Canada: Restore UNRWA funding now!


Update on UNRWA funding suspension

We cannot abandon the people of Gaza – chiefs of UN agencies and NGOs united appeal for UNRWA

For the initial coverage of this life and death issue, see our 27 January 2024 blog post, which included an UPDATE (after our email went out to subscribers) specifically on the UNRWA funding suspension and which concluded with:

We call on the Government of Canada to immediately reinstate full funding to UNRWA and to urge other donors to do the same.

16 countries have now suspended funding to UNRWA

Since then, the total number of donors that have suspended funding in light of Israeli allegations that 12 UNWRA staff were involved in the 7 October attack on Israel has risen to 16, including the US, the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Sweden. Norway, a leading donor, has not suspended its funding and is working to get other donors back on board.

In response, the UN-led group of aid agencies known collectively as the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) united behind a Statement by Principals urging full reinstatement of UNRWA funding.

In the words of UN Emergency Relief Chief Martin Griffiths, who heads the IASC panel:

Withdrawing funds from UNRWA … would result in the collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, with far-reaching humanitarian and human rights consequences in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and across the region.

UNRWA — the largest aid agency in Gaza, whose key role in education, healthcare and more in the enclave dates back to 1949 — provides a lifeline to more than two million people in the Strip.

Israeli accusations based on information from prisoner interrogations

Twelve of the agency’s 13,000 Gaza employees were allegedly part of the 7 October attack — so the US and its allies are meting a horrific collective punishment – Moustafa Bayoumi

Moustafa Bayoumi is an American writer, journalist, and professor of English at Brooklyn College, City University of New York. He has written an insightful and disturbing commentary in entitled Millions of Palestinians rely on UNRWA. Why is the US suspending funding based on Israeli accusations?

Bayoumi writes:

There should be no question that the 7 October attacks were atrocities. But to punish the UNRWA — and, by extension, the Palestinian people as a whole — because of accusations against 12 people is unconscionable.

It is an act of political retaliation that puts the lives of millions of people needlessly at risk and an abdication on an international scale of the United States’ supposed western liberal values.

The Israeli government’s accusations are mainly based on “intelligence” received from Israeli interrogations of prisoners, and the US has not independently verified them but describes them as “highly credible”.

Even if the allegations are true, Bayoumi asks:

what does that have to do with UNRWA? The New York Times has seen the dossier the Israeli government presented to the US, but the Times’s story reported no institutional collusion between UNRWA and Hamas, only that the accused had jobs with UNRWA.

UN Resolution 194 and the right of return

UNRWA … an abiding testament to the still unsolved refugee crisis at the heart of the Palestinian question – Moustafa Bayoumi

Established by the UN General Assembly in 1949, UNRWA began operations in 1950, immediately aiding the 750,000 Palestinians who had been displaced from their homes after the 1948 war. It was considered by many to be a temporary institution, while Palestinian refugees waited for the implementation of Resolution 194, which stated that

refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date.

The fact that the day of return has never come helps illuminate the full significance of UNRWA beyond its vital social service role.

Bayoumi explains:

Solely by its continued existence after more than seven decades, UNRWA has become an abiding testament to the still unsolved refugee crisis at the heart of the Palestinian question….

For this reason, the Israeli government has repeatedly tried to defund and delegitimate UNRWA … succeed[ing] briefly during the Trump administration, which defunded [it].

ICJ provisional order on aid delivery cannot be met without UNRWA

Recall the  ICJ provisional order that

The State of Israel shall take immediate and effective measures to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

Given the central role that UNRWA plays in the delivery of basic services and humanitarian aid in Gaza, Bayoumi concludes:

suspending aid to UNRWA makes fulfilling the ICJ’s order virtually impossible. If that doesn’t translate directly into western complicity in genocide, then I don’t know what would.

Israelis support blocking aid to Gaza

Middle East Eye reports that a new Israeli public opinion poll published on Tuesday suggests a majority of Israelis support the complete suspension of aid entering Gaza until the remaining captives taken back to Gaza on 7 October are returned:

Seventy-two percent said aid should be halted, 21 percent said that it should not stop, and seven percent said they didn’t know.

Latest statistics from UNOCHA on the situation in Gaza (2 February 2024)

More than 9,000 children have been injured, leaving many with the loss of an arm or a leg. UNICEF is also reporting that 17,000 Gaza children have been left unaccompanied.

Israel and Hamas inching closer to ceasefire deal

The United States, a permanent UN Security Council member, is the only country in the 15-nation body still resisting calls for a ceasefire.

to call for a cease-fire is Mr. Putin’s message. – former Democratic Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi

Notwithstanding public American — and Israeli — intransigence, the Guardian reports that Israel and Hamas appear to be “inching closer towards” a ceasefire deal and a release of some of the hostages, with reporter Peter Beaumont explaining, after premature reports of agreement:

A Qatari official … clarified … that there was “no deal yet” and that although “Hamas has received the proposal positively”, Qatar was “waiting for their response”.

