UNRWA until proven innocent

January 29, 2024
Palestinians inspect the ruins of Aklouk Tower destroyed in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City, October 8, 2023. Photo: Palestinian News & Information Agency/CC BY SA-3.0/Wikimedia

At the height of the British occupation of Ireland and persecution of nationalists, there was a macabre joke which had a ring of undeniable truth: “In the British justice system, you are Irish until proven innocent.”

The same tragic inversion of the concept of justice is being exploited in the “conflict” in Gaza.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) considered a charge of genocide brought by South Africa against Israel for its actions in Palestine.

In a considered, moderate and essentially conservative ruling, the ICJ delivered not so much as a rebuke but a warning to Israel to tread carefully to avoid committing genocide.

Much opinion around the world holds that Israel has already crossed the line into genocide, but the official reaction from Israel has been derisive.

This disrespectful attitude towards world opinion and rational and objective legal deliberation has occurred despite Israel having the right and benefit to argue its case before any verdict was reached.

In retaliation, Israel has alleged that some United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) workers were somehow complicit in the attack of October 7.

The immediate response by the usual countries — notably the United States, Britain and Australia — has been so suspend aid to UNRWA.

It is striking, but by no means surprising, that Australia has assumed that there is some truth to Israel’s accusations — enough truth to warrant action which undoubtedly will add to the human rights catastrophe in Palestine.

The bias in Australia’s position is a matter for shame.

The Labor government’s stated preference for a ceasefire is the same sort of rhetorical flourish which we have had to endure when Prime Minister Anthony Albanese claims to have made representations on to someone in the US on behalf of Julian Assange.

How much more convincing is the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in Palestine — Francesca Albanese — who points out that the pause in UNRWA funding will cost lives?

Meanwhile in the US, which, with Israel, is the world’s state most driven by Old Testament justice, is similarly warped.

Vengeance — through executions in some States — is paramount and human rights are a joke.

In the first three weeks of this year, there were 15 mass shootings. How can a country which does not, cannot and perhaps does not even intend to save its own children, help the children of Palestine?

Shortly after Israel’s attacks began to devastate the children of Gaza, President Joe Biden rejected out of hand Palestinian statistics on deaths. Clearly, he thinks that figures from UNICEF are also unreliable.

But while numbers might lose their meaning in this nightmare situation, the testimony of individuals cannot be ignored.

After returning from Gaza, Dr Seema Jilani described the trauma suffered by the people of Palestine and indeed by those working compassionately to ease the suffering to PBS in the US.

There is no need to repeat Jilani’s testimony here, but surely she cannot be dismissed as pro-Palestine, pro-Hamas or pro-terrorist. She is simply pro-humanity as her professional ethics require.

The campaign by Israel against Palestine is exposing the hypocrisy of the powers that control the US, Britain and Australia. We have known for some time that if these elites had hearts, they would stop supporting Israel.

With the ICJ case and Israel’s retaliation, we know too that they lack heads.

The claim by Israel that there is no shortage of food in Gaza — unchallenged by the self-proclaimed paragons of democracy — suggests that pathological maniacs control world affairs.

What these elites mean is that a little bit of democracy might be all right, but too much, such as the use of multilateral actions for human rights and peace, should be dismissed as a threat to their comfortable lives.

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