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Ways to support PalestineOn May 10, 2021, Hamas launched a rocket attack on Jerusalem in retaliation for recent police clashes. Subsequently, this led to over a week of ongoing violence leaving hundreds dead. While the history of this conflict is long and complicated, there are ways to support Palestine right now. With millions living in the region who do not have access to basic necessities such as clean water and electricity, support from the international community is vital.

Educating Oneself

The history of the conflict in Israel and Palestine is long and complicated, going back over 100 years. Therefore, one of the best ways to support Palestine is for one to garner education on what has led to the current circumstances. For example, a few good sources where people can learn the history of the conflict are:

  • The History Channel. The History Channel offers background on what is happening in the region as well as the history of how things got where they are.
  • Britannica. Britannica offers a deeper look at the Arab-Israeli wars that have happened since 1948 to show how violence has spread throughout the region.
  • The United Nations. The United Nations has a fact sheet about the history of “The Question of Palestine” which explains the international community’s role in the situation.

Economic Boycott

Another way to support Palestine is through targeted consumer boycotts. Some companies that benefit from the conflict include:

  • Hewlett-Packard. Hewlett-Packard (HP) is responsible for the biometric ID system that helps Israeli officials restrict the movement of Palestinians.
  • Sabra. The Strauss Group partially owns Sabra. This is an Israeli “company that provides financial support to the Israeli army.”
  • Pillsbury. In contrast to Sabra, Pillsbury has factories on occupied land that belongs to Palestinians.

Despite their involvement, none of these companies have issued a statement on the current conflict.

Contact Elected Officials

On April 15, 2021, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) introduced the Defending the Human Rights of Palestinian Children and Families Living Under Israeli Military Occupation Act. This act would prohibit Israeli authorities from using U.S. funding in Palestinian detention camps, demolishing Palestinian homes and annexing further Palestinian lands. Contacting elected officials and urging their support for this bill is one of the most effective ways to support Palestine.

Share Palestinian Voices

Today, social media is an immensely effective tool that people can use to communicate with others across the globe. For instance, among the ways to support Palestine, sharing Palestinian voices on social media is one of the easiest to do. Additionally, some informational social media accounts to follow include:

Organizations Already Helping

There are, in fact, already many organizations finding ways to support Palestine. Some of these organizations include:

  • Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres. Services include remote counseling, supporting local hospitals and providing hygiene and sanitation training. Additionally, it has provided basic first aid training to hospital staff. Over 90,000 outpatient consultations occurred in 2019.
  • United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA). The UNWRA provides humanitarian aid such as education, healthcare and infrastructure improvement within 27 refugee camps throughout Gaza and the West Bank. With access to clean water and electricity at crisis levels, support from UNRWA is vital to the people in these camps.
  • Palestine Children’s Relief Fund. This organization provides medical care to sick and injured Palestinian children. To do this, it sends volunteer doctors overseas, sponsors orphans, runs humanitarian programs and works on infrastructure projects. Since its founding in 1992, PCRF has sent over 2,000 children abroad for free medical care and built two pediatric cancer departments in Palestine.

The conflict between Israel and Palestine goes back decades and has complicated roots. However, there are people in the area that need help now. The good news is that there are ways to support Palestine from right where you are. By educating oneself, donating, boycotting, contacting elected officials and sharing the voices of those in Palestine, anyone can help support the people who live there.

– Taryn Steckler-Houle
Photo: Flickr

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon
In an essay on humanitarian purpose, Ilana Feldman expressed a sentiment that many humanitarian workers share. She expressed hopelessness in her ability to alter the lives of suffering Palestinians. She believes that this despondency has led many humanitarian workers to promote endurance and resilience within a harsh reality. Instead of a determination to alter this reality, Palestinian refugees must endure it, including those in Lebanon. This hopelessness was not as prevalent in 1947.

The Nakba

Between 1947 and 1949, the flight of Palestinians reached staggering numbers. By 1949, approximately 750,000 Palestinians had fled Israel. According to the Palestinian narrative, these refugees underwent forcible expulsion. In fact, evidence exists to suggest this. One Israeli intelligence document estimates that 75% of Palestinians fled as a result of Zionist military action. Israelis claim otherwise.

Their flight followed the U.N. partition plan. In 1947, because of increasing feuds between the Palestinian, British and Jewish inhabitants of Palestine, the British decided to end its mandate over Palestine and transfer control to the U.N. general assembly. The U.N. chose to partition Palestine into two separate states. The Jews would receive around 56% of the land, and the Arabs would receive around 43%.

The majority of Arabs, however, experienced disillusionment with this outcome, as their population outweighed Jews by more than half a million. Thus, the ensuing war led to what Arabs term the nakba or the catastrophe and what Zionists term the Israeli War for Independence. This nomenclature highlights the contrasting narratives of the Palestinians-Israeli conflict.

