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Dubious Claims Shouldn’t Impede Humanitarian Relief

Allegations of Hamas ties among some UNRWA staff spark tensions amid Gaza's humanitarian crisis and the settler community's escalating far right rhetoric against Palestinians, written by Simon Pearson.

Gaza’s future through eyes of fanaticism

Israel’s far right government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently made allegations of Hamas ties among some UNRWA staff. This blatant attempt to undermine vital humanitarian aid to oppressed Palestinians comes amid the interim ICJ ruling and revelations that Israeli officials attended a conference advocating Jewish settlement and Palestinian expulsion from Gaza. Israel’s national security minister even proclaimed the only solution is to “control the land” and “encourage emigration.”

Daniella Weiss, one of the most extreme voices of the settler colonialists speaking at the conference, stated her belief that there would soon be no more Arabs living in Gaza, anticipating they will go to other countries. She expressed her desire to bring this scenario to fruition by halting humanitarian assistance to pressure other nations to take in the population. With over half of Gazans children at risk of starvation, withholding aid leaves huge numbers in a vulnerable state. Such extreme views, once considered on the fringes of Israeli society, are becoming part of the mainstream, especially since October 7.  A vulnerable and weak Netanyahu has had to increasingly rely on the support of the far right to prop up his corrupt regime.

With over half of Gazans children at risk of starvation, withholding aid leaves huge numbers in a vulnerable state.”

The dubious accusations against UNRWA stem from partisan sources with ties to Israel’s military. This mirrors internal divisions within Israel on war strategy and goals. The Prime Minister has promoted vague aims of obliterating Hamas, while security experts argue that is unrealistic. The lack of clarity on Gaza’s future under bombardment reflects tensions between political interests and coherent planning.

Israel’s defiance of the recent ICJ ruling ordering measures to prevent potential genocide in Gaza now threaten a wider Middle Eastern conflict, with low-intensity warfare breaking out in Iran, Lebanon, Pakistan, Syria, and Yemen. While human rights advocates and many supporters of Palestine on social media saw the ruling as progress, Israel dismissed the case as outrageous, further attacking its legitimacy. With Israeli officials, in what is now a regular occurrence, accusing the ICJ of antisemitic bias. Resolving tensions requires confronting how domestic politics override humanitarian concerns on all sides.

With Israeli officials, in what is now a regular occurrence, accusing the ICJ of antisemitic bias.”

There is a split on the world stage – the Global South calls for ceasefire and aid, but diminishing US influence scrambles to assert control

Yet the unconditional US support for Israel’s assault, now in its 100th day, only serves to further entrench divisions. Token international legal efforts seem to have failed to enforce basic rights and protections for Gazans in the face of the one-sided enablement of systemic injustice. With extremists in power, Israel feels emboldened to defy legal rulings, ensuring the humanitarian crisis and mounting civilian deaths continue unabated.

The world has split in two over these developments; the Global South, led by the South African case at the ICJ, is leading calls for a ceasefire and increased humanitarian aid, while the United States scrambles to assert its diminishing hegemonic control over the region. This diminishing American influence is evident in the feeble attempts by the US and UK to control the Houthi in Yemen. When questioned by journalists regarding the efficacy of military action against Yemen’s rebels, President Biden was surprisingly candid. He admitted openly that the strikes had failed to halt assaults by the Houthis on vessels transiting through the Red Sea. His blunt reply— “Well are the operations stopping the Houthis? No they are not.” — speaks openly to American frustration with the tenacious insurgency complicating strategic maritime routes. Despite repeated shows of force, the Houthi faction remains very much undeterred in pursuing its solidarity action with the Palestinians.

The world has split in two over these developments; the Global South, led by the South African case at the ICJ, is leading calls for a ceasefire and increased humanitarian aid, while the United States scrambles to assert its diminishing hegemonic control over the region.”

