because of twelve or 0.04% of the 30,000 UNRWA employees. This equates to freezing all Ministry of Social Development services because of the actions of four employees.

“The swift response by Australia, and the other partners to the UNRWA allegations, contrasts with the constrained response to the plausible genocide, making a mockery of international law.

“Being perceived nations on the fringe by excusing human rights violations and increasing their impact is not something to be proud of or defiant about.

PYA values the New Zealand Government's balanced approach in addressing the allegations against UNRWA staff, while acknowledging the dire needs of the Palestinian people in Gaza.

“This feels like the Aotearoa we have come to love and expect a champion of democratic values and human rights and law in the global community. We encourage the Coalition Government to reconsider the decision to send Kiwi’s to bomb another war-torn nation,” said, Fathi Hassneiah.

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