IPMN Responds to US Decision to Cease All Funding to UNRWA
September 6, 2018 — As the current and past moderators of the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), we strongly condemn the action taken last week by the State Department to completely withdraw US funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
The timing of this decision is contemptible, as Palestinian schools that receive UNRWA funding have just returned to session. This deliberately timed decision was made to force the most vulnerable Palestinians to bear the burden of the US action.
As leaders of IPMN, we deplore both the decision and the timing of this action. Not only is it an attempt to override the legal status and rights of refugees under occupation as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Status of Refugees, but it is intended to force the hand of the Palestinians to accept the trade-off of economic aid in exchange for abandoning their legitimate cause of the right of return under refugee status, a right that has not been denied to other refugee populations.
This complete withdrawal of funding follows the $65 million that was already cut in January 2018. The real agenda of the State Department is found in its statement: the push to delegitimize Palestinian refugees in Palestine, Israel and the diaspora and deprive them of their rights as refugees.
In its statement, the State Department has claimed, as it has in other contexts, that our country shoulders too much of the economic burden of such relief: "…the fundamental business model and fiscal practices that have marked UNRWA for years– tied to UNRWA’s endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries–is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years.” (Italics added.)
Let us be clear, those beneficiaries are Palestinian refugees, those people and their descendents forced out in 1948 for the creation of Israel, and through continuing Israeli military occupation. They are regarded by the US and Israeli governments as the inconvenient obstacles to a US-defined peace deal. While claiming that the US would not seek to revise the UN definition of refugee status, our State Department has decided that it can attempt to force those issues through aid cuts.
When it comes to Palestine, the Trump Administration is talking about refugee status not being transferable to the next generation, which in effect means if people are kept out of their homeland long enough, they will lose any claims to it.
IPMN stands in solidarity with those refugees and supports the Palestinians who not only object to this decision as well as the decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, but who know that such continuing actions do not promote peace in the region and in fact contribute to further destabilization.
These two decisions have taken two major negotiation items off the negotiation table: the right of return and the final status of Jerusalem. We strongly caution that unilateral decisions on contentious issues such as these are dangerous because there is no peace without justice.
We call upon the members of IPMN and the wider church to express to our legislators and the State Department our strong objections as Christians to the harm that this decision causes to Palestinians, particularly the impact on the next generation through defunding the education of over half a million Palestinian children.
Look, the tears of the oppressed—with no one to comfort them. ~ Ecclesiastes 4:1
Jeffrey DeYoe, moderator
Katherine Cunningham, past moderator
Carol Hylkema, past moderator
Kathleen Matsushima, past moderator
World Council of Churches Statement
On the decision by the Government of the United States of America to withdraw all funding from the UNRWA for Palestinian Refugees
UNRWA responds to the funding cuts
Open Letter from UNRWA Commissioner-General to Palestine Refugees and UNRWA Staff
Politicizing Palestinian refugees won't make them go away
By defunding UNRWA and attempting to define Palestinian refugees out of existence, the Trump administration is only shooting the messenger. UNRWA is a product, not the source, of the Palestinian refugee problem
IPMN Stands Against Continuing Demolitions and Destruction of the Village of Al-Walajeh
September 6, 2018 — Solidarity with residents of villages and olive tree farms during olive harvest and olive tree planting has long been part of IPMN’s mission presence in Palestine. For many years, we have been one of the partners of the Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI) through the Keep Hope Alive trips.
This week, +972 Magazine reported on the continuing demolition of Walajeh homes as part of Israeli land grabs for settlement expansion.
Al-Walajeh has been one of the villages that JAI has designated for solidarity action in the attempt to thwart takeovers of land and in order to secure the legitimate rights of the land owners to continue to reside there. IPMN will be sending another delegation with Keep Hope Alive in October which will be led by our moderator, Rev. Jeff DeYoe.
IPMN grieves with the families whose homes have been demolished and continue our commitment to stand in solidarity with all the residents of Al-Walajeh as they resist the demolition orders placed on their homes and livelihoods.
Personal Statement by Rev. Jeff DeYoe, IPMN Moderator
As an active participant in the Keep Hope Alive Olive Program in Palestine, which includes olive tree planting in February and the olive harvest in October, I have been in al-Walajeh and have met the farm families affected by the demolition and destruction orders.
Having grown up in rural Kansas, and serving rural parishes in both Kansas and Minnesota, I knew these people without ever having met them before. It did not matter if they were Christian or Muslim. I knew them as people of the land. They were the same people as the ranchers whose land I worked on as a teenager and whose farms I visited often as a pastor.
And as I have routinely watched Israeli soldiers and settlers come onto their fields uninvited and wreak havoc, my heart has broken many times over and my anger has risen up within my being.
I have watched the Palestinian program directors negotiate with Israeli military commanders to make it possible for us to stay and work. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes they don’t. When they haven’t succeeded settlers have been given free rein to tear up the hundreds of trees we had already planted.
And I have seen the pain in the eyes of these farm families. I can’t imagine the pain I’d see today, as now even their homes are being destroyed. This is the land of their ancestors, being unceremoniously stolen from them.
God is not a land stealer in the Jewish, Muslim or Christian faith. Humans do that, and then say God told them it was okay. No, it is not okay. It was not okay centuries ago and it is not okay now.
We condemn this destruction of olive trees and crops, the destruction of homes and villages of these farm families living on ancestral lands, and the destruction of their peaceful and rural lives.