Mehrene Larudee: Fund UNRWA now

 An injured Palestinian child sits on the rubble of the destroyed building after the Israeli bombing of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 18, 2024.

An injured Palestinian child sits on the rubble of the destroyed building after the Israeli bombing of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on January 18, 2024. PHOTO BY LOAY AYYOUB FOR THE WASHINGTON POST

Published: 02-15-2024 8:22 PM

Imagine that in a U.S. elementary school, several teachers were accused of committing a felony, though evidence was not yet public and no prosecution had yet occurred. Would anyone demand defunding the whole school and depriving students of their education? Surely not! Yet inexplicably, when Israel recently told countries that donate to UNRWA (the UN agency delivering humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees) that 12 of the agency’s 13,000 staff had participated in attacks on Oct. 7, the U.S. and other major donor countries announced they were cutting donations.

Only Norway, through its Norwegian Refugee Council, continued funding UNRWA. But Norway was right, and the U.S. should reverse course and restore funding. The UN convention on genocide binds every signatory country to the duty to prevent genocide, both in their own country and in all others. So both Israel and the U.S. are obliged to prevent genocide in Gaza, which in this case includes preventing creation of living conditions intended to destroy Palestinians as a group.

UNRWA is busy preventing famine and sickness through its distribution of food, water, medical supplies, and other aid, while also offering basic shelter to homeless Palestinians. By restoring its funding to UNRWA, following the wise leadership of Norway, the U.S. can partially fulfill its duty to prevent genocide in Gaza. And Israel, directed by the ICJ to fulfill its similar duty, can partially do so by accepting a cease-fire and allowing humanitarian aid into everywhere in Gaza it is needed. The U.S. should fund UNRWA now.

Mehrene Larudee

Amherst

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