Why do you want to kill UNRWA?

Abeer Kayed, Academic and author

Whenever I hear the term UNRWA, my mind flashes back to my childhood, to Beirut—love, war, and the painful departure. I reminisce about Afula School, one of UNRWA’s long-standing institutions in Beirut, where I received my education and nourishing meals aimed at revitalizing our spirits. Afula and Beirut, my beloved school and city, cradled me throughout my formative years, its very foundations ingrained in my being. And while I may have left physically, the UNRWA School continues to stand as a beacon of hope for Palestinians in Beirut, prompting me to speak out today, not just as an individual but as a mother.

UNRWA evokes memories of Palestinian suffering, reminiscent of the remnants of our Palestine that still belong to us. I recall the relentless F-16 planes hovering above us, until one fateful day when their pilot took the life of my dearest childhood friend, Manal Akkawi, who was my confidante at the UNRWA school.

Today, as Israel wages war and perpetuates genocide, echoes of the Sabra and Shatila massacre reverberate ominously. I fear history repeating itself, as Gaza faces similar horrors. Random bombings, the destruction of homes and infrastructure, hunger, and fear grip its children, mirroring the anguish I’ve carried within me for years. The sight of charred, decomposed, and mutilated bodies, alongside scattered remains, remains etched in my memory.

Why do you persist in erasing our identity and denying our right of return? Why subject us to another Palestinian Holocaust? What is it that you seek to gain by obscuring the truth and perpetuating falsehoods? Why target UNRWA, the sanctuary for refugees, the lifeline for the displaced, the healer of the sick, and the resting place for the deceased?

Those who seek to dismantle UNRWA are the very ones who oppose the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, denying its people their human rights and a dignified existence. They are the ones supplying lethal weaponry to target UNRWA’s children and destroy its schools, clinics, and hospitals. They are the perpetrators of war crimes, attempting to erase evidence of their genocide—crimes for which they have been tried by the International Court of Justice, witnessed by the world.

To criminalize and shutter UNRWA is to drive the final nail into the coffin of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return. Indeed, the right of return and the homeland, Palestine, are immutable rights that shall endure.

March, 2024

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