Monday, December 23, 2013


    Jakarta, Dec 23, 2013 (Antara) - On the occasion of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, commemorated on November 29, the Indonesian government reaffirmed its continued commitment to support the Palestinians in their struggle for independence.
         "For over six decades, the Palestinian occupation problem has remained unresolved. The Palestinian refugees have been living under distress for too long," the Indonesian Foreign Affairs Ministry's Director of Socio-Cultural and International Organization of Developing Countries Arko Hananto Budiadi stated at the event observed in Jakarta, on November 28, 2013.
         The Palestinian refugee problem created by the Israeli occupation has become the largest and longest-standing refugee crisis in the world. This issue has exposed international political weakness and is a tableau of individual and collective tragedy.
         "Three generations since the fight and forced eviction from their homes in British Mandate Palestine, Palestinian refugees yearn for a solution to their predicament through the fulfillment of the fundamental human right of having a place to call as home," added John Ging, the director of UNRWA Operations in Gaza, in March 2010.
         Mandated by the General Assembly on December 8, 1949, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has provided assistance and protection to a population of some five million registered Palestinian refugees.
    Its mission is to help the Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank, and the Gaza Strip to achieve their full potential in human development, and pending the attainment of a just solution to their plight. The UNRWA's services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.    
    At present, the Palestinian refugee population has grown from 0.75 million to more than five million people living across Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza, and the West Bank.
         "Your solidarity is needed now more than ever before," Esther Kuish Laroche, the chief of UNRWA's Donor Relations Division, stated in her keynote speech at the commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, in Jakarta.
         As an emerging economy and a longstanding advocate of the Palestinian people, Indonesia has steadily increased its support to UNRWA in recent years. Indonesia's contribution to UNRWA has increased from US$10 thousand in 2008, to US$20 thousand in 2011, and US$100 thousand in 2012.
         "We are grateful to Indonesia for this donation, which will help us provide health care, education, and other vital services to the Palestinian refugees. At a time when solidarity with the Palestinian people is crucial, Indonesia is sending an important message of support to the refugees," noted UNRWA Commissioner-General Filippo Grandi in a statement in December 2011.
         UNRWA has currently called on Indonesia to further increase its contribution as the agency is facing a funding shortfall of US$37 million until the end of the year.    
    "On this day of solidarity, I would like to call upon your generosity to further increase Indonesia's support. I look forward to seeing our relationship deepen and grow further," Esther Kuish Laroche, who is based in Jerusalem, added, while praising Indonesia for its solidarity with the Palestinians for several decades.
         If funds are not forthcoming, the UN agency will not be able to pay the salaries of teachers, medical personnel, social workers, and other staff in December, which will bring its operations to a halt.
         Chairman of the Indonesia-Palestine Friendship Initiative Din Syamsuddin immediately responded to the appeal. At the event, he presented a symbolic contribution of Rp400 million to the Palestinian Ambassador to Indonesia Fariz Mehdawi.
         The Palestinian refugees are currently facing the most challenging situations due to the blockade of Gaza, increased insecurity, settlement expansion, and occupation in the West Bank by the Israeli Zionists.
         The UNRWA spokesperson described the economy in Gaza as dead.
         "Ending the blockade is crucial for any sustainable economic recovery," she added.
         Tragically, the so-called "Arab Spring" triggered a prolonged, bloody conflict in Syria, which has added to the suffering of the Palestinian refugees in Syria.
         Syria is home to some 500 thousand registered Palestinian refugees who have peacefully resided there for 63 years, as compared to those living under the illegal occupation of Israel.
         However, ever since the Syrian conflict, around half of all the Palestinian refugees are now displaced inside Syria, along with the Syrian citizens trying to escape from the civil war.
         For many months, a number of them have been unreachable and are reportedly starved, malnourished, and sick. Many other Palestinians have left Syria to seek refuge in other countries such as in Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt.
        "We are facing one of the worst humanitarian crises in the recent decades. From UNRWA's perspective, it is important to underline that the Syrian crisis continues to have a Palestinian refugee component, which must not be forgotten," she emphasized.
         According to the UNICEF, there are at least 400 thousand children among the Syrian refugees in Lebanon who are in dire need of international aid before the onset of winter.  Thousands of Syrian refugees living in makeshift camps in Lebanon are weathering a winter storm that brought snow, rain, and freezing temperatures in the country.
         Since the Lebanese government opposes the establishment of formal refugee camps, so the UNHCR and other groups can only try to ameliorate the conditions at the unofficial camps that the refugees have created, the AFP reported.
         The UN has stated that it is "extremely concerned" about the Syrian refugees in Lebanon as a fierce winter storm bears down. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced that it is "working harder than ever" to protect more than 800 thousand Syrians, mostly women and children and many barefooted, who are sheltered in Lebanon.
         Taking into consideration the grave condition of the Palestinian refugees, the United Nations recently adopted a resolution naming 2014 as the "Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People."
    To mark the occasion, the UN declared that in the coming year, it will work to organize special activities along with all Governments and non-governmental organizations across the world.
         Meanwhile, expressing his gratitude to Muhammadiyah, the Indonesian people, and the government for their continued support to Palestine, the Palestinian Ambassador to Indonesia Fariz Mehdawi stated that the plight of refugees is about human dignity, not merely about food or shelter.
         He urged the Indonesian organizations and people to donate generously for the cause of the Palestinian refugees through UNRWA.
         The year 2014 will be the best year for Indonesian people and the international community to demonstrate their solidarity with the Palestinian people through concrete contribution, to support the "Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People."
(T. f001/INE/B003)

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