Trump Administration Withholds $65 Million in Aid to United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)

Palestinian refugees receive aid at a United Nations food distribution center in al-Shari refugee camp in Gaza city on January 18, 2018. Photo: Ashram Amra/APA Images.

By Genie Silver, Middle East Committee

On January 16, 2018, the Trump Administration announced that it was withholding $65 million from UNRWA, the agency established by the UN General Assembly (UNGA) on December 8, 1949, to provide direct relief and works programs for the 750,000-800,000 Palestinian refugees expelled by Zionist forces during the war to make Palestine the state of Israel. UNRWA began operations on May 1, 1950.

In the absence of a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem, the UNGA has repeatedly renewed UNRWA’s mandate. (See UNRWA Who We Are) On January 20, the Trump administration announced that it is withholding another $45 million in Food Aid to UNRWA. (Watch the January 20, 2018 Al Jazeera English video: US withholds another $45m for Palestinian food aid).

Once Israel became a state in May, 1948, it forbid the right of return to Palestinian refugees.

There are now five million Palestinian refugees living in refugee camps in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. UNRWA provides food aid, health care, education, social services, infrastructure, microfinance and emergency assistance. UNRWA provides jobs to 30,000 Palestinians, including doctors, nurses, engineers, sanitation laborers, teachers, and social workers. (Read Without UNRWA I wouldn't be alive today, January 19, 2018, also posted as a Palestine Center Brief by The Jerusalem Fund).

In decreasing its contribution to UNRWA by 52%, the Trump Administration is breaking with 60 years of US financial support to UNRWA. Without the full $125 million the US previously allocated to UNWRA, there is likely to be abrupt and grave cuts to the services UNRWA provides:

  1. 500,000 children could lose their schools.
  2. Nine million health consultations which UNRWA doctors provide each year will be drastically reduced.
  3. 1.7 million refugees who lack basic necessities could lose food aid.
  4. 40,000 refugees with disabilities will be without support.
  5. The 30,000 Palestinians who work for UNRWA could lose their jobs.

President Trump is punishing Palestinian refugees in an attempt to force Palestinian leaders to return to US-brokered, so-called “peace talks.” In December 2017, President Trump promulgated that all of Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and that he is moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Palestinians have long seen East Jerusalem as the capital of a future Palestinian state. International diplomacy has long recognized that the final status of Jerusalem is to be determined by the parties involved, Israel, and the Palestinian leadership. Because of President Trump’s reckless and thoughtless diplomacy surrounding Jerusalem, Palestinian leaders don’t trust him and justifiably refuse to participate in any future peace talks brokered by this clearly biased (towards Israel) US administration.

Please Take Action:

The Middle East Issue Committee asks all WILPF members to be in touch with their lawmakers in Washington D.C. to urge them to reject any cuts to UNWRA which since 1950 has given necessary and vital aid to Palestinian refugees who cannot return to their homeland.

To Call:

You can be connected to your congressperson and senators by calling the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and asking for them by name.

To Email:

To locate your congressperson’s email, please go online at
To locate your senators’ email, please go online to


Thank you!



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