The Palestinian Authority rejected the decision of Israel’s National Security Council to revoke permits allowing UNRWA schools in Jerusalem to operate starting next school year.
Officials considered it a further step in the process of Judaizing the city and violating refugee rights.
Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Executive Committee member Hanan Ashrawi said the Israeli government's provocative decision targeting Palestinian refugees in Jerusalem, including closing down and appropriating UNRWA institutions, is an affront to international law and international humanitarian law as well as the will of the international community as expressed in United Nations resolutions.
"This plan is part of a wider Israeli strategy that targets Jerusalem and its institutions within the framework of the occupying state's strategy of Judaizing the Holy City, promoting the policy of ethnic cleansing, forced displacement, extending control over all aspects of life, and imposing new facts on the ground," said a statement issued by Ashrawi’s office.
She pointed out that UNRWA’s schools and institutions were internationally mandated before Israel occupied the territories in 1967.
Israel is an occupying power and does not have sovereignty, she stressed, adding that the Palestinian refugees are victims of the establishment of the State of Israel, which is responsible for their displacement and deprivation of their land and property.
Ashrawi noted that Israel does not have the right to change UNRWA’s duties and responsibilities as defined by the UN.
She also accused the United States of providing Israel with political, financial and legal cover, considering that the latter should not be allowed to impose its will on the international community or target its institutions.
Notably, UNRWA schools will be replaced by schools run by the Jerusalem municipality and under the aegis of the Israeli Education Ministry, according to Israel’s National Security Council’s decision.
Prior to the end of his tenure in December, Jerusalem former mayor Nir Bakat detailed a proposal to expel UNRWA from the capital and have the municipality provide education, health, welfare, and sanitation services in its place.
UNRWA was established in 1949 after 700,000 Palestinians were forcibly displaced from their homes by Israel’s paramilitaries in the run-up to the establishment of its state.
It currently provides services to five million Palestinian refugees in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.