Photo Credit: US Department of State
Secretary General of the League of Arab States Ahmed Aboul Gheit

Secretary General of the League of Arab States Ahmed Aboul Gheit Wednesday condemned the US administration’s reduction of funding to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

He said this move casts doubt over the US commitment to achieve a comprehensive and just solution to the “Palestinian cause.”


In 2017, the US total contribution to UNRWA was $355 million. This year, the US originally announced that it was cutting down this figure, to $125 million total, out of which the White House has just announced only $60 million will be provided now, and the rest would remain frozen, pending changes in the way the UN is caring for “Palestinian refugees,” a term which is arguably made up of two fictions: one, that there exists a Palestinian nation, the other that a person can be considered a refugee if they live where they were born.

But in light of the Arab League’s chief’s doubts about the US commitment to a just solution, and his statement that followed, advising against the ongoing US steps that aim to “pressure the Palestinian Authority to accept positions or terms that contradict the resolutions of international law concerning the Palestinian cause, by affecting the life of Palestinians,” one wonders why at least some League members, whose combined annual GDP probably rivals that of the US, are not offering to shoulder the burden shirked so irresponsibly by the Trump administration.

At which point we became curious as to how much of the UNRWA financial burden is being shouldered by the brothers and sisters in neighboring Arab states, and found the agency’s list of its top 20 donor for 2016. The funds on the list include donations for victims of the Syrian civil war.

As expected, the US was in first place, with $368.5 million, followed by the EU, with $160 million. Saudi Arabia is in third place, with $148 million. Then there’s nothing but individual European states and Canada down to the 12th spot, held by the Islamic Development Bank, which gave $17.5 million. UAE was in 13th place, $16.8 million, and in 19th place the Red Crescent Society of the United Arab Emirates, which gave $9.9 million.

UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl said in a statement that the reduced US contribution “threatens one of the most successful and innovative human development endeavors in the Middle East.” But the oil-rich Arab countries of the Middle East have other priorities.

Or they would have offered to fill UNRWA’s budget gap.

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