At a rally in the southern Gaza Strip that protested US aid cuts to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the head of the UNRWA workers’ union in Gaza, Amir al-Mishal, exhorted Palestinians to use violence to achieve their goals.
The US has been the largest sponsor of UNRWA, providing about one-third of the agency’s total budget. The Trump administration however, announced in January that the US was planning to cut $65 million this year from its budget to UNRWA unless necessary reforms were introduced in the agency.
Israel National News reported on the rally, which was held in Rafah on Wednesday. Al-Mishal spoke to the crowd, saying “the people who gathered here came to express their right to return.”
The “right of return” is a demand by Palestinian leaders to allow the descendants of Arabs who left Israel in 1948 to return and retake properties they had left behind. Unlike other refugees, the UN, through UNRWA, maintains refugee status for the descendants of Palestinian males who fled Israel in 1948.
The original number of refugees who fled Israel during the War of Independence in 1948 was estimated to have been around 750,000, but the current number of Palestinian “refugees” stands at approximately 5 million.
Al Mishal told the crowd that rights like the “right of return” are not received with supplication but must be extracted by force.”
UNRWA was established in 1949 and is the only UN agency dedicated to helping refugees from a specific region and conflict. The agency claims to provide health care, education and social services to Palestinian refugees. Investigations into UNRWA however, have discovered that funds from the UN agency have occasionally ended up in the hands of individuals engaged in terror activity.
School textbooks used in UNRWA schools have also been discovered to espouse egregious anti-Israel agendas. In 2014, US Senators demanded an impartial investigation into UNRWA’s alleged participation in the 2014 Gaza-Israel conflict, accusing UNRWA of being complicit with Hamas.