Solidarity with Palestine rings hollow amidst Houthi abuses

Facing the horrors unfolding in Gaza and the ongoing complicity of Israel’s Western backers, many understandably grasp for slivers of hope wherever possible. This desperation breeds a willingness to embrace any actor who professes support for the Palestinian cause. Nonetheless, the Houthi movement’s rhetoric around shared struggle falls apart on examination. The Houthi impose severe restrictions on religious freedom and civil liberties that have compelled members of minority faiths to flee Houthi-controlled territory. The Houthis attempt to portray their inflammatory anti-US and anti-Israel slogans as anti-imperialist in nature, denouncing interventionism and rights abuses enabled by the West.

However, this supposed solidarity unravels considering the Houthis’ own restrictions on Yemenis’ freedoms. For all their rhetoric against imperial overlords, the Houthis themselves govern through sectarian dominance, suppressing the rights of those who do not adhere to their narrow religious ideology. Their severe discrimination against Yemenis on the sole basis of belief exposes gaping holes in the Houthis’ credentials as anti-imperial champions.

While the U.S. and Israel deserve global condemnation, revolutionary integrity requires upholding pluralism and civil liberties within one’s own sphere of influence as well. On this, the Houthis fail dramatically.

While the U.S. and Israel deserve global condemnation, revolutionary integrity requires upholding pluralism and civil liberties within one’s own sphere of influence as well. On this, the Houthis fail dramatically”.

Beyond restricting religious practice, Houthi authorities also severely curtail basic rights for women through male guardian rules, forced closures, and gender segregation, revealing them as profoundly patriarchal. It is difficult to take the Houthis’ offers of solidarity with oppressed Palestinians at face value when they deny basic rights and freedoms to so many of their own people, especially women. Their enforcement of strict patriarchal limitations on women’s movement, education, and employment restricts nearly half the population under their rule, undermining any claim to share progressive values with feminists or Palestinian liberation advocates.

The principle of intersectional solidarity asks us to condemn abuse, no matter its source.

Finally, and something that should not be forgotten, the Houthis are also strategically allied with the repressive Iranian regime, securing military aid from Tehran over years of civil war. While the Houthis do not take direct orders from Iran; they independently impose their own version of oppressive religious rule as they govern areas of northern Yemen. Those seeking to lionise the Houthis as heroes must consider both their continuing ties to Iran’s repressive clerical regime and their denial of basic rights within their self-styled theocracy.

Those seeking to lionise the Houthis as heroes must consider both their continuing ties to Iran’s repressive clerical regime and their denial of basic rights within their self-styled theocracy”.

UN response

Top UN officials have issued urgent appeals to Member States to continue supporting UNRWA‘s vital work in Gaza. Addressing the Security Council, Secretary-General António Guterres strongly condemned recent violence but said, “UNRWA is the backbone of all humanitarian responses in Gaza.”

He pleaded with all countries to maintain the agency’s “lifesaving work,” providing essential services to Palestinian refugees. Senior UN relief officials have echoed the Secretary-General’s call for countries to maintain UNRWA’s “lifesaving work” by providing essential services to Palestinian refugees. Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths bluntly told the Council that “decisions to withhold funds from UNRWA must be revoked,” warning that cuts to the agency’s budget would cripple humanitarian aid efforts in Gaza.

Their remarks amount to a forceful defence of UNRWA’s indispensable role in addressing Gaza’s dire humanitarian crisis.

The Secretary-General noted that 2 million civilians, over half of them children, rely on UNRWA aid. Given the acute crisis, including the destruction of infrastructure by ongoing Israeli bombardment, international aid groups warned of “starvation, looming famine, and an outbreak of disease” if funding cuts persist.

As one of the 21-member coalition declared, “We are shocked by the reckless decision to cut a lifeline for an entire population.”

Consequences for Israel and peace efforts

UN officials strongly warn that defunding UNRWA could help tip Gaza (already brutalised by over 100 days of bombardment, and almost 2 million displaced) towards famine and instability, which would severely threaten Israeli security as well as regional peace efforts. UNRWA remains the main bulwark against a total collapse into a humanitarian disaster for desperate Gazan civilians.

