STATEMENT: Australia must immediately reinstate UNRWA funding to avoid complicity with Israel’s genocide in Gaza: APAN

Jan 28, 2024

The Australian Palestine Advocacy Network strongly condemns the Australian Government’s decision to pause funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), and urges it to immediately change course and reinstate this funding as part of its obligation to prevent genocide in Gaza.

Australia’s decision to freeze this life-saving funding based on Israeli allegations of UNRWA staff wrongdoing, particularly while it remains silent and unwilling to act to support last week’s International Court of Justice orders for Israel to prevent genocide, reflect a new level of alarming and dangerous hypocrisy by the Australian Government.

APAN urges the government to take this opportunity to immediately change course, and to begin to act with legal and moral consistency to put an end to Israel’s killing, maiming, starvation and collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza. 

Australia must not only reinstate its UNRWA funding, but also show the moral fortitude to publicly support the ICJ’s ruling, and use all tools at its disposal to apply pressure to Israel to ensure it implements an immediate ceasefire and allows the unfettered access of humanitarian aid into Gaza. Australia must also immediately end its military support of and cooperation with Israel. This is the only way to ensure that Australia is not breaching its own obligations under the Genocide Convention.

UNRWA is the only organisation with a mandate to provide relief and social services to Palestinian refugees in the Middle East, and is the second largest employer in Gaza, providing a livelihood to thousands of people. Right now, more than two million Palestinians in Gaza are dependent on the UNRWA for their very survival, with more than one million people sheltering in UNRWA schools and facilities as Israel carpet bombs Gaza. These schools and shelters have themselves been the targets of Israeli attacks, with more than 150 UNRWA staff killed since 7 October 2023, without consequence for Israel. 

It is clear the Israeli Government is embarking upon a campaign to smear and obstruct the work of UNRWA, with the state’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz stating that Israel will “work to garner bipartisan support in the US, the EU and other nations globally for this policy aimed at halting UNRWA’s activities in Gaza.”

It is equally clear that for the Australian Government to stay this course puts it at serious risk of being implicated in Israel’s genocide in Gaza.

APAN demands the Australian Government:

  • Reinstates its funding of the UNRWA and supports the agency as undertakes its investigation into the allegations levelled at it by the Israeli Government;
  • Issues a public statement of support for the ICJ’s authority, its ruling and the obligations set out for Australia as party to the Genocide Convention, while reminding Israel that it must also comply with this legally binding order to prevent genocide;
  • Demands an immediate and permanent ceasefire to allow unfettered access to humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza;
  • Immediately suspends all military aid, assistance and cooperation with Israel;
  • Identifies and advises all Australian citizens fighting in the Israel Defence Force that their actions may contribute to genocidal acts and other international crimes; and
  • Supports urgent International Criminal Court investigations of the backlog of cases against Israel for its litany of international law violations.