Photo: Abed Rahim Khatib AP images
Garfield Senior High School

Op-Ed: How Trump’s Presidency is Impacting Palestinian Refugees

The U.S. administration announced it would only provide $65 million in aid to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), instead of last year’s $125 million in January.

Humanitarian agency, UNRWA, actively provides relief and educational and healthcare services to over 5 million Palestinian refugees. Funded solely by the donations of participating UN nations, the U.S. being an extremely critical and the largest donator, UNRWA depends heavily on the voluntary aid of other countries. Consequently, president Donald Trump’s decision to cut aid will have disastrous effects on Palestinian refugees and, understandably, refugees are worried.

Yet, refugees aren’t only concerned for the drastic budget cut, which will undoubtedly lead to a loss of already-limited UNRWA services, they’re also fearful for what Trump’s current foreign policies might mean for the future of their people. Clearly evident is the pro-Israel turn U.S. policy has taken in regard to the Palestinian refugee crisis under Trump’s administration and this stance is only strengthening.

As a result of recent U.S. foreign policy, Palestinians are expressing deep concern for the financial blow to UNRWA, their lifeline for the past 70 years, and what’s likely to be a dismal future.

It’s important to note, however, that Trump’s attitude towards Palestinian refugees resembles that of previous presidential administrations, albeit Trump’s policies are more aggressive and drastic than ever before. Indeed, Trump’s policies are a continuation of his predecessors who recognized that the only feasible solution to the Palestinian refugee crisis is permanent settlement in the future state of Palestine.

But, what is unprecedented is Trump’s budget cut – which will only further deepen the refugee crisis in Palestine. What’s worse is that such a highly-significant, diplomatic decision was provoked by what Trump tweeted as, “no appreciation or respect” from Palestinian refugees. Indeed, after declaring Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and subsequently facing international outcry, Trump proceeded to threaten to cut financial aid to UNRWA.

But, this decision comes with calamitous consequences, not only on Palestinians but on the refugee crises as well. Ultimately, these astronomical budget cuts will force UNRWA to cease the services they once offered. The effects on educational services will be the most immediate, followed by a spike in unemployment percentages (Thousands of Palestinians maintain a livelihood by receiving UNRWA loans), and over one million refugees will lack food and other basic necessities.

There’s no telling how such drastic and unplanned changes could affect the unstable region of the Middle East. Indeed, the effects would be immeasurable. The already precarious situation for Palestinian refugees would burden neighboring countries, including the Israeli government and invite further conflict and even war. The crises in Israel would certainly worsen as would America’s diplomatic relations with various countries in the Middle East.

Yet, there are courses of action we can take to aid Palestinian refugees and mitigate the escalating tensions in the Middle East:

 

  • Donate to UNRWA:The UN-sponsored, humanitarian organization works tirelessly to support more than 5 million Palestinian refugees. Given its new budget, UNRWA will now depend more than ever on individual donations to continue assisting refugees in Israel. Their website can be found here.
  • Join the #DignityisPriceless Campaign: Launched by UNRWA, this campaign is designed to protect and maintain the dignity of Palestinian refugees. Refugees deserve our solidarity and support. Use the campaign hashtags to spread the word on social media. Join now!