All information from 21- 22 January 2024, is valid as of 22 January 2024 at 22:30.   Days 107-108 of Hostilities
All information from 21- 22 January 2024, is valid as of 22 January 2024 at 22:30. Days 107-108 of Hostilities

Eliminating the agency risks heightened radicalisation that can only serve the interests of extremists, not Israel. As the UN relief chief stressed, UNRWA operates in “one of the most politically complex, insecure, and unpredictable environments imaginable,” delivering aid under exceptional pressure. It deserves global backing for adhering to purely humanitarian objectives in such circumstances.

Eliminating the agency risks heightened radicalisation that can only serve the interests of extremists, not Israel.”

While alleged militant links deserve accountability, the unproven claims against a tiny fraction of UNRWA’s staff fail to justify withdrawing support for its overwhelmingly positive humanitarian mission.

The risks are too grave to accept disputed Israeli allegations without considering the context, credibility concerns, and immense downsides of undercutting aid. Calls to tighten staff vetting must account for how deeply entwined Hamas is now with daily civilian life in Gaza after years of controlling the territory. With Hamas influence so far-reaching, from hospitals to schools, it is next to impossible for aid groups like UNRWA to operate in Gaza without some incidental interactions with alleged militants.

Allegations of Hamas ties provide ideological cover for Israel to further weaponise the denial of basic needs against a captive population

The Israeli blockade of many years has deliberately transformed Gaza into an incarcerated open-air prison camp, not just to subordinate Palestinians politically but also to impose systematic deprivation. By obstructing humanitarian relief, through entities like UNRWA, Israel tightens the economic stranglehold and compounds Gazans’ misery and dependency within their walled-off cage.

Allegations of Hamas ties serve as an ideological pretence for Israel to further weaponise the denial of basic dignities against a captive population with no escape. The goal is to reinforce Gaza’s incarceration and dominance. True liberation requires exposing Gaza’s calculated reduction to a besieged outdoor prison controlled by Israel and masked by hollow counterterror justifications. Palestinians deserve global solidarity against an inhumane blockade imposing intolerable suffering on “inmates,” who have no say and no way out.

As one former UNRWA spokesman noted, cutting off health and food access amid an active crisis is “like slashing NHS funding because of [a single nurse’s] crimes.” With aid groups urging world leaders to reverse course, vulnerable civilian lives hang in the balance.

Israel and its allies have a moral and legal duty not to collectively punish millions of Palestinians over allegations against 12 people. They must refrain from obstructing the delivery of humanitarian assistance needed to preserve innocent lives.

The need for a ceasefire, settlement removals, aid access and civilian hostage releases

To end the mounting civilian suffering, de-escalate tensions, and set the groundwork for lasting stability, Israeli authorities must abide by international legal directives. This requires an extended ceasefire enabling unobstructed flows of humanitarian relief, the start of illegal settlement removals in occupied territory, and negotiations securing the release of civilian hostages held by Hamas. Regional powers and allies must also pressure Israel to lift restrictions on access and movement for aid organisations.

Additionally, UN member states have an urgent responsibility to substantially increase contributions supporting vital efforts by agencies like UNRWA in addressing acute civilian needs. Political leaders must push for accountability regarding any verified incidents of militants compromising humanitarian neutrality. However, aid groups underscore that it is imperative to delink unproven accusations from the provision of food, water, shelter, and healthcare to desperate populations during active crises.

As the UN Secretary General asserted, UNRWA remains the backbone for responding to the humanitarian emergency in Gaza. World leaders must heed his call to maintain the agency’s critical lifesaving capacity while working to lift the oppressive conditions driving misery and radicalisation. All parties capable of enabling change must recognise that obstructing relief contradicts moral duties to protect innocent life. Upholding universal rights in the region depends first on ending Gaza’s calculated dehumanisation.

As the UN Secretary General asserted, UNRWA remains the backbone for responding to the humanitarian emergency in Gaza. World leaders must heed his call to maintain the agency’s critical lifesaving capacity while working to lift the oppressive conditions driving misery and radicalisation.”

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