Students arriving at the school gates to find them closed in accordance with instructions from the United Nations – a scenario that was very close to happening at the beginning of the current school year, remedied at the last minute by individuals within the international committees.
The background to this incident is the fact that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) has been complaining that the international community does not uphold their financial obligations, resulting in a suffocating debt crisis that almost caused the closure of the network of schools managed by the agency in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan for over 60 years, as well as a number of other austerity measures.
Preparations were made to postpone the school year and to keep students stuck in the alleyways of their miserable camps spread across the four countries. The parents were told at the last minute that the shocking decision had been reconsidered, but UNRWA has said they cannot guarantee another academic year for the children until further notice.
Can this be any more absurd? The scandal occurred with almost no noise or objection, even though disabling UNRWA would ignite an immediate humanitarian, social and economic crisis amongst the Palestinian refugee community, which is already at breaking point in the Gaza Strip, Lebanon and Syria.
UNRWA is one of the most important operators of the Palestinian work force and provides various vital educational, professional, health and relief services to five million refugees whose land, homes and resources were stolen from them by the Israeli occupation authorities. I must clearly state that what happened earlier this year was a heinous manipulation of an entire nation’s morale, which, in any case, threatens to blow up the entire Palestinian community from within.
Let us imagine that this were to happen in beautiful Switzerland, the country of UN Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbuhl, and that his three sons could not attend school because international powers are simply unwilling to pay for this basic right. It would be nothing short of a scandal.
However, who really believes that the international community is unable to resolve a financial crisis similar to the one suffered by one of its agencies? How could the UN and the Bretton Woods institutions push generations of Palestinians into a quagmire of programmed ignorance and rampant diseases in such a blatant manner? Don’t these risks mean that the fate of the Palestinians is to face more hopelessness and discouragement, and won’t such circumstances simply push Palestinian refugees to undertake dangerous journeys in search of the necessities of life?
Because the international community does not care about moral urges, a Palestinian documentary team produced a short film explaining the story. In the film, a student leaves his home in the refugee camp and heads to school; he finds the door closed, painted with the UN colours and a sign that says the school was closed down due to a financial deficit.
The story does not end here; the student’s shock leads him to a four-wheel drive driven by masked individuals who take him on an unknown suicide mission. The film’s message is clear: the inability of the international community to commit to its obligations to UNRWA will push generations of Palestinians into the lure of armed extremism. This film is very clever because it appeals to the international community with what it understands.
The dilemma is not in the ignorance and impoverishment of generations of Palestinians, rather in terrorism and extremism and the fact that these issues are the single priority for the international agenda in this part of the world, over and above simple human rights.
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