Aid to Palestinians Pledged by US Blocked by Republican Senator | Donald Trump News
Key US Senator blocks $ 50 million in economic aid to Palestinians, undermining aid pledges by Secretary of State Antony Blinken after Israeli assault on Gaza in May and delaying much needed reconstruction of water resources and roads .
Last month, Republican Senator James Risch suspended funding, already approved by the US Congress, using procedures under a 2018 US law and saying he wanted to ensure the funds did not go to the Palestinian Authority or Hamas.
Advocates of US aid to the Palestinians say Risch’s stranglehold on funds is politically motivated and will eventually need to be lifted. A large group of Democrats in the United States House, led by Representative Jamie Raskin, who is Jewish, called on Risch to release aid.
A spokeswoman for Risch confirmed to Al Jazeera on Monday that the blockade remained in place despite calls to lift it.
“I see no justification for the refusal to release funds, apart from the continued dehumanization, ridicule and collective punishment of the Palestinian people, especially in Gaza,” said Ahmad Abuznaid, executive director of the US Campaign for Human Rights. Palestinians.
“This is part of the constant collective punishment of the Palestinian people, especially the people of Gaza,” Abuznaid told Al Jazeera.
After 11 days of shelling by Israel in May, Palestinian residents of the besieged enclave of Gaza face enormous reconstruction challenges amid a ceasefire and an uncertain future. Israel destroyed hundreds of buildings, displacing some 100,000 civilians. The bombing killed 256 Palestinians, including 66 children.
The dispute in Congress over the distribution of aid to Gaza and the occupied West Bank shows how a pro-Israel law put in place under the previous Trump administration could hamper the efforts of the new Biden team to moderate the conflict.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas on May 25 and pledged that Washington would provide $ 75 million in long-term economic and development assistance to the Palestinians.
Risch and several other Republicans immediately decided to freeze most of these funds, accusing the Palestinian Authority of using $ 150 million led by Abbas to compensate families of Palestinians who have killed Israelis in recent years.
Unfortunately, just after the Biden administration announced more aid to the West Bank and Gaza, PA President Abbas paid a martyrdom payment of $ 42,000 to a Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorist who stabbed to death two Israelis in 2015. It is scandalous, ”Risch wrote in a statement. Letter of June 15 explaining its hold.
“This heinous practice concerns me deeply and should be repugnant to all members of Congress,” Risch wrote.
Palestinians see the “martyrs” fund as a necessary aid in the fight against poverty for the families of Palestinians imprisoned or killed by Israel every year.
In the case cited by Risch, the funds were awarded in Jordanian dinars to the family of a 19-year-old man who was shot dead by Israeli forces after stabbing two Israelis to death in 2015.
Israeli forces then demolished the man’s family home in Ramallah, as part of a controversial retaliatory policy aimed at deterring Palestinian attacks. The payment to the family by the Palestinian Authority was to help them with housing costs, according to reports.
In 2018, the US Congress passed a new law, called the “Taylor Force Act,” named after an American graduate student killed by a Palestinian while on an exchange trip to Israel. The law allows lawmakers to cut aid to Palestinians if this is linked to the PA’s ability to make “martyrs” payments.
Palestinian advocates in the United States say that while Congress technically has the power to review the blocked $ 50 million, the money is intended for projects and developments run by nongovernmental organizations, not by the government. ‘Palestinian Authority.
“Aside from the problems with the Taylor Force Act, the humanitarian aid that Senator Risch withholds, is not triggered and is not affected by the Taylor Force Act,” said Huwaida Arraf, a Palestinian American lawyer specializing in human rights in Detroit.
“It is shameful, but not surprising, that the senator so ruthlessly withholds this desperately needed aid,” Arraf told Al Jazeera.
In 2018, former President Donald Trump cut $ 200 million in U.S. aid intended for the United Nations relief agency for Palestinian refugees. The Biden administration announced in April that it was returning $ 150 million to the United Nations agency. These funds are not hindered by the Taylor Force Act.
Even with this aid, the scale of the needs in the Palestinian territories is enormous. “Gaza is experiencing a humanitarian catastrophe,” Representative Raskin wrote in his letter signed by 145 Democrats urging Risch not to delay US aid.
“The buildings lie in rubble. Access to drinking water and electricity is sporadic or non-existent. Food insecurity is spreading. COVID-19 is rife and thousands of people have been displaced and left homeless. The scale of the crisis is staggering.
After the Israeli bombings in May, “we have to rebuild civilian homes that were damaged, people were left homeless,” said Elizabeth Campbell, director of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s Washington office (UNRWA) which issued an emergency notice. call for donations.
“We need to provide families with subsidies and rent support, so their homes can be rebuilt,” Campbell told Al Jazeera.
At the same time, Palestinians in Gaza who have been targeted by Israeli bombs are suffering a “frightening decline” in their psychological health, Campbell said.
“Many, many, many people in Gaza, including children, have seen family, friends and neighbors killed. “