Trudeau, Restore UNWRA Funding Now: An Open Letter

Dear PM Trudeau and Minister Hussen,

I am still reeling over your decision to cut aid to UNRWA. What a disgrace! And, this, at a time when the people of Gaza (and elsewhere in the Middle East) are in desperate need of help. Allegations levelled at UNWRA, which emanate (through torture) from the Israeli military, are highly suspicious. They come on the heels of the ICJ’s preliminary ruling and can only be construed as a vicious riposte against the UN, and as an orchestrated political manoeuvre to distract from South Africa’s unprecedented indictment of Israel’s genocidal crimes.

An investigation of the case against UNWRA has barely been launched, yet, as if by Pavlovian conditioning, you instantly join the Western elites, who are only too keen to save Israel from public disrepute by tarring its critics with the anti-Hamas brush. This is an orgy of punishment, and, by partaking in it, you have hurled salt into the wounds of an already devastated population of innocent civilians, scrounging for whatever crumbs they can gather to survive the hell of the Gaza Ghetto.

Your self-proclaimed altruism of offering $40-million in aid to other agencies, which can scarcely match UNRWA’s indispensable role in constituting the veritable lifeline of the Gazan population, is insulting, to say the least. By disabling UNRWA, you have aligned yourself with several deplorable Western powers that have flaunted their cruelty and callous contempt towards an already tortured people. Together with your US and European allies, you have helped to worsen the agony of the besieged Palestinians – innocent civilians who suffer hourly from Yoav Gallant’s starvation policies. The people of Gaza are in their darkest hour and you have forsaken them. Indeed, the lives of thousands of Gazans hang in the balance, and your collusion with Western elites in cutting aid to a most vital relief organization will help push countless innocent people over the edge. By this very action, Canada will be complicit in genocide.

Egregiously ambiguous, if not incoherent, in your response to the ICJ’s provisional ruling regarding South Africa’s case against Israel, you claim to respect the rule of law, yet you are obdurate in your unqualified support of a state that has flouted UN resolutions and conventions from its inception. And thus you perceive the October 7th attacks (significantly aggravated by Israeli Apache helicopters and IDF tanks under the Hannibal Directive) as more heinous than Israel’s murder of 26,000 plus Gazans. (To be clear, this figure does not include the thousands of injured and those who have died under the rubble.) While shocking, the events of October 7, 2023, pale beside Israel’s genocide of an entire Palestinian population. And yet, your reaction is tepid at best. You show no outrage over Israel’s murderous deeds, including its swift killing of 102 UNWRA workers in Gaza, but are inflamed when (undocumented and unproven) allegations emerge from Israel’s security service that 12 staff members of UNRWA were involved in the October attacks. Your preferential treatment of Israel – the state now on trial – is breathtaking.

If, today, there is still only a risk that Israel is committing genocide, the current smear campaign that it has launched (together with Western allies) against UNRWA will certainly increase its chances of being accused of that unspeakable crime against humanity – the elimination of a people, whether in whole or in part. But Israel will not be the only guilty party. Western powers will face their day of judgment as well. By flocking together under the same political canopy, states that continue to support Israel, financially and militarily, will also find themselves standing in the dock, confronting their sins and their sullied plumage.

Sirs: it is in your political interest to listen to those Canadians who are protesting your decision. They are or were potentially your voters and they are incensed by your genuflection at the altar of Israel’s US-and-Western-backed PR campaign, not only to justify but to intensify its ongoing genocide of Palestinians. This latest outrage by Western colonial powers is galling to anyone of conscience. And no suave hypocrisy, no discursive varnish will conceal its vicious inhumanity. By persistently feeding Israel’s killing machine while claiming self-righteously to offer humanitarian assistance, you are abetting the vile starvation policies of Yoav Gallant. Have you no shame, no decency, sirs?

I, along with countless Canadians, urge you to rescind your decision to cut aid to UNRWA. The people of Gaza do not deserve to die on account of some undocumented military allegations against a dozen UNRWA staff – a tiny fraction of the entire personnel. It is time to listen to the many citizens of conscience who are demanding that you change course, that you resist the tide of white supremacy stemming from the US and Europe. It is time that you follow in the footsteps of Ireland, Scotland, Spain, and Norway, and adhere to a morally sound path, one that would lead to genuine justice and material salvation for the besieged Palestinians. These utterly battered people have waited long enough for relief – 75 years to be precise. It’s time you stepped up to the plate.


