UK parliament launches inquiry into funding for UNRWA, Palestinians

January 18, 2014 16:10

The parliamentary committee was formed in response to heavy lobbying by pro-Israel organizations.

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Former Labor Party MK Einat Wilf

Former Labor Party MK Einat Wilf. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The British parliament has formed a committee of inquiry to probe the flow of funds used by the international refugee agency UNRWA to support the Palestinians, according to an exclusive report first revealed on Saturday by The Jerusalem Post's Hebrew-language sister publication, The Post.

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According to the report, the British government contributes 90 million pounds annually in aid to the Palestinians. A third of that sum is earmarked for UNRWA – the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees.

The parliamentary committee was formed in response to heavy lobbying by pro-Israel organizations and with the encouragement of former Israeli Labor MK Einat Wilf. The committee is due to submit its recommendations to parliament soon.

"UNRWA is perpetuating the notion that the descendants of refugees are themselves refugees, and it is based on this principle that the Palestinians are demanding the right of return, something that will not happen in any future agreement," Wilf said.

"The main point is that UNRWA is entirely supported by Western countries whose official policy is to aim for a two-state solution," Wilf said. "This is completely in contradiction to the idea of a right of return for 5 million refugees and their descendants to Israel."

Dozens of Palestinian youths blocked several main roads and torched tires in the West Bank city of Ramallah last week demonstrating against a month-long strike by UNRWA, Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported.

The protest against a lack of public services normally provided by the agency came as the Palestinian economy falters and while aid agencies struggle to cope with deepening refugee crises related to the civil war in Syria.

On Thursday, scores of Palestinian youths blocked a main road outside the Jalazoun refugee camp north of Ramallah, as well as roads linking other camps inside the city, to vent their anger over the repercussions of the UNWRA strike.

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