While the UK proposed a peace plan for the Gaza war this Saturday, it also announced the same day that the British government will freeze funding for the UN’s agency for Palestine.
In a flagrant show of double standard in the case of the Gaza war, the United Kingdom proposed a five-point peace plan to end the war between Hamas and Israel, and at the same time, announced that the British government has decided to freeze funding for the UNRWA, the UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees.
The Financial Times reported this Saturday that the United Kingdom has issued a proposition of a five-point plan that it believes could put an end to the months-long war between Israel and Hamas. As the report noted, “Britain’s plan is to cease hostilities, release hostages and negotiate a permanent ceasefire, establish the political horizon for the creation of a Palestinian state and the formation of a Palestinian government.”
On the same day, however, the UK Foreign Office issued a surprising statement that totally contradicted the UK’s peace proposal. “The United Kingdom is appalled by allegations that UNRWA staff were involved in the 7 October attack against Israel, a heinous act of terrorism that the UK government has repeatedly condemned. Therefore, the UK is temporarily pausing any future funding of UNRWA while we review these concerning allegations,” the statement said, ironically adding that the country would still “remain committed to getting humanitarian aid to the people in Gaza.”
Along with the UK, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Finland, as well as the United States, Australia and Canada followed suit and froze funding the UNRWA, the UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine whose role has gained pivotal importance since October 7.
Why only Hamas should be blamed, not Israel?
While the above-mentioned countries claim that a few numbers of UN staff had been involved in the attack against Israel, they seem to be ignorant of the huge number of UN staff killed by Israel in the Gaza war.
Latest reports show that at least 136 UN employees have been killed in Israel’s almost four-month-old offensive in Gaza, and relations between the UN and Israel have deteriorated after an attack on a UNRWA shelter in Khan Younis last week that killed 13 UN staff.
Blaming Israel and its supporters, the UN secretary general, António Guterres, pleaded on Saturday for donor states to “guarantee the continuity” of the body. “While I understand their concerns – I strongly appeal to the governments that have suspended their contributions to, at least, guarantee the continuity of UNRWA’s operations,” Guterres said in a statement.
Guterres also noted that although the claims of UN staff being involved in the October 7 attack against Israel must be investigated, “but people of Gaza should not be penalized for a possible crime they didn’t commit.”
Likewise, UNRWA’s commissioner general, Philippe Lazzarini, called the decision to suspend funds shocking and urged the countries involved to reverse course. “These decisions threaten our ongoing humanitarian work across the region including and especially in the Gaza Strip,” he said in a statement on Saturday.
The funding freeze also drew condemnation from Hamas. “It’s clear that UNRWA is subject to blackmail by countries that support Israeli terrorism. While Palestinians in the Gaza Strip are facing mass extermination – even according to [the International Court of Justice],” it said in a statement, referring to the ruling from the UN’s top court that Israel must prevent acts of genocide in Gaza.
Israel’s foreign minister, Israel Katz, however, didn’t hesitate to lash out at the UNRWA and said in a rare statement Saturday night that Israel would take steps to remove UNRWA from the Gaza Strip after the war. “We have been warning for years: UNRWA perpetuates the refugee issue, obstructs peace, and serves as a civilian arm of Hamas in Gaza,” he said.
Whether the UN staff had a role in the attack against Israel on October 7, the UK and other supporters of the freeze-funding for the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees will only make life even harder for millions of Palestinians who thanks to Israel’s constant attacks since October 7, are more and more in urgent need for international aid through UN channels.