Regarding the details of the proposal, the Guardian writes:

The reported outline of the proposal envisages a lengthy ceasefire of about six weeks in which Palestinians in Gaza would be allowed to move around the strip freely, while hostages would be released in three phases in exchange for Palestinian prisoners being held in Israel.

Many obstacles remain, with Hamas still intimating it would only accept a permanent ceasefire, while many Israeli Ministers oppose any ceasefire longer than one month in duration.

Israeli Defence Minister suggests Rafah itself could be the next target

Rafah is a pressure cooker of despair, and we fear for what comes next. – Jens Laerke, OCHA

Amid mounting international concern about the increasingly desperate humanitarian situation in Gaza, where more than half of the population of 2.3 million have been displaced south to Rafah on the Egyptian border, Israel’s defence minister, Yoav Gallant, suggested on Thursday that Rafah itself could be the next target of operations, writing on social media,

The Khan Younis Brigade of the Hamas organisation is dismantled; we complete the mission and will continue to Rafah. comments:

It has to be said — the closer we get to a ceasefire deal, the more dangerous it becomes for every Palestinian civilian in Gaza.

Palestinian authority will work with Israel on a two-state solution

Mohammad Shtayyeh, Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, told CBC News Network’s Rosemary Barton Live, for a programme that airs on Sunday:

We don’t have a partner in Israel … the current Israeli government does not believe in two states.

Asked if the Palestinian Authority would be willing to work with an Israeli government that supports a two-state solution, Shtayyeh said,

100 per cent.

The Palestinian Authority is a political entity separate from Hamas and is recognized by the United Nations as the only representative Palestinian governing body.

CBC is also reporting that, according to Shtayyeh, the Palestinian Authority is ready to help administer the Gaza Strip once the conflict is over but would not rule out involving Hamas in the administration of the territory.

Shtayyeh explained:

Hamas is an important component of the Palestinian political arena. Nobody can ignore that.

Shtayyeh added that the group would have to accept peace terms with Israel and the Palestinian Authority. comments:

There would have been no peace deal in Northern Ireland if the UK had stuck to its original position of refusing to negotiate with terrorists.

Canada and other Western countries condemn “Victory Conference”

A so-called “Victory Conference” in Jerusalem on 28 January 2024 was attended by about a third of the Israeli Cabinet, including three ministers from Netanyahu’s Likud Party, and plans were presented for proposed Israeli settlements in Gaza.

In response, a statement from Global Affairs Canada reads in part:

Canada rejects any proposal that calls for the forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza and the establishment of additional settlements. Such inflammatory rhetoric undermines prospects for lasting peace.

Those attending the event heard speeches urging the replacement of Gaza’s Palestinian population with Jewish settlers, scenes of religious fervour and chants of “Oslo is dead!” — a reference to the 1993 Oslo Accords and the peace process that was supposed to lead to a Palestinian state.

Settler leader Daniella Weiss told the attendees:

They [Palestinians] will leave. We don’t give them food, we don’t give them anything. They have to leave. The world will accept them.

France’s foreign ministry issued a statement which read in part:

France recalls that the International Court of Justice recently set out Israel’s obligation to take all measures within its power to prevent and punish this kind of rhetoric. It is not up to the Israeli government to decide where Palestinians should live on their land.

The US government said it was “troubled” by the event, while the UK government expressed “alarm”.

CBC reports that

Netanyahu’s response on Tuesday was to visit Eli, an Israeli settlement in the West Bank built on land expropriated from two Palestinian villages, where he received a rapturous welcome from settlers.

40% of Israelis are positive towards Jewish settlements in Gaza

We can no longer look at this as some kind of fringe phenomena. – Dahlia Scheindlin

CBC’s Chris Brown outlines the growing public support for the politically powerful settler movement, which Israeli-Canadian pollster and political analyst based in Tel Aviv Dahlia Scheindlin emphasizes is no longer “some kind of fringe phenomena”:

Scheindlin says political surveys done in Israel in the months following the Oct. 7 attack showed surprising strength in the notion of rebuilding Jewish settlements in Gaza — from roughly a quarter of those polled to 40 per cent, depending on the question.

Establishing Jewish settlements in Gaza would be illegal under international law, and the forced removal of Palestinians from their communities would amount to a war crime.

But Scheindlin explains:

I would expect that this government over the next number of years will make efforts to increasingly legitimize the idea of Israel occupying the Gaza Strip and rebuilding settlements, and then little by little, try to lay the groundwork to do it.

Concrete actions in support of a two-state solution urgently needed now

Despite the longstanding US and Western opposition to these settlements, according to the UN, some 700,000 Israeli settlers live in more than 270 settlements scattered across Palestinian areas of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Scheindlin believes the strong turnout at the Gaza resettlement conference should serve as a warning to Canada and other supporters of Israel:

What it should say to Israel’s allies is, listen to what the intentions really are. This is the kind of direction the government might actually take.

Such actions by Israel offer yet more evidence of, at best, intent to commit the war crime of forced removal, and at worst, genocidal intent. comments:

The only way to divert Israel from this increasingly disastrous course is through actions that concretely advance a two-state solution, beginning with recognition of Palestinian statehood.

