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Ireland Pledges $21M for UNRWA, Slams Israel’s “Disinformation Campaign”

Roughly 70 percent of aid to the UNRWA has been suspended by countries like the US and Germany.

A Palestinian student walks out of a UNRWA school with a lunchbox in her hand at al-Am'ari Refugee Camp after funding cuts to UNRWA in Ramallah, West Bank, on February 3, 2024.

Ireland’s foreign ministry has announced that the country is pledging €20 million, or about $21.5 million, to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) as Israel escalates its genocide of Palestinians and the humanitarian crisis in Gaza becomes yet more dire.

Deputy prime minister of Ireland and foreign minister Micheál Martin announced the funding during a visit by UNRWA Commissioner General Philippe Lazzarini to Dublin on Thursday, saying that the funding is needed now more than ever as other countries suspend their funding to the agency.

“In Gaza, we are bearing witness to a humanitarian catastrophe. People are in dire need of the most basic lifesaving provisions — food, water, shelter. In these most harrowing conditions, facing the prospect of further military escalation, UNRWA is the backbone of the humanitarian response. It urgently needs support from all UN Member States,” Martin said. “I urge other donors to resume and expand support to UNRWA so that it can deliver for the millions of Palestinian refugees in need.”

Irish leaders have long been allies to the cause of Palestinian liberation, having also been historic victims of colonialism. Ireland’s commitment is the highest annual contribution it’s ever given to the agency, officials said. Last year, Ireland gave $19 million to the UNRWA directly, and another $19 million to other projects supporting Palestinians.

Spain has also pledged to send an additional €3.5 million, or about $3.8 million, to the agency, while Portugal has committed an additional €1 million, or about $1.1 million. A number of other countries in the Middle East have also pledged their support.

They are standing among just a few countries who have pledged not to suspend their funding to the UNRWA amid investigations into Israeli accusations against a dozen of the agency’s 30,000 workers.

Martin has criticized the funding suspensions, saying that they are unconscionable at this moment of catastrophe in Gaza and based on unproven claims by Israeli officials.

“I was deeply concerned that a number of UNRWA key donors suspended their funding based on allegations against a very small number of staff that have yet to be proven,” he said.

“The International Court of Justice ordered Israel to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian assistance to address the adverse conditions of life faced by Palestinians in the Gaza strip,” Martin continued. “Instead, Israel has launched a disinformation campaign against UNRWA.”

Indeed, numerous reports have found that the UNRWA and countries that have suspended funding have seen no evidence backing Israel’s allegations against the agency, which Israeli officials have long wanted defunded — and yet donor countries like the U.S. and Germany, the top two contributors to the group, have cut off 70 percent of the agency’s funding so far.

Lazzarini has said, meanwhile, that the agency is under “existential threat” due to the funding suspensions. If the UNRWA is not allowed to continue its work, which constitutes obtaining and distributing aid like shelter and food to Palestinians as well as coordinating other aid groups around the region, the consequences for Palestinians in Gaza will be disastrous.

After slowing aid to a trickle into Gaza for months, depriving Palestinians of food, water, medicine, and essentially all other basic needs, Israel has now been blocking all aid trucks from entering in recent days, one aid worker told Al Jazeera. Officials are also blocking shipments of aid from reaching the agency to begin with, blocking shipments of food from being distributed from an Israeli port as Palestinians starve to death in Gaza.

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