1st of July 2012
From Mr Jeremy Moodey
Sir, - The revelation that the UN has cut funding to the Anglican hospital in Gaza (News, 22 June) is very troubling.
The Ahli Hospital has been a beacon of Christian care and compassion in the Gaza Strip since it was established by CMS in 1907. Over the past year, it has had to endure electricity cuts of up to 20 hours a day because of the power crisis in Gaza. BibleLandshas just sent £15,000 to help with the enormous fuel bills, as the hospital tries to run its own generators. The cancellation of the UNRWA contract, and the potential staff cuts, have hit the hospital very hard.
One aspect of the story which has been overlooked is the funding crisis at UNRWA, the UN agency that provides humanitarian support for Palestinian refugees. This crisis may well be linked to attempts in the US Senate to reduce UNRWA's funding by redefining Palestinian refugee status so that it is attached to the 30,000 Palestinians still living who were displaced in 1948, not the five million descendants of those displaced, many of whom still languish in refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank, Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon.
Since the displacement of more than 750,000 of their number after the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, Palestinians have been unable to return to their homes, because Israel will not let them. This in ability applies to Palestinians and their descendants because the refugee problem remains unresolved.
Surely, all those five million Palestinians, descendants of the original 750,000, who have not settled permanently elsewhere deserve humanitarian support and ultimate justice. This is why BibleLands works with the Middle East Council of Churches and the Ahli Hospital to help such refugees, many of whom live in dire con ditions, as a recent independent report on Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon showed.
The Senate legislation, if confirmed, will make peace in the Middle East harder to achieve, not easier. It will not just be the patients at the Ahli Hospital who will suffer.
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