APAN demands reinstatement of UNRWA funds as Australia admits it hasn’t seen evidence of agency wrongdoing

Feb 9, 2024

The Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN) has urged the Australian Government to immediately reinstate its funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) after Foreign Minister Penny Wong yesterday revealed she “did not have all the evidence” about allegations of wrongdoing levelled at the agency by Israel.

Minister Wong’s admission came after both the US and Canadian governments, which have also frozen their funding, stated they had not seen evidence to back Israel’s allegations, and the UN stated that Israel refused to make such evidence available to enable it to carry out its investigations of the allegations.

APAN President Nasser Mashni said it was shocking that the Australian Government had frozen funds to UNRWA only hours after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Israel was plausibly committing genocide in Gaza, and had put at risk the lives of Palestinians who relied on this humanitarian aid, without having seen all the facts.

“The public has real cause for concern and anger at the way the government appears to have made what really is a life-and-death decision for Palestinians in Gaza,” Mr Mashni said.

“It’s appallingly hypocritical that the government has acted with such haste and decisiveness to freeze humanitarian aid funds based on unverified allegations from Israel, but has failed to condemn and withdraw its support from Israel over the ICJ’s ruling – backed by 84 pages of meticulous evidence – that Israel is plausibly committing genocide in Gaza.

“Not only does this decision put at risk the only UN agency mandated to distribute desperately needed, life-saving aid in Gaza, but it also undermines the community’s trust in government and sends a message to Palestinians in this community that our lives, and the lives of our loved ones, aren’t important.

“It really is disingenuous for the Foreign Minister to refuse to immediately reinstate funding at the same time as acknowledging how critical UNRWA’s work is, and how dire the humanitarian situation is for Palestinians in Gaza.

“Our community has every right to feel as though we have been cast aside.”

Mr Mashni said the community expected the government to immediately change course, reinstate the UNRWA funding and allow the UN to carry out the independent investigations it first announced on 17 January 2024.

“If the government is serious about ensuring the integrity of the UNRWA, it must demand that Israel either makes available to the UN all information it has regarding these allegations, or that it officially recounts the allegations altogether,” Mr Mashni said.

“And if the government is truly concerned about the lives and rights of Palestinians in Gaza, it must take immediate and concrete action to apply pressure to Israel to accept the ceasefire that was proposed this week, and to ensure the unfettered flow of humanitarian aid to all Palestinians in Gaza.”