Gaza City – Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip have called for an agreement between the US and the UN Agency for Palestine Refugees to be scrapped because the deal violates many of their rights.
Dozens of people protested in front of the headquarters of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) on Tuesday, calling for an end to The Framework for Cooperation — a two-year work plan signed by the United States Department of State and UNRWA.
They chanted slogans that said the framework “cancels the rights of return for refugees”.
Protesters also held banners that read: “We completely reject the agreement between the US and UNRWA”, and “The right of return is consistent; we are not giving up.”
The framework for cooperation An agreement has been signed between the US and UNRWA for 2021-2022 calling for the resumption of funds to the refugee organization after it was shut down by the administration of former US President Donald Trump.
Under the framework, which was signed in July, the United States has paid UNRWA $135 million in additional funds.
“No US contributions will be made to UNRWA except on the condition that UNRWA takes all possible steps to ensure that no portion of the US contribution will be used to provide assistance to refugees undergoing military training. as a member of the so-called Palestine Liberation Army or any other guerrilla-type organization or has committed an act of terrorism,” it said.
The framework also includes “monitoring of Palestinian” [school] curriculum content”.
The deal sparked a wave of anger and drew criticism from Palestinians, who see it as a “threat” to Palestinian refugee rights and a “serious change” in UNRWA’s vision.
Senior Islamic Jihad member Ahmed al-Mudallal told Al Jazeera: “This agreement is completely rejected by all Palestinian authorities as it is not in line with the common work of the UN Agency for Palestine Refugees.
“Through this agreement, UNRWA will act as a security agent for the U.S. state by pursuing workers and refugees who take advantage of its services.”
Salah Abdulatti, a lawyer from Gaza, said the agreement violates United Nations covenants, the Refugee Convention and the agency’s authority.
“The UN agency has no right to sign a contract at the expense of refugees’ interests and restrict their freedom of expression under the guise of neutrality,” Abdulatti said.
The framework was signed without consulting the Palestinian Authority or any other Palestinian body, he added.
Abdulatti called the funding to UNRWA “conditional” and added that the move was a form of “blatant blackmail”.
“The agreement will transform the agency from a service agency to an intelligence agency whose purpose is to provide security information,” Abdulatti said.
Baker Abu Safia, a member of the left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), said the United States used to donate one-third of the UNRWA budget, and that the amount was subsequently reduced to $365 million a year after the Trump’s move to cut funding.
“Now, years later, the US will donate $135 million to an agreement that sets a dangerous precedent in return for UNRWA’s pressure on its staff,” he said.
Abu Safia said US interference in Palestinian school curriculum under the pretext of “incitement to violence” is totally unacceptable.
“The agency’s mission is to keep the refugees’ cause alive and defend their rights, not to eliminate them,” he said.
Protests will continue
Meanwhile, Mahmoud Khalaf, coordinator of the Joint Refugee Committee, said the framework provides “preventing freedom of expression for its employees on social media platforms, as well as interfering with the Palestinian curriculum”.
“Contrary to the agreement with the UN agency, [school] The curriculum must be in accordance with the host country and this is applied over a period of 73 years,” he told Al Jazeera.
According to Khalaf, the agreement also requires UNRWA to provide the U.S. State Department with periodic reports on its work and respond to all of its questions.
“Several terms included in the agreement were imposed on the US vision, such as the fight against terrorism, anti-Semitism and women’s rights and so on,” he said.
Khalaf also said that US contributions to UNRWA are voluntary and must therefore be unconditional in accordance with the principles of UNRWA’s mandate.
The Joint Refugee Committee called on UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini in an official letter to withdraw the deal, but it has not yet received a response.
“The signing of the US-UNRWA framework and additional support demonstrates that we once again have a permanent partner in the United States who understands the need to provide critical assistance to some of the region’s most vulnerable refugees,” Lazzarini said in a statement in July.
Khalaf vowed that demonstrations against the deal will continue until it is scrapped.
“We call on the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA’s host countries to cancel this agreement and not accept conditional funding at the expense of the rights of Palestinian refugees,” Khalaf said.
“Our protests will continue until this unjust agreement is revoked.”