Michelle Weinroth
Canadian (ex-Israeli) Jew
Ottawa, ON •

Michelle Weinroth is a writer and teacher living in Ottawa.

Defunding UNRWA Contributes to the Ongoing Israeli Genocide in the Gaza Strip,
in Contradiction to the ICJ’s Provisional Measures

In response to Israeli accusations claiming that 12 out of 13,000 UNRWA Gaza-based staff were involved in the 7 October 2023 operations, the USA, EU, UK, Canada, Italy, Australia, Germany, Netherlands, and Finland suspended funding to the UN agency. States’ decisions to suspend UNRWA funds serve Israel’s ongoing aim to eliminate UNRWA (and with it the Palestinian refugee issue). This also contradicts the ICJ’s provisional measures and further obstructs UNRWA’s ability to provide aid and assistance in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, the defunding of UNRWA constitutes political blackmail by using the prevention of humanitarian aid as a method of warfare and deepens states’ involvement in the Israeli genocide in the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Israel Katz, stated that “UNRWA will not be part of the day after” in the Gaza Strip and has already begun to lobby states – namely those that have suspended funding – to ensure this becomes a reality. At the same time, Benny Gantz, Israeli War Cabinet Minister, stated that the war in Gaza may take 10 years, if not more. It is clear from Israeli statements and actions since the ICJ ruling, it has no intention of following the provisional measures the court set forth on 26 January 2024.

Regardless of whether or not UNRWA staff were involved in the 7 October operations, defunding UNRWA and penalizing the dying, starving, thirsty, ill and displaced Palestinians of the Gaza Strip is, at the very minimum, collective punishment. These decisions contradict the ICJ’s binding provisional measure to ensure immediate humanitarian aid, and more critically, contribute to the Israeli genocidal war. In order to prevent the genocide of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, states are obligated to facilitate the work of UN agencies and international organizations, not defund them and further cripple their abilities to provide life-saving aid. According to UN Special Rapporteur, Francesca Albanese, on the occupied Palestinian territory, the states that have defunded UNRWA are “collectively punishing millions of Palestinians at the most critical time, and most likely violating their obligations under the Genocide Convention.”

The Israeli allegations against UNRWA and its personnel are not new. Since its inception, UNRWA has been strategically targeted by Israel through defamation and slander campaigns in an attempt to eliminate the Agency. These campaigns intensified since the Oslo Accords and subsequent 30 years of “peace process,” severely hampering the Agency’s ability to fulfill its mandate to provide aid and services to Palestinian refugees. It is clear that the Israeli defamation and defunding campaigns against UNRWA are part of its strategy to obliterate the Palestinian refugee issue. UNRWA’s funding is particularly vulnerable as it is voluntary and therefore dependent on the goodwill of states and the political environment. Funding UNRWA is an international responsibility that stems from the UN and states’ obligations toward Palestinian refugees; it is not a favor. However, Israel has been continuously and deliberately manipulating the political environment to serve its agenda and goals – the recent allegations serve as an outstanding example.

In this particular instance, the allegations came after the ICJ ruling, which includes measures for Israel to ensure the provision of adequate humanitarian aid and assistance to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The recent allegations were preceded by a notable increase in UNRWA’s statements that included Israel’s deliberate targeting of UN staff and facilities in the Gaza Strip – several of which were cited in the ICJ ruling. It is quite apparent that the timing and nature of Israel’s allegations are deliberate, as they serve its ongoing strategy to weaponize humanitarian aid.

Since the launch of Israel’s genocidal war against the Gaza Strip, Israel has killed 152 UNRWA staff, damaged 141 installations, in addition to rendering only 4 out of 22 health facilities operational. Israel continues to target UN facilities, particularly UNRWA structures that are serving as extremely inadequate shelters for 1.7 million internally displaced Palestinians. As of 15 January, due to repeated Israeli bombardments of the Gaza Strip causing multiple displacements, UNRWA has been unable to keep track of the Palestinian internally displaced population which had previously been 1.9 million.

