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The Right Of Return Shall Prevail

Filasteen, Gaza, August 10

One of the most dangerous aspects of U.S. President Donald Trump’s so-called “deal of the century” is that it is designed to unfold gradually, in order to eliminate any objection it may possibly face. At first, we were informed of the American recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Trump decided to move his country’s embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize Israel’s authority over the city. Arab leaders, many of whom are beholden to Trump and his whims, refrained from reacting to this move. Responses remained merely symbolic, as millions of Muslims around the world watched their holiest site handed over to the Israeli government. Then came the issue of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees. Senior White House officials, including the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, were cited calling to cut funding for the organization in an effort to “curb” the Palestinian refugee problem. Instead of dealing with the problem at its core, by providing tangible solutions to one of the worst refugee crises of our time, Trump and his aides chose to “solve” this problem by simply abolishing the organization that deals with it. This is a very dangerous move, given the invaluable work conducted by UNRWA both inside and outside the Palestinian Territories. By targeting UNRWA and its funding, the White House has depoliticized the Palestinian refugee problem and reduced it to a mere humanitarian issue. It treats the Palestinians as a group of people who need shelter and food rations, rather than a national group that deserves the right of self-determination in its own homeland, which has been colonized by an occupying force for over seven decades. This is Trump’s ultimate objective: to erase any Palestinian claim to the land, while pushing the Palestinian leadership to the corner, where they will have to accept any agreement presented to them. Thankfully, the Palestinian ambition for self-determination and sovereignty will not be dictated on the basis of U.S. funding. It will neither wane nor diminish, regardless of what the Trump administration decides to do with UNRWA. No power in the world, not even the United States, can deny the right of the Palestinian people to return to their own homes. This unalienable right has been ratified time and again throughout the years, including in several UN Security Council decisions. Let Trump have it his way. He will quickly learn that the Palestinian refugee problem will continue to exist with, or without, UNRWA. –Jibril Awda

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