Stop defunding UNRWA!

Since October 7, the Israeli genocidal assault against Gaza has taken place on numerous fronts and all have been connected in one way or another with the fascist ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.  One of those most recent fronts has been the targeting of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).  

Protest demanding a ceasefire in Gaza, Haymarket in Central London, February 2024. (Photo: Middle East Monitor)

The U.N. established UNRWA in 1949 — one year after the Nakba or catastrophe — which violently uprooted an estimated 750,000 Palestinians from their homeland to set up the Zionist settler-colonial state of Israel.  

UNRWA has provided food, water, medical and other vital services to nearly six million Palestinians who have had refugee status inside and outside their occupied homeland for four generations.  

Since October 7, some 1.9 million Palestinians in Gaza have been displaced, along with the massacre of over 27,000 civilians, almost 40% of them children. As if these numbers were not horrifying enough, Israel has gone a step further. It is attempting to destroy UNRWA by claiming that a dozen of its workers were Hamas members involved in the October 7 mission that took about 250 Israelis prisoners to bargain for the release of thousands of illegally detained Palestinian prisoners.  

The accused workers have been fired while an investigation is taking place. Before these accusations were made in late January — with no evidence presented — over 150 UNRWA workers, including some named in the accusations, had been killed in Israeli airstrikes. In a clear violation of international law, no official investigations have been announced at this time into these killings. 

This agency is dependent on the financial contributions made by many countries of nearly $1.5 billion in 2023 to keep its services functioning to support the basic needs of displaced Palestinians. Many governments have used these latest claims by Israel as a pretext to withhold their contributions to UNRWA, led by Israel’s biggest backer, the United States, along with Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Canada, Australia, Austria and Finland. In total, $440 million has been withheld.   

Countries that refused to defund the Agency include China, Spain, Ireland and Norway, as well as the European Union. Belgium, which refused to defund the UNRWA, has paid a heavy price for its stance. According to numerous sources on X (formerly Twitter), on Feb. 1, Israel bombed and completely destroyed the building belonging to the Belgian Agency for Development Cooperation (Enabel) in Gaza in retaliation for continuing its support for UNRWA. 

Portugal announced that it will be sending an additional $1.1 million donation, along with the already $4.4 million sent in 2023. The South American government of Guyana has pledged $150,000 to UNRWA.    

The Chinese government made a plea to countries to continue their support of UNRWA. In a Feb. 1 press briefing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin stated that the agency has “made important efforts in easing the humanitarian situation in Gaza, playing an indispensable and irreplaceable role.” 

He continued, “We call on the international community, especially major donors, to prioritize the lives of the people in Gaza, reconsider the decision to suspend funding and continue to support the work of UNRWA.” (

Wenbin stated that “collective punishment” against the people in Gaza should be avoided.

All efforts must continue worldwide to provide the emergency humanitarian aid that is so desperately needed to reach the starving people of Gaza – and which the Israelis are purposely blockingincluding demanding more funding, not less, for organizations like UNRWA.

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