3rd Thursday Action Alert: In this holiday season, tell Congress to align spending priorities in Israel/Palestine with values of peace and justice
As early as the end of October, the UN’s Middle East peace coordinator already predicted that 2022 would be the “deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank” since the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs began tracking fatalities in 2005. A spate of killings by Israeli forces in the occupied territories, notably of children and youth, has led to this tragic level of death – more than 200 killed this year so far. Late last week, three more Palestinians were killed in Jenin, in the northern West Bank by the Israeli Defense Force, the occupying military. Israel receives $3.8 billion each year in military aid from the US, funds which enable Israel’s occupation and such violations of international humanitarian law, as well as US laws – including the Leahy Laws – which strictly prohibit the use of US funds by foreign military units which violate human rights.
At the same time, as the world responds with appropriate compassion and care to the millions of Ukrainians who have been displaced from their homes and homeland as a result of the Russian invasion and occupation, more than 5 million Palestinian refugees have remained displaced from their homes and country, and dispossessed of their property, since the Nakba – catastrophe – in 1948. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was established to provide essential health, educational, and response services, as well as jobs in those areas, for Palestinian refugees, and has been operating continually since 1949. The Trump Administration slashed US funding for UNRWA in 2018 from $365 million to nothing at all. President Biden promised to restore roughly two-thirds of the US funding for UNRWA in early 2021, but last month, its Commissioner-General, Philippe Lazzarini, stated that UNRWA is in dire need of funds to continue to provide basic services.
Some US foreign assistance has been diverted to other places, including Ukraine, even as US military support for Israel has continued. Even so, Congress has not reached agreement on a spending bill, a process which could extend beyond the holiday break.
In the Christmas season, as our attention again focuses on Bethlehem and the story of Christ’s birth, we remember that Jesus was born under occupation, and that the Holy Family became refugees in Egypt soon after Jesus was born. Jesus’ early days and years were spent displaced.
It is time to urge Congress to finish its work of budget negotiations, putting a value on peace and justice. Urge your Congressional representatives to align the country’s spending priorities with the values of a child born to become the Prince of Peace, but who was forcibly displaced from his homeland.
Click here to tell your Congressional representatives to support the needs of Palestinian refugees by supporting UNRWA robustly – at least at pre-2016 levels which was $390 million – and to ensure the continuation of that funding for 2023 and beyond; and to hold Israel’s military accountable to US foreign assistance laws regarding respect human rights by withholding US military funding for Israel.