US review of policy options for recognizing a Palestinian state

For decades, US policy has been to oppose the recognition of Palestine as a state both bilaterally and in UN institutions and to stress that Palestinian statehood should only be achieved through direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

This is also Canada’s position.

But as Axios reports, citing a senior US official:

Efforts to find a diplomatic way out of the war in Gaza [have] opened the door for rethinking a lot of old U.S. paradigms and policies.

Bearing in mind that Saudi officials have made clear since October 7 that any potential normalization agreement with Israel would be conditioned on the creation of an “irrevocable” pathway toward a Palestinian state, Axios reports:

Some inside the Biden administration are now thinking recognition of a Palestinian state should possibly be the first step in negotiations to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict instead of the last.

The article also reviews “several options” for US action on this issue, including:

  • Bilaterally recognizing the state of Palestine.
  • Not using its veto to block the UN Security Council from admitting Palestine as a full UN member state.
  • Encouraging other countries to recognize Palestine.

Foreign Minister says UK considering recognition of Palestine

Palestinians must have a political horizon so that they can see that there is going to be irreversible progress to a two-state solution. – Lord Cameron

British Foreign Minister David Cameron said on 29 January the UK is considering recognition of Palestine as part of its plans for the day after the war in Gaza and as a way to give the Palestinians a political horizon:

We — with allies — will look at the issue of recognizing a Palestinian state, including at the United Nations … that could be one of the things that helps to make this process irreversible.

Whither Canada?

Statehood is obtained through full membership in the UN (which the US has blocked through its veto threat) and recognition by other states, 139 of which have now recognized Palestine.

RI President Peggy Mason asks:

How has giving Israel a de facto veto over Palestinian statehood ever advanced negotiations toward a two-state solution?

If the West now wants to move beyond the rhetoric of a two-state solution to concrete action for “irreversible progress” to that end, then immediate recognition of Palestinian statehood, bilaterally and through support for full UN membership, is required.

We call on the government of Canada to recognize Palestinian statehood both bilaterally and at the United Nations, as an essential and urgent step towards an irreversible political process for a two-state solution. 

We reiterate our calls for Canada to:

  • Immediately reinstate full UNRWA funding
  • Suspend all military transfers to Israel
  • Call on Israel to fully comply with the ICJ provisional order
  • Redouble diplomatic efforts for an immediate and durable humanitarian ceasefire


Click HERE to sign the parliamentary e-petition calling for an end to Canadian arms transfers to Israel.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: <  >

Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly: < >

International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen: < >

Leader of the NDP Jagmeet Singh: < >

Leader of the Conservative Party Pierre Poilievre: < >

Leader of the Bloc Quebecois Yves-François Blanchet: <>

Green Party Critic Elizabeth May: < >

And find your local Member of Parliament HERE.


Professor Emeritus Wesley Wark is using his National Security and Intelligence Newsletter to catalogue the hearings of the Foreign Interference Commission, established by all party agreement in September 2023.

The announcement of this inquiry follows extensive consultations with all recognized parties in the House of Commons. All parties have agreed to the Terms of Reference and the appointment of the Commissioner. – Minister Dominic LeBlanc

The Inquiry became necessary after all the opposition parties opposed the recommendation by Independent Special Rapporteur David Johnston that a public inquiry was not the appropriate way forward.

One of the key reasons that David Johnston gave for that conclusion was:

Any public inquiry into the factual questions — who knew what, when, and what was done with it regarding foreign interference — could not be held in public. Thus, the Commissioner would be left in the same position as I — reviewing material in private and unable to provide any greater transparency than what I am able to provide in this report.

Public inquiry facing same problem as Johnston inquiry

Wesley Wark writes of the Public Inquiry Commissioner — Quebec Court of Appeal judge the Honourable Marie-Josée Hogue — that, despite her powers as a Commissioner under the Inquiries Act, with the power to compel witnesses and documents, she is still “shackled” in the same way that David Johnston was:

She has no unique power to reveal classified intelligence to the Canadian public. She has full power to receive it, but not to reveal it.

As Wark explains, there will be a declassification process, but that has very real limits. There will be the writing of “summaries” of the classified material. There can be in camera meetings with summaries for the public record.

However, as Wark concludes:

But the Commissioner, like Mr. Johnston, will stand as interlocutor between the secret world and the public. Will that position secure public trust?

Photo credit: UNRWA/Ashraf Amra; UNICEF is a public outreach project of the Rideau Institute linking Canadians working together for peace. We depend on your donations as we accept no funding from government or industry to protect our independence. Thank you for your support…. 

Tags: Chris Brown, Dahlia Scheindlin, David Cameron, foreign interference inquiry, Hamas, ICJ, International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen, Mohammad Shtayyeh, Moustafa Bayoumi, Palestinian Authority, Rafah, recognition of a Palestinian state, settler, two-state solution, UN Emergency Relief Chief Martin Griffiths, UNRWA, Victory Conference, Wesley Wark