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Indonesia condemns Israeli bill labelling UNRWA terror group

Jakarta Post - June 7, 2024

Jakarta – Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi has condemned Israel's parliamentary bill seeking to label the United Nations refugee agency for Palestinians (UNRWA) as a terrorist group.

Through the bill, which passed a parliamentary vote in the Israeli parliament on May 29, Israel accuses the agency of having militant links and hundreds of its staff of being involved in the militant group Hamas' attack on Israel on Oct. 7 of last year.

"The investigation has been done and such accusations were unproven," Retno said during a meeting with House of Representatives Commission I overseeing foreign affairs in Jakarta on Wednesday.

She referred to an investigation launched by UNRWA in January after Israel made the claim that some staffers were linked to the Hamas assault.

The terrorist group label was part of Israel's attempt to weaken the UN body systematically to turn the world's attention away from the Palestinian refugees who were forced to flee their homes due to the war, the minister continued.

"If no one talks about the refugees, the fleeing Palestinians will be forced to stay in their current place now and the issue of returning to the homeland is diminished," she said.

Retno continued by arguing that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been working to dismiss the two-state solution offered by several parties in pushing for the end of the war.

"The Palestinians' right to have a sovereign country is systematically diminished by Israel."

Israel's allegations of links to the militant group had led to a freeze in funding by many donors for UNRWA. After the UN agency launched an investigation to clarify the accusation, some countries resumed funding, although not the United States.

The bill still needs to go through committees and three other votes before becoming law.

The Israeli parliament is also deliberating another bill seeking to sever all ties with UNRWA, stripping the UN body of immunities that would forbid it from operating in Israel and criminalizing not only the group, but also its staffers.

The proposed legislation has been condemned by various parties, including charity group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

"By branding the UN agency created to aid Palestinian refugees as a terrorist entity, Israeli authorities would be perpetuating a narrative that vilifies and marginalizes an entire population and those who provide them with assistance," said MSF International secretary-general Christopher Lockyear in a statement on May 28.

UNRWA was set up to help refugees of the 1948 war at Israel's founding and provides education, health and aid services to Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. It helps about two thirds of Gaza's 2.3 million population and has played a pivotal aid role during Israel's assault, which first started in October.

The UN body recently received more funding from the European Union, which increased its initial contribution of 3.5 million euros (US$3.8 million) by another 1 million euros.

The funding would enable UNRWA to continue its work "in providing services and assistance to Palestine refugees through its cash assistance [program]," according to a statement from the UN body on Monday.

Indonesia has repeatedly reiterated its commitment to fighting for the Palestinian cause, including Retno dismissing the possibility of the country normalizing or creating official diplomatic ties with Israel.

The government has also condemned Israel's continuous assault despite international pressure, including from the International Court of Justice (ICJ), to halt its offensive in Gaza.

Among the latest attacks launched by the Israeli military was one which struck a school operated by UNRWA in Gaza, which the Israelis claimed housed a Hamas compound. A hospital in Gaza said on Thursday afternoon that the death toll from the air strike on the school reached 37, AFP reported.

Source: https://asianews.network/indonesia-condemns-israeli-bill-labelling-unrwa-terror-group