After the Israeli victory in 1948, many of the 750,000 Palestinian refugees fled to neighboring countries. One of these countries was Lebanon. Today, the number of Palestinian refugees has risen to approximately 5 million. As many as 476,000 reside in Lebanon and are registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

The Weight of Economic Decline on Palestinians

On August 4, 2020,  catastrophe plagued Lebanon. A port in Beirut housing ammonium nitrate, a highly explosive chemical, exploded. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 178 people have died and 300,000 people are homeless as a result of the explosion. These conspicuous hardships accompany economic decline.

Approximately half the population lives below the poverty line, and the Lebanese currency has dropped by 80%. Before the explosion and the rise of COVID-19, the debt was nearly $80 billion, the third-highest debt-to-GDP ratio in the world. Some ascribed this economic crisis to corruption. Others believed it was the vestiges of the 15-year Lebanese civil war. Today, the debt is $93.4 billion, an 8.9% increase from February 2020.

Such circumstances have disproportionately affected Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The financial crisis has fostered a decline in services provided by the UNRWA, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA). For years, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon could not obtain employment in as many as 39 different professions.

Today, the financial crisis has bred unemployment for the few Palestinians fortunate enough to receive employment in Lebanon. In conjunction with inadequate electricity and a lack of clean water, the 12 Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon have also experienced a spike in depression.

Conclusion

Despite grim circumstances, various organizations—the Lebanese Red Cross, the Lebanese Food Bank, Impact Lebanon and the Amel Association–have raised millions of dollars to assuage the economic and health-related impacts of the explosion. Additionally, the UNRWA is ameliorating the spread of COVID-19. Efforts range from regular sterilization of camps to education on the virus for Palestinian refugees. Much more can occur to acknowledge the plight of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, and the opportunity to return to their self-proclaimed homeland is still a distant hope. But these efforts do not simply contribute to endurance for Palestinian refugees. They do not amount to a default outcome. Though they should feel unsatisfying to any ambitious humanitarian worker, they still render real-world outcomes for Palestinian refugees. Amid growing hopelessness, that is nonetheless something to praise.

Blake Dysinger
Photo: Flickr

peace in palestine
The current issue between Israel and Palestine is a critical conflict as Palestinians face possible annexation from regions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, affecting 2.1 to 3 million Palestinians. The political strife has been off and on for approximately 100 years as the possibility of annexation becomes a reality. However, the questions of education, healthcare and human rights become prevalent when considering Palestine and its people. Here’s what you need to know about the problem with peace in Palestine.

The Conflict

Palestine and Isreal’s conflict of political power stems from the want for the same land and the power over it. With Isreal already in control of 60% of the West Bank and looking to control upwards of 30% more, Palestinians are worried about their homes and lives as they could force individuals to leave as a result. For many Palestinians, the overall result of the annex is hard to determine, but United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights leader Michelle Bachelet states, “shockwaves of the annexation will last for decades.” As annexation is illegal in terms of international law and is a violation of human rights, the result of backlash is expected.

In 2019, Isreal destroyed hundreds of properties in the West Bank for a lack of approved permits, many of which were owned by Palestinians who had built homes without proper licenses. Although they’ve built homes without authorization, Palestinians may only get construction approved by the Israelis. More often than not, they are denied.

The destruction of these areas can be detrimental to many individuals and any future of peace in Palestine. Palestinian refugees are offered services from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to cater to basic needs such as education, healthcare, shelter and more. The agency defines Palestinian refugees as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.”

Impact on Education

As a result of violence, many are concerned about the safety of children, educational systems and peace in Palestine. Threats of destruction complicate the route to school as students or teachers may be stopped at security checkpoints, and past violence has occurred by Israeli forces. An estimated 19,000 children were involved in the 111 different educational inference cases in the West Bank documented by the UN in 2018.

In 2018, the UNRWA endured a sizeable financial burden as a result of the American government’s decision to decrease the budget for that year. This was the most significant budget cut in history for the agency, resulting in a loss of $300 million for the year. For many, school is supposed to represent a safe and comfortable environment. As a result of the new budget, children and families worried they would not be able to return to school. This led to the UNRWA launching the Dignity is Priceless campaign, a global fundraising campaign advocating for student’s educational and health needs. The campaign’s purpose was to ensure that there would be enough funding and support to reopen the doors. It led the way for other organizations to support education funding.

Campaigns for Aid

Many organizations are standing in support of peace in Palestine, looking to help during this significant humanitarian crisis. UNICEF is working to make an impact in these communities that now lack necessities like drinking water and unsafe access to education. UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children 2020 has accepted $13.7 million in funding, improving access to water for over 30,000 persons and providing water tanks to over 4,100 households. By the end of 2019, they continued to support Palestine’s education system assessing that 6,200 children safely accessed school, and 90,000 students could participate in summer activities.

