Celebrities: US cuts to UN refugee agency a ‘lethal attack’ on Palestinians

Celebrities: US cuts to UN refugee agency a ‘lethal attack’ on Palestinians

Hugh Grant, Viggo Mortensen among signatories to letter slamming Trump’s decision to freeze UNRWA funds over PA’s refusal of peace talks

Hugh Grant (CC BY-SA 3.0, Kurt Kulac, Wikimedia Commons)
Hugh Grant (CC BY-SA 3.0, Kurt Kulac, Wikimedia Commons)

Actors Hugh Grant and Viggo Mortensen are among more than 25 celebrities and public figures who expressed “horror” over US President Donald Trump’s decision to cut funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, an advocacy group said Thursday.

“The real target of this lethal attack is the Palestinian people themselves,” the group said in a joint statement. “It has been launched with the clear aim of dismantling their rights, by dismantling the institution that is charged with protecting them.”

Actresses Gillian Anderson, Olivia Wilde, Emma Thompson and Tilda Swinton were also among the signatories.

The letter was released by the Hoping Foundation, a London-based group that assists Palestinian children.

Palestinian children stand next to bags of food aid provided by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip on January 24, 2018. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

Expressing frustration with a freeze in Mideast peace efforts, Trump this month blamed the Palestinians for the deadlock and threatened to cut US funding. Washington subsequently suspended a $65 million payment to UNRWA, the UN agency that provides education, health care and other social services to over 5 million Palestinian refugees and their descendants scattered across the Middle East.

US President Donald Trump meets with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 25, 2018 (AFP Photo/Nicholas Kamm)

On Thursday, Trump said in Davos, Switzerland, that the Palestinians must return to peace talks to receive US aid money.

The United States is the largest single donor to UNRWA, and the agency has launched a global fund-raising appeal in hopes of closing the gap. In all, it provides hundreds of millions of dollars a year to the Palestinians.

“We stand for dignity for the most vulnerable, and we stand with Palestinian refugees who are facing a terrible moment,” the statement said. The celebrities called on the UN chief to convene a conference to establish a stable funding system for the agency.

Meanwhile, the leaders of 21 international humanitarian groups urged the US to reconsider its decision to withhold the funding to UNRWA, warning of “dire consequences” if funding is cut.

The groups said they are alarmed by the Trump administration’s link between aid and political objectives.

This marks a “dangerous and striking departure from US policy on humanitarian assistance,” the groups wrote in an open letter to Washington’s UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, published Thursday.

Haley has linked aid to the Palestinians to their willingness to resume negotiations with Israel.

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