Fatah silent as Hamas union chief suspended by UNRWA

UNRWA union chief Fateh Sharif and camp director  Raif Ahmed were suspended for 3 months for “neutrality violations,” prompting protests by “the coalition of Palestinian forces in Lebanon, the Islamic forces, Ansar Allah, and the popular and civil committees” — but “without the Fatah movement and the factions of the PLO, which remain silent about the issue”

Beirut – The rift is growing between the administration of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees ( UNRWA ) and some Palestinian forces in Lebanon, against the backdrop of its decisions against two of its employees, whom it accused of violating neutrality.

The two employees are the director of Deir Yassin High School in Al-Bass camp, the educator Fateh Sharif, and the camp director, Raif Ahmed.

The crisis of disagreements began to deepen after Sharif received an email from the Commissioner General of UNRWA, Philip Lazzarini, informing him of his suspension from work for a period of 3 months, under the pretext of “practicing activities “Political violations of neutrality,” he was asked to hand over all his belongings and place himself under an investigation committee.

Meanwhile, Palestinian trade unionist Raif Ahmed received an email from the agency’s Director General, Dorothy Klaus, informing him that action had been taken against him, including cutting his monthly salary and delaying his annual bonus for an additional two months, under the pretext of his participation in a right-to-work campaign march 5 years ago.

In response to the two decisions, political, popular and educational protest movements began, led by the leadership of the coalition of Palestinian forces in Lebanon, the Islamic forces, Ansar Allah, and the popular and civil committees, without the Fatah movement and the factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization , which remain silent about the issue.

1- A central sit-in in front of the UNRWA headquarters in Beirut under the slogan “No compromise on our national affiliation,” rejecting UNRWA’s decisions against employees.
A sit-in in front of the UNRWA headquarters in Beirut (Al Jazeera)

Neutrality or compromise?

While the camps in the Tire region (Al-Buss, Rashidieh, and Burj Al-Shamali) witnessed a comprehensive strike in all educational institutions affiliated with UNRWA, with the exception of health and hygiene institutions, in Sidon, the office of the district director in Al-Hilaliyah was closed, and the parking lot that usually relies on transporting employees to their work centers in Siblin and Beirut. .

The most prominent move was to organize a sit-in in front of the UNRWA headquarters in Beirut, under the slogan “No compromise on our national affiliation,” in rejection of UNRWA’s decisions against employees and the Palestinian people, and in denunciation of the punishment of teachers on charges of national affiliation, and in support of besieged Gaza.

Palestinian sources told Al Jazeera Net that the protest movements will not stop until UNRWA retracts its decisions against Sharif and Ahmed, believing that they are “malicious, unjust and unfair” decisions, and they come within the framework of responding to pressure from donor countries that suspended their financial aid on charges of participating or supporting 12 employees in Gaza. For the Al-Aqsa Flood Operation, which raises question marks about the procedure and its political and national dimensions at this particular time.

Member of the Popular Committee of Ain al-Hilweh Camp, Adnan al-Rifai, described the two decisions as “unjust,” and told Al Jazeera Net that “the movements are continuing and escalating until the UNRWA administration retracts the two decisions,” asking, “How can the Palestinian employee be separated from his cause and his fellow citizens?”

Al-Rifai added, “This neutrality, as UNRWA wants, means attacking the Palestinian national situation,” expressing his fear that the matter would develop to the rest of the managers and employees. He said, “Gaza is being annihilated, and a war of genocide is being waged against it. How is it possible for the employee to remain a spectator to the slaughter of his people?” “How can he remain neutral? It’s dangerous.”

He added, “The Palestinian employee is a local employee, not an international employee. How can they want him to be neutral, when he is from the mercy of the Palestinian people, and lives with their suffering, poverty, misery, and deprivation?!”

Al-Rifai stressed to Al Jazeera Net that “the protest movements will escalate, and may reach a decision to prevent Director General Dorothy Klaus from entering the Palestinian camps in Lebanon if she does not retract the decision.”

The Secretary-General of the United Nations – whom he thanks for his encouraging stances – also called for the suspension of Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini from work, “because he is biased towards Israel and not towards the Palestinian people who head an international institution that serves and cares for them.”

3- A member of the Ain al-Hilweh Camp Popular Committee says that the protest movements will escalate and may lead to a decision to prevent the Director General from entering the Palestinian camps in Lebanon.
A member of the Popular Committee of Ain al-Hilweh Camp confirms the escalation of protest movements until the recent decisions are dropped (Al-Jazeera)

UNRWA response

Meanwhile, the UNRWA administration in Lebanon was quick to issue an explanatory statement, in which it called on employees to “maintain neutrality,” and indicated that “the decision of the Commissioner-General of UNRWA to place one of the agency’s employees in Lebanon on administrative leave without pay for a period of 3 months, pending the investigation that… It is carried out by the Department of Internal Oversight Services, based on reports about alleged activities carried out by the employee that violate the agency’s regulatory framework.”

She added in her statement, “All UNRWA employees must adhere to the Agency’s policies, laws and regulations, and this is essential to ensuring our ability to serve Palestine refugees throughout the region, including Lebanon. As standard practice, any allegation of a potential violation will be dealt with in accordance with established procedures.” , regardless of a person’s job, rank, or background.”

She added, “UNRWA employees are not required to abandon their national feelings or political and religious convictions, and the agency recognizes the right of its employees to express their personal opinions and convictions, but by accepting appointment as UNRWA employees, the agency’s employees pledge to perform their jobs and regulate their behavior in accordance with the principles and policies of the United Nations.”

The statement also clarified, “Humanitarian support for civilians in Gaza, and expressions of sympathy for human suffering in general, do not constitute a violation of UNRWA’s regulatory framework, but participation in any political activity by staff must be consistent with the integrity and reputation of the agency, including its principles of work.” “It should not reflect negatively on her.”

Despite calls from some Palestinian parties to close UNRWA offices and services, including schools in Lebanon, UNRWA remains committed to maintaining all services and operations, and says, “This commitment reflects our dedication to providing services, including in places where UNRWA faces… “Very difficult challenges, as is the case in Gaza and Jerusalem.”

She concluded the statement, “Serving Palestine refugees means fulfilling the humanitarian mandate granted to UNRWA, which may not be violated by any party. This matter is of great importance at a time when the agency is under political attack, and it is making every effort to restore donor confidence in order to unfreeze resources.” “The urgent.”

UN Watch