After at least 9 countries announced that they were suspending funding to the agency following information that some of its employees participated in the massacre on October 7, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan attacked the move, even though UNRWA’s list of the 10 largest donors includes only one Arab country

After several countries announced that they were halting their funding to the Palestinian refugee relief agency UNRWA following information that some of the agency’s employees participated in the October 7 massacre, a number of Arab countries spoke out against the decision.

At a press conference held Sunday by the foreign ministers of Egypt and Saudi Arabia, as part of the visit to Cairo by Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry pointed out that UNRWA provides aid to the Palestinian people. He added that the words used by the countries that pulled their funding to accuse the UNRWA workers of participating in the attack on October 7 are strong words “that are not used even in the face of the killing of more than 26,000 innocents and civilians in the Gaza Strip, most of them women and children.”

An UNRWA school in the Gaza Strip

Shoukry added that the cessation of aid now is surprising, especially since the agency employs about 30,000 people. He added that 120 employees of the agency have been killed in the war in the Gaza Strip and emphasized that the timing of the accusations is related to the decision of the International Court of Justice in The Hague and an attempt to divert world attention from the decision that was made.

Later, the Egyptian Al-Cairo news channel reported that the Egyptian foreign minister said in a telephone conversation with UNRWA’s Commissioner General, Philippe Lazzarini, that Egypt fully supports the agency’s role in the challenges it faces.

Secretary General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit also commented on the funding freeze. “We warn of the consequences of incitement against UNRWA and refuse the collective punishment of the Palestinians by cutting off the agency’s funding. We are surprised that Western countries are stopping funding at this dangerous stage on the basis of accusations against several employees,” he said.

Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safdi, Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan
(Photos: JOHN THYS / AFP, REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)

The Jordanian foreign minister, Ayman al-Safadi, clarified that UNRWA “plays a necessary role in providing humanitarian aid to more than 2 million Palestinians who are facing a humanitarian disaster due to the Israeli attacks in Gaza.” In a telephone conversation with Lazzarini, Safadi said that “the international community must provide the necessary assistance to the agency to allow it to continue providing its services in Gaza.”

It is important to note that UNRWA’s main source of funding is donor countries – which come mainly from the West, and not from the Muslim world. In the list of the 20 countries that contributed the highest amounts to the agency in 2022, The only Muslim countries are Saudi Arabia, in eighth place, with a donation of $27 million, and Qatar in 20th place , with a contribution of $10.5 million. Turkey is also on the list, in 10th place, with a contribution of slightly more than $25 million.

The U.S., is the country that contributed the highest amount, by a significant margin from the other countries, with almost $344 million. In second and third place for 2022 are Germany ($202 million) and the European Union ($114 million), which each transferred separately and is more than the sum of all Muslim countries combined.

Gaza refugees living in tents in Khan Younis
(Photo: AP/Ashraf Amra)

The halt in funding, according to the U.S., Great Britain, Italy, Canada and other countries, is very significant for the agency, which relies on these donations. These are all countries that have been major donors. For example, in 2022 Italy contributed $ 18 million, Canada contributed an amount of $23.7 million and Australia’s contribution was $13.8 million, all three of which were also placed on the agency’s 2022 list of the top 20 contributors.

The halt of funding from these countries will significantly harm UNRWA’s activities and will force the agency to look for new sources of funding. Arab countries, the countries that are now complaining about the stop of funding, are not among UNRWA’s major donors and most of them face severe economic crises themselves.

As reported by Ynetnews