Thursday, July 15, 2010

Libya discovers UNRWA

From YNet:
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, chairman of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation which tried to send an aid vessel to Gaza, says he reached an Egyptian-mediated agreement with Israel on Wednesday, allowing him to infuse $50 million for the restoration of the Strip and transfer construction materials to Gaza.

"We will soon start funneling $50 million in coordination with UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) to begin rebuilding Gaza and transfer humanitarian aid and construction materials, without any objection on the part of the Israeli government."

According to Gaddafi Jr., "This is an agreement we never expected or dreamed of. UNRWA informed us that it has failed to receive one dollar for the restoration of Gaza so far, and was therefore unsuccessful in bringing in even one iron skewer or sack of cement.
UNRWA's 2009 budget shows that it did not receive a single cent from Libya. Apparently, Libya never gave any money to UNRWA over the sixty years it has existed.

All of a sudden, Libya became aware of UNRWA's existence - and is happy to funnel money there?

Arab nations are fairly consistent in spurning UNRWA. Their (public) attitude has always been that the West is responsible for the existence of Palestinian Arab refugees by allowing Israel to be created, so therefore the West should pay for their basic needs forever - even as they are hosted in Arab countries who have adamantly refused to give them equal rights.

Only last year, when UNRWA asked for emergency funds to help Gaza, did a couple of oil-rich Arab countries pledge one-time contributions - $25M from Saudi Arabia and $35M from Kuwait. Arab governments' annual cash contributions to UNRWA are pitiably small, about $7M out of the $470M total last year. Arab nations have consistently spurned UNRWA appeals for cash and have equally consistently failed to pay on their pledges to UNRWA.

In fact, Luxembourg has given more cash to UNRWA's annual budget than any Arab country.

If Libya decides to give $50 million to UNRWA, it will suddenly become UNRWA's biggest Arab supporter, and it might be the biggest single contribution ever from an Arab country in UNRWA's history. Compare that to the $267M the US gave in 2009, or the $48M that was given to UNRWA by - Sweden.

It seems a bit cynical for Libya to crow over how it will now give all this money to Gazans when, up until now, it has shown utter indifference towards the major international organization that supports them.