5pm AEDT, 29 January
UNRWA funding on hold
On Friday, the US put on hold its funding of UNRWA, the UN’s dedicated Palestinian refugee agency. This was followed on Shabbat by Australia and four other countries doing the same.
The move came after UNRWA fired nine of its staff because they participated in the 7 October massacres in Israel. (Israel gave UNRWA evidence of 12 staff that participated in the massacres. One was killed by Israel, the whereabouts of the other two are unknown.)
It goes without saying that the ZFA welcomed the move. But we also called – again – for the Government to hold back on resuming that funding until UNRWA is reformed and accountable.
ZFA President Jeremy Leibler said, “While we welcome Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s decision to pause funding to UNRWA, the problems with UNRWA go far deeper than a handful of its staff participating in the 7 October massacres. We are calling on the Australian Government to desist from resuming funding until UNRWA removes all glorification of terrorism from its school text books, fires all teachers that have praised terrorism, and commits to a transparent, third-party audit of all its finances.”
Mr Leibler concluded, “UNRWA knew about Hamas’ genocidal conduct but said and did nothing. All those who want a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians must hold UNRWA accountable. Australia must ensure that any further aid provided to Gaza does not end up in the hands of terrorists or its supporters.”
ZFA CEO Alon Cassuto added, “We learned within days of the 7 October massacre that at least one of the Hamas attackers had UNRWA identity papers discovered on his body. What surprises us is the length of time it took for the UN to admit this.”
Mr Cassuto continued, “UNRWA has been an obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace for decades. UNRWA’s culture is corrupt and supportive of terrorism. A Telegraph channel with over 3000 UNRWA teachers praised the 7 October massacre. UNRWA teachers and school books are on record as praising Palestinian terrorists as heroes.”
The bad news for UNRWA might not be over. Israel is claiming it has more evidence of more UNRWA staff being involved in the 7 October massacres. Details here.
Meanwhile, both the government and opposition in Israel have called for the resignation of UNRWA’s leadership, and its replacement (at least, in Gaza) with an organisation that contributes to ‘genuine peace and development’.
International Court of Justice
Also on Shabbat, the ICJ released its preliminary findings. This finding was never going to be the ICJ’s determination as to whether Israel is committing genocide, but whether there was a ‘plausibility’, based on Israel’s actions and statements, that it is.
The ICJ found that such a plausibility exists, and rejected Israel’s argument that the various politicians issuing offensive statements about Gaza have zero influence over Israel’s military decision-making.
However, the court also refused South Africa’s request that the ICJ impose an immediate ceasefire demand on Israel. And, in calling for Israel to abide by the obligations of the laws of armed conflict, the court isn’t calling on Israel to do anything it’s not already doing.
Another aspect of the ICJ’s preliminary decision is its call for Hamas to immediately release all the hostages; this is something South Africa declined to do in its application to the court. In noting that it was Hamas that started the war, the ICJ effectively endorsed the justice of Israel’s stated military objectives.
The ZFA released a statement about this on Saturday night.
ZFA President Jeremy Leibler said, “It is reassuring to witness the failure of South Africa’s egregious and cynical attempt to exploit the Genocide Convention in order to halt Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself and prevent Hamas’ capacity from pursuing its stated genocidal objectives against the State of Israel and the Jewish people”.
Mr Leibler continued, “Had South Africa’s efforts prevailed, it would have not only empowered Hamas but also set a dangerous precedent, encouraging other terrorist organisations globally to follow suit, thereby eroding the foundational principle of self-defence under international law”.
Mr Leibler concluded, “We welcomed Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s statement that she does not accept the premise of the South African case. We strongly believe that, in order to uphold the international rules-based order, Australia should make a third-party intervention in this case, urging the ICJ to dismiss these allegations. We call on the Government to do so.”
ZFA CEO Alon Cassuto added, “While we applaud the ICJ’s demand for the immediate and unconditional release of Israeli hostages in Gaza, we entirely reject the ICJ’s suggestion that there is a ‘plausible’ accusation against Israel. This accusation overlooks the substantial and transparent counterarguments presented by Israeli representatives, which clearly outline Israel’s strict adherence to minimising civilian casualties and the deceptive and illegal strategies employed by Hamas, including the use of human shields”.
Gazans getting sick of Hamas
There are more and more reports emerging of Gazans protesting against Hamas, and calling for an end to the war.
This leads us to ponder something. Vis-à-vis the future of Israeli-Palestinian relations, Palestinian society is broadly divided into three groups: those that want the entirety of what they call Palestine (i.e. including all of Israel) and think violence is the way to achieve it; those that realise Israel isn’t going anywhere but believe that violence is the way to achieve a Palestinian state on part of what they call Palestine; and those who realise Israel isn’t going anyway, but who also realise that negotiations – not violence – is the only way to achieve a viable Palestinian state. (See this still-relevant article from 2002 on the divisions of Palestinian society.)
Two of these groups – who collectively easily make up the majority of Palestinian society – believe that violence is the way to achieve their objectives. This explains the consistently high numbers for questions like ‘do you support armed attacks against Israeli civilians inside the 1967 lines’? in polls carried out by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research. (An average of 48 per cent over the past three and a half years!)
So here’s a question worth posing: Gazans have now seen the consequences of Hamas’s attempt to commit genocide against the Israeli people – that is, death, destruction and displacement within Gaza because of the way Hamas entrenched itself amongst civilians. And now some Gazans are protesting against Hamas.
Will this war shift Palestinian society away from its support for violence? Is it at all possible that the great shift in Arab leadership opinion after 1973, and Palestinian Fatah leadership opinion after 1982 – that violence against Israel doesn’t make Israel go away – will be replicated within Palestinian society?
We certainly hope so. But in order for this to happen, we absolutely require the international community to make sure that any and all aid that goes into Gaza is only designed to build Palestine up, not tear Israel down – which is, sadly, the direction in which much of the last several decades worth of aid have gone.