For many children in Palestine, education is a want, not a given opportunity. The Rights to Education (Right2Edu) campaign strives to bring awareness to the importance of education for Palestinian children and to the hardship’s educational systems face. At the same time, there is a struggle for peace in Palestine. Right2Edu began assisting students and faculty who would be subjected to arrests of the Israeli troops and provides legal assistance to those who may have experienced an educational interference on their way to or from school. The Rights to Education’s primary mission is to pursue the human right of education for all.

The struggle for peace between the two states continues to be an uphill battle. With an emphasis on the future of children in Palestine, 3 campaigns from NGOs show their support through campaigns and field visits to continue to provide supplies and hope for those in Palestine.

Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

Threatens Millions of Palestinians
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was established in 1949, after the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, in order to offer relief and works programs for Palestinian refugees. Since its inception, UNRWA has gone from helping some 750,000 Palestinian refugees to approximately 5 million Palestinians today.

Funding

Funded entirely by the contributions of U.N. member nations, UNRWA directs its efforts towards services ranging from education to healthcare to microfinance. Their budget is divided into 54 percent to education, 17 percent to health, 16 percent to support services, 9 percent to relief and social services, and 4 percent to infrastructure and camp improvement.

Unfortunately, these services are at risk due to a potential $250 million shortfall. A significant decline in the United States’ contribution, from $364 million last year to $60 million this year is said to be responsible for the shortage of funds.

Impact in Syria

Amidst the destructive conflict in Syria, 560,000 Palestinian refugees are among the worst affected. Through the Syria Crisis Response Plan, UNRWA provides vital humanitarian assistance through emergency healthcare, education, food and household items. In Syria alone, $411 million is necessary to maintain these crucial provisions.

The UNRWA has provided 44,000 young Palestinian refugees with the opportunity to pursue primary and secondary education. However, if the funding shortage cannot be met, their safety, as well as their education, is at risk.

Impact in Gaza

Through 22 health centers, UNRWA provides healthcare services to over 1.2 million Palestinian refugees in Gaza. Due to the ongoing conflict in Gaza and limited resources available, UNRWA also offers emergency food assistance to 830,000 Palestinian refugees living below the poverty line as well as 45,870 cash-for-work opportunities and counseling for upwards of 25,000 refugee children. Funding shortages place all of these essential services at risk.

UNRWA has 252 schools in Gaza that educate more than 240,400 students. These schools now face a similar, bleak fate to their Syrian counterparts should this massive funding gap fail to be filled. Aside from providing students a basic education, many of these schools include a dedicated human rights curriculum that promotes conflict resolution.

Impact in the West Bank

Palestinian refugees living in the West Bank are also at significant risk should the UNRWA not be able to resolve its funding shortage. UNRWA provides emergency food assistance to almost 36,000 households, in addition to working to improve camp environments for female and youth refugees. In 2012, for example, UNRWA assisted 113,374 food-insecure Palestinian refugees.

Significance of UNRWA Funding

According to Pierre Krahenbuhl, the commissioner general of the UNRWA, the most urgent threat the funding shortage poses is to emergency food aid to Palestinians in Gaza and Syria. However, the UNRWA has also been instrumental in offering high-quality education throughout the region, promoting gender equality, providing near-universal immunization, investing in small businesses, and providing food assistance to 1.7 million refugees.

What do all of these services have in common? They have been integral to raising Palestinian refugees out of poverty and ensuring basic human rights. We cannot allow UNRWA’s efforts to disappear. Failure to offer these resources threatens millions of Palestinians and only guarantees continued hardship for their communities and the region. 

– McAfee Sheehan
Photo: Flickr

Iraq
Israeli encroachment on Palestinian territory began in 1967 and has since established frameworks for Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement on the expansion of settlements in the West Bank. Since the Trump administration has transitioned to the White House, Israel has announced the expansion of 4,000 new illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.

Legislation to build the new settlements would violate international law, especially considering that Palestinians possess title deeds to prove ownership of occupied land. U.N. Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) defines that Palestinian territory settled upon by Israelis would constitute “flagrant violation” of international law.

The bill to facilitate illegal settlements in the West Bank is highly controversial. Israel’s attorney general, Avichai Mandelblit, is in opposition to its passage and promised to fight against it in the Supreme Court.

Netanyahu also perceives that the Trump administration will facilitate “significant opportunities” succeeding Obama’s policies in the Middle East that he cites as “huge pressures.” The creation of new illegal Israeli settlements in the region would be the first in 25 years.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) cites that there are almost 775,000 registered Palestinian refugees in the West Bank. A quarter of these refugees live across 19 camps and the rest in towns and villages. At least 270 Palestinians have been displaced and forced from their homes since the beginning of 2017.

U.S. foreign aid to Palestine began in the mid-1990s following the onset of “limited Palestinian self-rule” in Gaza and the West Bank. The U.S. is the largest single-state donor to the UNRWA and has committed more than $5 billion in bilateral aid to assist in decreasing terrorism against Israel, promote efficient governing infrastructures that could lead to regional peace and to provide humanitarian aid.

Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr