Hugh Grant knocks Trump decision to defund Palestinian Refugee Agency

Actor Hugh Grant is never afraid to say what he thinks. In recent times he has taken to backing what some may call divisive topics. He’s been very open about his opposition to Brexit, he’s blasted the Tory Government for there discriminatory policies and now he has thrown his support behind the UN Palestinian Refugee Agency; 

What Hugh Grant is referring to here is US President Donald Trump’s decision to cut all of it’s funding to the The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, UNRWA was established by United Nations General Assembly Resolution 302 (IV) of 8 December 1949 to carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees. It has been helping displaced Palestinians and their descendants since 1950.

Grant had watched and shared a video by Connect the World, a CNN program. The video is of UNRWA spokesman telling the presenter

“you cannot airbrush out 5.4 million Palestinian refugees, you cannot airbrush out their right, you cannot airbrush out their history.”

Never has a more true statement been spoken in relation to Palestinian refugees who lost their homes in 1948.

In January, Grant along with other celebrities such as Ken Loach, Eric Cantona and Emma Thompson all signed an open letter expressing their “horror at the unprecedented attack on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) by US President Donald Trump.This was following Trump’s decision to cut half of the funding to the UN agency.

Who are Palestinian Refugees?

UNRWA Funded School In Lebanon – URWA

Palestine refugees are defined as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” The descendants of Palestine refugee males, including legally adopted children, are also eligible for registration.

At the time of formation of UNWRA in 1950, the number of refugees in need of assistance was approximately 750,000, this number has now grown to about 5 million people. As Israel refuses the “right of return” to anybody displaced it is likely to grow should nothing change.

A 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and a further 1967 Protocol exclude Palestine refugees as long as they receive assistance from UNRWA, should it’s operations end this would leave refugees with absolutely no protection. The UN would have to pass a new convention to include them and this would take time.

You can make a donation yourself to the UN The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) by following this link. If you can’t please share the link using the hashtag #DignityIsPriceless

Why did Trump cut all funding?

The US state department said that it will no longer support the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which operates in the Palestinian occupied territories as well as Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. It went on to call the organisation as “irredeemably flawed”.

This means that the agency will lose £230 million from it’s yearly budget. This blow comes as off the back of Trump cutting $200 million from it’s US Aid budget in Gaza last week.

UNRWA’s spokesperson, Chris Gunness spoke after the decision was announced: “Let there be no mistake,” he said, “this decision is likely to have a devastating impact on the lives of 526,000 children who receive a daily education from UNRWA; 3.5 million sick people who come to our clinics for medical care; 1.7 million food insecure people who receive assistance from us, and tens of thousands of vulnerable women, children and disabled refugees who come to us.”

One reason the Americans don’t like the UN agency is, it supports refugees and their descendants in having a right to return to either Palestine or Israel. While it allows Israel to continue to build illegal settlements, it is vocal that Palestinians displaced should not allowed to return. US Ambassador the the UN Nikki Haley even called for right of return to be taken off the table completely.

Another reason Trump is so vocal on issues relating to Palestine is his so called “base.” His base, like many Republicans are very supportive Israel and historically have never backed anything that would lead to a two state solution. This is why Trump broke a long standing policy on recognising Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. His base wanted it.

“He operates diplomacy like a loan shark.”

The most obvious reason though is Trump’s need for attention. He operates diplomacy like a loan shark. “I’ll give you money but I want more back.” In this case he is cutting off money in the hope that this will bring Palestine to negotiate. After all he wants to claim the big prize of bringing peace to the Middle East.

What he did not reckon for was that the Palestinians would cut all contact and refuse to work with US officials. This may have even pushed Trump to take action as he is known for being rash when he feels challenged.

His close relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu may also have a major part in this latest event. Almost as soon as the announcement was made the Israeli PM was praising the decision and calling for an end to the UN agency.

What now for the refugees?

UNRWA camps in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine – UNRWA

The German foreign minister was quick to confirm that they will up funding as much as possible and Jordan is already fundraising to help the embattled agency. More countries are likely to follow suit, or I hope so.

The agency only has a mandate until May 2020 at which time it will need to be renewed. Without the support of the US this may prove difficult but not impossible. What is certain that people will suffer consequences of Trump’s actions this week.

The UN agency supplies medical aid and education services to 5.4 million people with a third of its budget immediately unavailable they cannot be expected to maintain the same level of services they have been.

All in all this is part of a dangerous path that Trump has taken in the Palestine and Israel issue. With a US ambassador to Israel who supports building more illegal settlements to recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, it is clear he is intent on crushing the Palestinians into oblivion.

You don’t build peace by oppressing people and standing by while they starve. This is what Hugh Grant has recognised. He has recognised that this agency was helping keep people alive and that this decision can only lead to more problems and suffering to those involved.

You can make a donation yourself to the UN The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) by following this link. If you can’t please share the link using the hashtag #DignityIsPriceless

Alex Tiffin

@RespectIsVital on Twitter

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated in a Press Conference on Friday; “UNRWA is an organization that perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem. It also perpetuates the narrative of the right-of-return, as it were, in order to eliminate the State of Israel; therefore, UNRWA needs to pass from the world.”