Rather than call for an investigation and prosecution of the killings of these UN employees, and compensation for the destroyed UN facilities, colonial states have decided based on Israel’s allegations to temporarily suspend funding to the UN agency with the most presence and legitimacy to provide humanitarian aid and services in the Gaza Strip. According to Philippe Lazzarini, the Agency’s Commissioner-General, “UNRWA is the primary humanitarian agency in Gaza, with over 2 million people depending on it for their sheer survival.”

The suspension of UNRWA funds serves Israel’s goal to eliminate the agency, its wider strategy to weaponize humanitarian aid and also contributes to the genocide in the Gaza Strip. As such, states that have taken these decisions are further involving themselves in the Israeli genocide of Palestinians.

In order to ensure that the 2 million plus Palestinians in the Gaza Strip receive the lifesaving aid and assistance they are entitled to, BADIL calls on:

  • States and the UN to immediately increase their contributions to UNRWA during this life-threatening time as a fulfilment of their obligation to prevent Genocide;
  • Private companies and individuals to make and/or increase their contributions to UNRWA to bridge the current financial gap resulting from states’ defunding decisions;
  • UN Secretary General to urgently seek an emergency fund resolution for UNRWA by the UN General Assembly;
  • The UN to take strategic and long-term measures to change UNRWA’s funding mechanism from voluntary to obligatory on member states in order to liberate UNRWA from colonial states’ political blackmail. •

UNRWA Funding Cuts Threaten Palestinian Lives in Gaza and Region, Say 20 NGOs

Oxfam, together with 19 other aid organizations, is deeply concerned and outraged that some of the largest donors have suspended funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the main aid provider for millions of Palestinians in Gaza and the region. The aid cuts come amid a rapidly worsening humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.

The suspension of funding by donor states will impact life-saving assistance for over two million civilians, over half of whom are children, who rely on UNRWA aid in Gaza. The population faces starvation, looming famine and an outbreak of disease under Israel’s continued indiscriminate bombardment and deliberate deprivation of aid in Gaza.

We welcome UNRWA’s swift investigation into the alleged involvement of a small number of UN staff members in the October 7th  attacks. We are shocked by the reckless decision to cut a lifeline for an entire population by some of the very countries that had called for aid in Gaza to be stepped up and for humanitarians to be protected while doing their job. This decision comes as the International Court of Justice ordered immediate and effective action to ensure the provision of humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza.

152 UNRWA staff have already been killed and 145 UNRWA facilities damaged by bombardment. UNRWA is the largest humanitarian agency in Gaza and their delivery of humanitarian assistance cannot be replaced by other agencies working in Gaza. If the funding suspensions are not reversed we may see a complete collapse of the already restricted humanitarian response in Gaza.

With approximately over one million displaced Palestinians taking shelter in or around 154 UNRWA shelters, the agency and aid organizations have continued to work in near-impossible circumstances to provide food, vaccinations, and fresh water. The countries suspending funds risk further depriving Palestinians in the region of essential food, water, medical assistance and supplies, education, and protection.

We urge donor states to reaffirm support for the vital work that UNRWA and its partners do to help Palestinians survive one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes of our times. Countries must reverse these funding suspensions, uphold their duties towards the Palestinian people and scale up humanitarian assistance for civilians in dire need in Gaza and the region. •

Signatory organizations:

  1. War Child Alliance
  2. ActionAid
  3. Norwegian Refugee Council
  4. Diakonia
  5. Oxfam
  6. Première Urgence Internationale
  7. Médecins du Monde France, Spain, Switzerland, Canada, Germany, Danish Refugee Council
  8. Johanniter International Assistance
  9. The Association of International Development Agencies – Aida
  10. Humanity & Inclusion/ Handicap International (HI)
  12. CCFD-Terre Solidaire
  13. International Council for Voluntary Agencies
  14. Norwegian People’s Aid
  15. Plateforme des ONG françaises pour la Palestine
  16. Norwegian Church Aid
  17. DanChurchAid
  18. American Friends Service Committee
  19. Caritas Internationalis
  20. Save the Children

Individuals can donate to the UNRWA.

Sign petition.