Jaramana refugee camp in Syria, 1948

US assault on UNRWA is part of an assault on all Palestinian ‘final status’ issues

Israel is making its final moves to eradicate Palestine in cahoots with USA, ensuring that whatever semblance remains of Palestine, will be subject to the Apartheid governance of the Jewish State.


It has long been recognized that the three major issues at the core of peace between Israel and the Palestinians are: Borders, Jerusalem and refugees.


Israel has been flexing the 1967 lines (which are actually 1949 Armistice lines) with its settlements, as well as its ‘security barrier’ which has been applied to de-facto annex Palestinian territory and is wholly illegal according to the International Court of Justice.

Israel is also preparing for annexation of territory under its control. There are various plans of how to do this without compromising an overwhelming Jewish political majority. They all, naturally, spell Apartheid in one way or another.

The recently passed Nation-State law is also a preparation towards such annexation, ensuring that whatever happens, Israel will not risk becoming a state representing all of its citizens – especially if non-Jews happen to make up its actual majority.

Israel is preparing for a final de-Jura takeover of historical Palestine, which it generally calls ‘Eretz Israel’, the ‘land of Israel’. American officials such as US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman are inculcating a new discourse concerning Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories, calling it an “alleged” occupation, following Prime Minister Netanyahu’s notion of “disputed territories”, as well as right-wing pundits such as Alan Baker who claim that there is simply “no occupation”.


US President Trump has supposedly ‘taken Jerusalem off the negotiating table’ in his unilateral move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s, and Israel’s alone.

Jerusalem was meant to be a central issue for peace negotiations. Even the UN in 1947 was aware that Jerusalem would be a sensitive political issue, which is why it was designated as a Corpus Separatum (separate entity under international auspices) in its ‘partition plan’.

Jerusalem was partially overtaken by Israel in 1948, and fully overtaken in 1967. Israel de-facto annexed it and later cemented its annexation in a 1980 quasi-constitutional ‘basic law’, the central clause of which is repeated in the recently passed Nation-State law.

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It has been recognized that both Israelis and Palestinians seek Jerusalem as a capital in a prospective two-state solution. Trump’s administration has definitively put that away, claiming it is all Israel’s.

So what’s left of these critical, ‘final status’ issues, to be arrived at in any prospective peace agreement? Refugees.


Refugees and the Palestinian Right of Return is the most central issue for Palestinians in general, as it relates to their actual dispossession, which was a necessary part of the Zionist endeavour. As Israeli historian Benny Morris ominously concludes, “transfer was inevitable and inbuilt in Zionism – because it sought to transform a land which was ‘Arab’ into a Jewish state and a Jewish state could not have arisen without a major displacement of Arab population”.

This continues to be the case – Israel continues to displace Arab Palestinians in order to consolidate its “Jewish state”, even inside what is considered ‘Israel proper’ (within 1949 Armistice lines), as we have for example seen in last year’s case of Umm al-Hiran, to be replaced with a an exclusively Jewish town named Hiran.

The US now seeks to eradicate the issue of Palestinians altogether, not only by defunding its central UN relief agency UNRWA, but by re-defining the Palestinian refugee status as a whole, so as to let it die with the generation of 1948.

As Marilyn Garson includes in her recent piece on Mondoweiss, “If there are no refugees, there will be no one to return – Understanding Trump’s war on UNRWA and Palestinian refugees”:

“[T]heir case rests on the belief that the descendants of first-generation refugees cannot qualify for refugee status. Palestinians, they claim, are the only refugees in the world who pass on their refugee status through the generations. The view is not shared by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the [US] State Department, which maintain that multiple generations of Afghan, Bhutanese, Burmese, Nepalese, Thai, Tibetan, and Somali people have been recognized as refugees”. 

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This point has long been one that Israel has been trying to push through, that UNRWA is supposedly creating fake refugees. But this is fake news.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has suggested that UNRWA does not hold “accurate accounts”, as part of the overall incitement campaign against UNRWA for being a “flawed organization”. And Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat can’t wait to kick UNRWA out of East Jerusalem. As Alison Deger reports on Mondoweiss, there have been reports about Netanyahu specifically asking Trump to close the tap on UNRWA a couple of weeks ago.

Gideon Levy wrote in Haaretz three days ago, in a piece titled “Shame on You, America”:

Only the UN relief agency for the Palestinians is improperly run. The leader of the free world, the greatest warmonger since World War II, cuts flour for Yarmouk and cooking oil for Bureij, because the Palestinians overestimate refugee numbers. Behind all this, of course, is a much broader truth. UNRWA could hire Eliad Shraga, head of the Movement for Quality Government in Israel, and comply with Scandinavian management standards, but nothing would make a difference. Israel long ago declared war on the agency, America followed it as usual, all with the aim of removing the refugee issue from the agenda”.

Wishing Palestine away

This is really what it is all about – it is not only about wishing the Palestinian refugee issue away (to borrow the expression from UNRWA head Pierre Krähenbühl), but about wishing away every single central aspect that could relate to Palestinian statehood in any way or form – over the whole of historical Palestine. At the same time, Israel is securing that wherever this leads territorially, it will never-ever lead to freedom, equality or justice for Palestinians. In other words, Israel is making its final moves to eradicate Palestine in cahoots with USA, ensuring that whatever semblance remains of Palestine, will be subject to the Apartheid governance of the Jewish State.

Zionists have been attempting to wish Palestine away since the start. First they imagined it was a “land without a people”, then Golda Meir said that Palestinians “didn’t exist” (1969), then Moshe Dayan said that “there is no more Palestine, finished” (1973). 

But it’s not finished, it’s not gone, they’re not gone.

Wishing something away is one thing, reality is another. We could wish that Israel wasn’t an Apartheid state – but it is.

Jonathan Ofir is an Israeli-Danish conductor, musician, writer and blogger, writing regularly for Mondoweiss.

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the writer’s only and do not necessarily represent those of The Turban Times.

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