The American Human Rights Council (AHRC-USA) condemns the Trump administration’s decision to terminate American support to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The decision comes amidst increased political pressure on Palestinians, the only occupied people in the world today, to submit to Israeli demands. This decision is unprecedented. Before the elimination of support, the US had been the top supporter of UNRWA, for many years.  This extreme measure against the Palestinian refugee population will devastate thousands of poor and needy residents to whom UNRWA has been the provider of the most basic of human needs-education, healthcare and basic food aid. The Palestinian refugees, who have fled or were forced to flee their homes in mandatory Palestine, are caught in the middle of a political crisis that has to do with the Israeli agenda of putting an end to the Palestinian cause by eliminating the refugee issue.  This is an ill-conceived idea. Eliminating the funding of UNRWA does not change the reality of the existence of millions of Palestinian refugees.

AHRC joins the world’s human rights organizations and people of good will in strongly condemning this unconscionable decision. AHRC calls upon the Trump administration to reconsider its decision. We also call on Congress to visit this issue and restore American support for UNRWA. American support of UNRWA has for many years been deemed in the US national interest. This reality has not changed.

AHRC strongly condemns using human beings as a political football. We have previously seen the same disregard for human rights with the refusal to extend Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). We recently saw it with the policy of separating families at the border. We have seen it with the Muslim Ban that tears families. And now we see it with UNRWA and the Palestinian refugees. Human beings should not be used as political footballs. These measures are condemned with the strongest words. These irresponsible actions are inconsistent with America’s democratic values and support for human rights in the US and abroad.

As an organization that advocates for human rights and peace, AHRC deems this decision as a violation of the human rights of the Palestinian refugees and a threat to peace. In addition to the decision being unethical and immoral, its practical consequences include creating a perception of American animosity to the Palestinian people, of using food and medicine as a weapon against a people. This perception is bound to create further instability in a region that already has more than its fair sure of crises. It is a setback for the cause of peace.

“Thinking that eliminating UNRWA would solve the issue of Palestinian refugees is as ill-conceived as thinking that closing a hospital would make patients well again,” said Imad Hamad, AHRC Executive Director. “As a former beneficiary of UNRWA services, I can testify to the critical importance of UNRWA for the very existence of the Palestinian refugees,” concluded Hamad.

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