Reject Cuts to Humanitarian Aid for Palestinians & the U.N.

Nov 1, 2011

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Tell Congress: Reject Cuts to Humanitarian Aid for Palestinians & the United Nations!

Palestinian Aid & U.N. Funding in Danger: U.S. funding for Palestinian human needs and a host of U.N. agencies is under threat as Congress and the Obama administration ramp up the pressure to unjustly punish Palestinians and the U.N. system for Palestinian statehood recognition at the United Nations.

Take Action: Tell Congress that full U.S. funding for Palestinian human needs & the U.N. is essential for promoting U.S. national interests and global security, and to take the following six action steps:

1) Oppose H.R. 2829, and Other Efforts to Eliminate Funds to UNRWA and Other U.N. Agencies

  • H.R. 2829 Unjustly Punishes Palestinians & U.N. System: This bill would effectively halve U.S. contributions to the U.N. and eliminating U.S. funding for UNRWA, the U.N. Agency for Palestinian refugees, and U.N. agencies that recognize an upgrade to the Palestinian U.N. status.
  • UNICEF Threatened: If the U.S. withdraws its funding as a response to Palestine’s potential admission to the agency, some of the world’s most impoverished children will suffer as a result.
  • Legislation Unjustly Penalizes U.N. Agencies: Rep. Berman (CA), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has opposed the bill, noting that, “I don’t understand the logic of penalizing a U.N. organization for the votes of its member states.”
  • Legislation Unjustly Penalizes U.N. Agencies: Rep. Berman (CA), ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has opposed the bill, noting that, "I don't understand the logic of penalizing a U.N. organization for the votes of its member states."

2) Press for Lifting Holds on USAID Funding for Palestinians

  • Life-Saving Aid Blocked: Several members of Congress have blocked some $192 million in humanitarian and development assistance for Palestinians this year, threatening programs that provide food for impoverished families and life-saving equipment for hospitals.
  • Most Vulnerable Palestinians Used as Political Pawns: The development funding blocked funds USAID projects which are implemented by contracted NGOs like Catholic Relief Services and the Lutheran World Federation. Since these projects directly serve the Palestinian people, the most vulnerable Palestinian families are bearing the brunt of these punitive actions.
  • Administration Opposes Blocking Aid: Secretary of Defense Panetta criticized U.S. lawmakers for suspending aid at a news conference in Tel Aviv with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. He said that during this “critical” moment in the region, that this is "no time to withhold those funds."

3) Support UNRWA, a Vital Force for Regional Stability

  • UNRWA Provides Essential, Life-Saving Aid: UNRWA is the main provider of basic services —education, health, relief, and social services – for Palestinian refugees. UNRWA has long played a vital role as a source of stability and humanitarian assistance for a population in distress.
  • Children Would Go Hungry Without UNRWA: Food insecurity is critically exacerbated in Gaza, where a man-made blockade denies basic and life-saving goods to 1.5 million people—half of whom are children. Already the Emergency School Feeding (ESF) program is one of the programs at risk of being cut, and if adequate funding is not received soon, daily school meals to over 220,000 students in Gaza will be eliminate on January 1, 2012.
  • Israeli Government has Lobbied for UNRWA: As revealed by Canadian government documents, Israel was one of a number of countries actively lobbying Canada to reverse a decision last year to reduce Canadian contributions to UNRWA’s funding.

4) Reject Punitive Measures to Cut Palestinian Aid

  • Reject Cuts to Palestinian Aid, Preserve Senate’s Waiver for Administration: Both House and Senate versions of the FY 12 State and Foreign Operations funding bill would eliminate U.S. economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority for acquiring statehood recognition at the United Nations. However, the Senate version allows for the administration to waive this requirement for national security considerations. Punitive cuts to the Palestinian Authority budget should be rejected or at the very least, the waiver included in the Senate version should be preserved.
  • Palestinian Aid Supports Palestinian, U.S., and Israeli Interests: Victoria Nuland, the spokeswoman for the State Department, explained that the Obama administration supports Palestinian aid because “we think it is money that is not only in the interest of the Palestinians, it is in U.S. interests and it is also in Israeli interests, and we would like to see it go forward.”
  • Israel Negotiates with Hamas—Why Shouldn’t the Palestinian Authority? Israel has often negotiated with Hamas, as evidenced by the recent prisoner exchange and truce negotiated between Israel and Hamas with the help of Egyptian mediators. Many members of Congress have threatened to punish national reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority by cutting U.S. aid. Intra-Palestinian conflict has proved lethal, and it is a threat to the security of Palestinians, Israelis, and others in the region. The U.S. should encourage national reconciliation efforts and hold all parties to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict accountable to international law.
  • Israeli Government has Recommended Continued Palestinian Aid: An Israeli governmental report issued by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a September report to the World Bank stated its support for aid: "Israel calls for ongoing international support for the PA budget and development projects that will contribute to the growth of a vibrant sector, which will provide the PA an expanded base for generating internal revenue."

5) Pass New Legislation to Ensure Robust U.S. Engagement at United Nations

  • Old Laws Threaten U.S.-U.N. Relations: Two laws from the early 1990s prohibit the U.S. from providing contributions to any United Nations entity that admits Palestine as a member.
  • U.S. Membership in a Host of U.N. Agencies Threatened: While the administration has already withheld funding for the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO, these laws would also threaten U.S. funding of the World Health Organization and the International Atomic Energy Agency, should these agencies grant Palestine membership. International Civil Aviation Organization, International Postal Union, and the International Telecommunications Union are all likely to admit Palestine as a member.
  • New Legislation Needed to Protect U.S. National Security: President of the U.N. Foundation and former Senator Timothy Wirth has called for Congress to pass new legislation that would enable the President to waive restrictions on paying U.N. dues for agencies that admit Palestine as a member: “As long as these laws remain on the books, Congress is setting the stage for America’s waning influence over international affairs. From businesses interests to non-governmental organizations who care about America’s influence at the UN, everyone must take a stand and urge Congress to give the President the flexible authority needed protect our national security and economic interests.”

6) Press for Peace, not Punishment

  • U.N. Plays Vital Role in Conflict Resolution: While the U.S. has pressed to monopolize the negotiations process, the U.N. is the international body empowered to mediate conflict.
  • U.S. Must Press for a Just Resolution of the Conflict: Failed U.S.-controlled negotiations have only led to a further deterioration of the conflict, with escalating violence and settlement expansion. It is time for the U.S. to press for a comprehensive, just, and lasting resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will secure a future of equality, peace, and security for all.
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