Lipinski urges restoration of humanitarian aid for Palestinians

Lipinski urges restoration of humanitarian aid for Palestinians

Lipinski urges restoration of humanitarian aid for Palestinians

Conservative Democrat Dan Lipinski urges immediate humanitarian aid to Palestinians living in the besieged Gaza Strip, warning of dire consequences that not only threatens the life of the nearly 2 million civilians but also jeopardizes the chances of peace between Israel and Palestine. Americans for Peace Now also issued a statement in support of continuing humanitarian aid

By Ray Hanania

U.S. Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-3rd) has urged in a detailed letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and US National Security Advisor John Bolton that the government immediately work towards finding ways to alleviate the “ongoing humanitarian crisis” in the Gaza Strip.

Lipinski acknowledged the role of Hamas in the region’s turmoil but argued that is a higher issue of civilians who need immediate support including “basic utilities, medical care, and other necessities” to avoid both “a complex humanitarian and security crisis.”

The letter, dated August 22, 2018, argued that the population does not have enough food and very little water to survive. Lipinski cited as “critical” the ongoing work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), both of which have been hit by cutbacks in U.S. financial support.

The administration of President Donald Trump, seeking to pressure Palestinians to return to the negotiation table with Israel, has used humanitarian aid as leverage and has ordered a suspension of all U.S. funding to the Palestinians including funds to UNRWA and USAID.

Trump has already ordered a cutback in $65 million in aid to the Palestinians, fueling a massive humanitarian crisis in both the Gaza Strip and in the Israeli occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, and this week ordered that the remaining $200 million in aid to UNRWA and USAID by redirecting that aid to other unidentified programs.

“In Gaza, the unemployment rate is 41 percent, and 47 percent of the population is food insecure,” Lipinski wrote. “Only around 3 percent of tap water is drinkable and in many places, electricity is unavailable for up to 20 hours a day. These dire conditions are contributing to an unimaginably poor quality of life for Gaza residents and threatening regional stability.”

Lipinski, a conservative Democratic — often called a “Reagan Democrat” — was first elected to office in 2005 succeeding his father, a former Chicago alderman and ward committeeman who held the district for more than 20 years. The 3rd District currently represents one of the largest concentrations of Palestinian Americans, mostly Christian, in the nation.

Explosion at the Said Al-Mishael (Meshal) theater in Gaza. In a terrorist attack targeting civilians, Israel's military attacked and destroyed Gaza's al-Mishal (Meshal) Performing Arts Center. The violence is a part of Israel's on-going campaign to kill Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land

Explosion at the Said Al-Mishael (Meshal) theater in Gaza. In a terrorist attack targeting civilians, Israel’s military attacked and destroyed Gaza’s al-Mishal (Meshal) Performing Arts Center. The violence is a part of Israel’s on-going campaign to kill Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land

“Resources provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) are preventing the humanitarian situation from deteriorating further and I urge you to take action to ensure that the agency can continue to provide critical aid,” Lipinski wrote. “As a strong supporter of the United States’ commitment to the safety and dignity of Palestinians and Israelis, I urge you to restore the U.S. funding commitment to UNRWA and release appropriated USAID funding for humanitarian projects.”

Lipinski argued that the humanitarian crisis in Gaza”has created serious security concerns for our ally Israel,” adding that one of Israel’s highest military leaders, IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot has warned that “if the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is not alleviated, spiraling economic and social conditions in Gaza could threaten Israel’s security.”

Lipinski said that continued humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in Gaza “plays a critical role in the larger U.S. Strategy to secure peace and stability in the region.”

The Illinois Congressman argued that the health and well-being of civilians should not be used as pawns in the larger political battle between Israel and Palestine and the Trump administration.

“While blame for the current situation rests on many parties, Hamas featuring prominently among them, U.S. support for the basic human rights of Palestinians living in Gaza must not be conditioned on progress on security and political fronts,” Lipinski wrote.

“The U.S. should encourage all parties to increase access to electricity flow into Gaza to meet the critical need for reliable energy. … Alleviating the poverty, unemployment, food insecurity, and lack of access to adequate health, clean water, and electricity in Gaza is a critical first step to improving the security and safety of both Palestinians and Israelis.”

Lipinski has been meeting with Arab American leaders in the 3rd Congressional District including the Rev. Donald Wagner, Linda Kateeb and Samir Khalil to identify ways to help avoid the humanitarian crisis.

Khalil issued a statement praising and thanking Lipinski for being one of the only members of the U.S. Congress to place humanitarian concerns above political expediency. Khalil is the president of the influential Arab American Democratic Club which is hosting a candidate’s forum and brunch on Oct. 21, 2018 before the November 6 general election. More than 600 Arab Americans are expected to attend the event to continue to add resonance to their growing voice in not only the 3rd Congressional District but also in Illinois and the Midwest.

Americans for Peace Now, a pro-Israel group that supports the Israeli movement Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), released the following statement on Trump’s proposed aid cuts:

APN Appalled by Trump’s Cutting Palestinian Aid; Warns of Grave Repercussions

Americans for Peace Now (APN) condemns the decision by the Trump administration to slash $200 million in aid appropriated by Congress for humanitarian projects in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. According to a leaked report, this action will shortly be followed by a Trump administration announcement that it will cut support for programs of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in the West Bank, ask Israel to consider restricting UNRWA’s activities there, and dramatically reduce the number of Palestinians the United States recognizes as refugees.

Of most immediate concern is the humanitarian impact of these actions on Palestinians who depend on programs administered by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and UNRWA. Struggling financially under earlier cuts by the United States, previously its largest donor, UNRWA has warned that it does not currently have funds to operate schools through the end of 2018. Humanitarian programs through UNRWA and USAID also provide health care and vaccinations, food assistance, water treatment, infrastructure development, and support for good governance and conflict prevention.

These latest moves are likely to severely impact Israel, as well. Deepening Gaza’s profound economic crisis may contribute to further radicalization among Palestinians there and impoverishing Palestinians in the West Bank will likely disrupt security and stability there. Weakening the Palestinian Authority and possibly instigating its collapse would leave a vacuum for Hamas and elements which are even more radical, and force Israel, which remains the occupying power, to pick up the pieces.

The Trump administration claims it is acting in the interests of Israel and peace. Nothing could be further from the truth. Punishing and humiliating the Palestinians will not bring them to the negotiating table or persuade them to accept a deal which fails to address the legitimate national interests of the Palestinian people. A weakened, humiliated, impoverished Palestinian neighbor across the Green Line is not in Israel’s interest either.

Trump’s latest anti-Palestinian moves are likely to provoke a multidimensional crisis – humanitarian, political, economic, and security – of Washington’s own making.

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award-winning columnist, author & former Chicago City Hall reporter (1977-1992). A veteran who served during the Vietnam War and the recipient of four SPJ Peter Lisagor Awards for column writing, Hanania writes weekly opinion columns on mainstream American & Chicagoland topics for the Southwest News-Herald, Des Plaines Valley News, the Regional News, The Reporter Newspapers, and Suburban Chicagoland.  

Hanania also writes about Middle East issues for the Arab News, and The Arab Daily News criticizing government policies in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A critic of mainstream news media bias, Hanania advocates for peace & justice for Israel & Palestine, & the empowerment of Arabs in America. 

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

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His columns are archived here. Hanania was named "Best Ethnic American Columnist" by the New America Media in November 2007, and is the 2009 recipient of the SPJ National Sigma Delta Chi Award for column writing.

Email Ray Hanania at rghanania@gmail.com.

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