The original article was updated at 15:30 05 Feb 2024 with new information and further revelations.

Sul Nowroz ©2024

The International Court of Injustice

Friday 26th January 2024 will prove to be a significant day in the history of Palestine and her people.

At midday (GMT), sixteen judges stepped into the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) main chamber and announced an overwhelming majority of them found a plausible case of genocide against the Palestinian people in Ghazzah. In fact, the case was so plausible the judges determined provisional measures were needed to protect Palestinian rights under the genocide convention.

This was a watershed moment – the murderous slaughtering of Palestinians was ‘plausibly’ being done with the sole intent of wiping them out as an ethnic group.

But then the provisional measures were read out, and the tragedy of Palestine was re-lived. Despite overwhelming evidence of mass homicidal wrongdoing, and the ongoing threat to Palestinians in Ghazzah, there would be no ceasefire. Israel was given a very public licence to keep killing – but just to do it more carefully. It was a shameful and cowardly decision, and another display of western hypocrisy. Across the Global South hearts sank. The international legal system promising fairness and justice to all was a hoax.

Between January 26th and February 3rd over 1,000 Palestinians have been slaughtered in Ghazzah. Nasser and Al-Amal hospitals have been attacked on multiple occasions, the southern town of Rafah – an Israeli-designated safe space –  has been repeatedly bombed and is now an active theatre for Israeli ground troops. Israeli Occupation Forces are pumping seawater into underground tunnels, which will destroy Ghazzah’s water table for decades to come. And numerous government ministers, including National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, attended a conference calling for Israeli settlements in Ghazzah and their expansion in the occupied West Bank.

The Allegation

That fateful Friday, the tragedy that is Palestine would play out a second time.

As the judges concluded their remarks at the ICJ, the US State Department issued a press release entitled:  Statement on UNRWA Allegations. The timing is claimed to be coincidental.

The release references allegations made against UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) staff, their supposed involvement in the events of October 7th, and concludes that the US has “temporarily paused additional funding for UNRWA” until further investigation.

The allegations which the State Department refer to are contained in a flimsy six-page document, which the mainstream media would go onto call an intelligence dossier, produced by the Israeli security services. It contends at least 190 UNRWA workers, out of 13,000, are Hamas or Islamic Jihad operatives. The document names twelve staff members, including nine teachers and one social worker, who were allegedly involved in the events of October 7th. Alongside their names are their photos and job descriptions of the roles they played on that fateful day. Two of the accused have since been killed.

The Response

Within hours of the State Department release, UNWRA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini makes a curious statement. While confirming UNRWA will launch an investigation into the allegations, he reveals he has already fired those staff members named by Israeli security services.

To protect the agency’s ability to deliver humanitarian assistance, I have taken the decision to immediately terminate the contracts of these staff members and launch an investigation in order to establish the truth without delay.”

Bizarrely, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric confirms as of Tuesday January 30th  that neither the UN nor Lazzarini have received a copy of the six-page allegation despite Reuters, The New York Times and Sky News having seen it. 

Within days, eighteen donor countries (including Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Netherlands, UK, Italy, Australia and Finland) follow the US’s lead and announce they are suspending funding of UNRWA. Including the US, this wipes out 70% of UNRWA’s operating budget, which is normally spent on primary and vocational education, healthcare, relief and social services, and emergency response. Since October 7th its primary function has been to provide food and shelter. Starving UNRWA of funding will starve Palestinians. Withdrawing funding, however temporary, is an act designed to cause harm.

The Six Page Allegation

©2024 Sul Nowroz

Doubts about the allegations start when Reuters, one of the few media outlets to have been briefed on the six-page allegation, is forced to acknowledge they were shown it by “a source who could not be identified by name or nationality.”

By January 30th, Sky News concedes the document makes a series of assertions that Sky News “has not seen proof of and many of the claims, even if true, do not directly implicate UNRWA.”

Equally worrying, The New Arab discovers inconsistencies in how Israeli security services identified those mentioned in the document. Initially it was reported the names were secured by way of confessions, the result of torture and interrogation. But by January 29th Israeli intelligence officers were telling the New York Times that the suspects were identified by mobile phone tracking and the interception of text messages, one which conveniently instructed a UNRWA employee to ‘collect rocket propelled grenades.’ Interestingly, previous assessments of Hamas’ operating model concluded they used closed telephone lines to avoid interception of messages.

Further Cracks Appear

Not all donor countries are convinced of the truthfulness of the slim six-page report.

Belgium, Denmark, Ireland and Spain publicly announce their intention to continue funding UNRWA, much to the distain of Israel, who upped their verbal assault on the relief agency. Social media is flooded with propagandist videos with the nation state claiming victimhood, and casting the relief agency, its workers and the refugees it serves as a momentous terrorist threat. Such a character assassination of a UN agency is unprecedented.

By early last week, UNRWA had done its numbers and warned of an imminent famine affecting up to 2 million people if alternative funding sources weren’t found. International media ran a series of stories about the dire consequences of the defunding.

On Thursday February 1st Australia’s Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, acknowledged resuming funding was key “if we are serious about trying to ensure that fewer children are starving.” Wong instructed the government’s Humanitarian Coordinator, Beth Delaney, to find a way to avert a humanitarian crisis. On the same day Belgium Vice Premier, Petra De Sutter, tweetedThe agency [UNRWA] is irreplaceable in providing urgent and crucial humanitarian relief within Gaza.”

Following De Stutter’s tweet, Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim confirmed his country would not only continue to fund UNRWA but increase donations if needed.

Equally worryingly for the Israeli government, the six-page charge sheet continued to be challenged. Middle East Eye pointed out that UNRWA regularly submits a list of employees to Israeli security services, and none of the names had ever been challenged, questioned, or vetoed. The publication also pointed out that Israeli security services were now claiming the names of the alleged UNRWA-Hamas operatives were secured by screening a database of Hamas members. The database was opportunely on a computer seized from an unnamed Hamas hideout. Counterinsurgency experts confirm such a find would be very rare, and contravene all organising principles of resistance movements, where a centralised list of named operatives is avoided at all costs.  

By the weekend even US Secretary of State Antony Blinken publicly accepted: “We [the US] haven’t had the ability to investigate [the allegations] ourselves.”

The Noose Tightens

Israel’s efforts at strangling UNRWA were faltering. Something had to be done. If donations couldn’t be stemmed then UNRWA needed to be unbanked, incapable of receiving and dispersing funds. 

On Sunday Israeli bank Leumi announced it had suspended all UNRWA accounts due to “tangible suspicions it is transferring funds to terror groups in Gaza.” No further details are forthcoming. UNRWA confirmed “they had not yet been shown any evidence to corroborate” Leumi’s claims. Al Jazeera reported the Financial Times “had looked at the assessment and it did not provide evidence for the claims.”

The allegations against UNRWA have a familiar feel. An apartheid regime, a suspected perpetrator of genocide, and a master of misinformation operates with impunity, providing dubious narratives that go unchallenged; western governments readily collude in a pattern of butchery and bloodshed of an indigenous population; Palestinians die.

This is the re-occurring tragedy of Palestine and her people.  

UNRWA serves as a shaming reminder of Israel’s settler colonial foundations, one that displaced an indigenous people and attempts to erase their culture, traditions, and history. The prevailing thinking amongst Israeli officials appears to be that no UNRWA means no refugees, and no refugees magics away their dirty little secret of colonial land theft.

Sul Nowroz ©2024

—  ©2024 Sul Nowroz – staff writer  —