The Trump administration’s recent decision to end all funding to the UN agency tasked with supporting Palestinian refugees has sparked anger among many quarters of the world.
The US has long been the single largest donor to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), donating more than $350 million to the agency in 2017. The agency offers educational, health and social services across the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon to more than five million registered Palestinian refugees. It educates about 500,000 children in nearly 700 schools and its doctors see more than nine million patients in nearly 150 primary health clinics every year.
More than 700,000 Palestinians were forced from their land in the events that led to the creation of the Zionist state. Surviving refugees and their descendants still live in camps in neighbouring Arab countries, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Palestinians have always demanded that these refugees should be allowed to return to their homes. But Tel Aviv is vehemently opposed to this move. An official familiar with the decision told The Washington Post that “as part of its decision, the US will also call for a sharp decrease in the number of Palestinians who are recognised as refugees, reducing the current five million figure to fewer than a tenth of that number”.
The decision has created a ripple of excitement among the Zionist circles that never tire of ruining the lives of Palestinians. This seems to be a stance that is likely to strengthen Israel’s position because the Zionist state fears that the return of refugees will cause a phenomenal rise in the Palestinian population. Many Palestinians view the cuts as an attempt by Washington to impose a solution to the dispute that favours the Israel.
It seems that the Trump administration is keen on using economic strangulation, the threat of aid cuts, and financial sanctions as a means to achieve its foreign policy goals. Palestinians aren’t the first group of people against whom such a tool was employed. In the past, UN sanctions, under Washington’s pressure, led to the killing of around 500,000 children in Iraq. This event forced a senior UN official to resign from his post against such “inhuman sanctions”, which he declared genocidal in nature.
The sanctions of the international body at the behest of America and its Western allies also wreaked havoc in North Korea and other parts of the world. In recent times, Trump used such sanctions against Iran, Russia and Turkey. Interestingly, the sword of these sanctions has never fallen on Israel – one of the most oppressive states in the world – that has flouted international laws and norms on countless occasions since its creation in 1948.
The economic strangulation of a hapless nation that has been living under miserable conditions for decades is a blot on the face of humanity. It flies in the face of all the tall claims made by the democratic countries of being civilised and conscientious. It also raises questions about the sensitivity of Muslim countries that never stop using religion to advance their political goals.
Why didn’t such sanctions impact Saudi Arabia, which has recently showered over $400 billion on business deals with American companies? Can it summon enough courage to scrap the deals as a mark of protest against America’s position on Israeli atrocities? Why is Qatar, which poured $11 billion into the pocket of US arms dealers, reluctant to step in and offer a few billion dollars to Palestinians who have been suffering for resisting the illegal occupation of their land by a Zionist apartheid?
It is disheartening to see that Arab monarchs can lavishly spend millions of dollars on buying palatial homes in Western capitals but shy away from helping one of the most distressed nations in the world. The US contributed $350 million to the agency in 2017, which is nothing compared to the immense wealth that the Arab monarchs have amassed over the decades. Only opulent Saudis are believed to have invested around $3 trillion in the US and other Western countries.
Their extravagant spending is the envy of even the Western ruling elite. For instance, the Saudi crown prince reportedly bought a yacht for $500 million and spent another $450 million on Da Vinci painting. Arab monarchs are believed to have spent millions of dollars on hunting expeditions in countries like Pakistan. But when it comes to the plight of Palestinians, their wells of wealth tend to dry up.
The cuts should also unite conscientious people across the world against the increasing use of sanctions by the US and its Western allies for political purposes. Such sanctions amount to provoking nations into taking a hard line on issues that could otherwise be resolved through talks and negotiations. We mustn’t forget that it was the sanctions of the Treaty of Versailles that prompted Germany to harden its stance on various issues. The policy of strangulation also helped Hitler to exploit the situation, prompting him to push his country and the world towards a conflagration that decimated around 70 million people.
The recent sanctions and aid cuts by the US against Russia, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and other states are only helping hardliners everywhere. They are fuelling anti-American and anti-West feelings. Such sentiments have compelled Moscow to manufacture dangerous missiles. Anti-American sentiments are also adding to Recep Tayyib Erdogan’s popularity in Turkey. They are also likely to help a cloistered group of clerics in Iran who don’t want to have any interaction with the international community and are prepared to follow a suicidal path to teach the West a tough lesson.
Washington’s attitude is producing a new political alignment. All those who are fed up with America’s threats and alleged financial rapaciousness are uniting on one platform. Iran, Russia and China are hobnobbing with one another. Even a close Western ally like Pakistan has been forced to look towards the East. Nato member Turkey is also extending an olive branch to Russia and Iran, America’s enemies. Some of them are even mulling the prospect of adopting non-dollar currencies to trade. Barter trade is also being discussed as a means to get rid of dollars.
Such alignments will create alarm in Western capitals. To assert its power, Washington can go to any extent. But the emerging political alignment is also prepared to counter it. This clearly indicates that a possible military confrontation is in the offing. For instance, Iran has already warned that new sanctions will be vehemently resisted. Russia is also furious over US sanctions while Turkey’s fawning is also visible over Washington’s duty regime. Therefore, America’s ruling elite must stop using the threat of economic sanctions and financial strangulation as it will result in a situation where all stakeholders will find themselves destroying one another.
The writer is a freelance journalist.
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