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Activists Disrupt Hearing on UNRWA 'Failures'

Protesters disrupted a House committee hearing on the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) on January 30, following the US’s temporary defunding of the agency amid allegations some of its staff participated in the October 7 attack on Israel.

The activist group CODEPINK said five people were arrested at the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing titled “UNRWA Exposed: Examining the Agency’s Mission and Failures.”

The US State Department announced that it had “temporarily paused additional funding for UNRWA” following allegations that 12 of its employees were involved in the October 7 Hamas attack.

The agency said it “immediately terminate[d] the contracts of these staff members and launch[ed] an investigation in order to establish the truth without delay.”

A senior Israeli official said the Israeli government opposed the “immediate discontinuation of UNRWA” as it “could cause a humanitarian catastrophe that would force Israel to halt its fighting against Hamas.”

This footage was released by CODEPINK, and shows activists being detained at the hearing.

Ann Wright, a retired army colonel State Department official, is one of the protesters seen being detained in the footage. She says: “The Biden administration is complicit in genocide. It is killing people just as the Israelis are. It’s our weapons. It’s our money, it’s our money that’s doing this.”

The co-founder of CODEPINK, Medea Benjamin, who participated in the protest, said, “UNRWA is the lifeline for people who are starving; cutting its funding is just inhumane.” Credit: CODEPINK via Storyful

Video transcript

- You cannot take the word, of Israel who is torturing prisoners, who have been charged with nothing and use that as evidence!

- You are on the wrong side of history!

ANN WRIGHT: Two million people starving right now.

- Israel does not have the right to starve the civilians of Gaza!

- The congressmen from New Jersey, Mr. Smith, with opening statement.

- It's a death sentence!

ANN WRIGHT: It's starving-- starving people. It's people that have childbirth without anesthesia, kids that are having to have their limbs amputated because of Israeli attacks, horrible attacks that have killed 26,000 people, that have killed 10,000.

OK. Don't hurt my arms. Don't hurt my arms. Don't hurt my arms. I'm 77 years old. I'm an army colonel. I'm a retired diplomat. And what the US is doing-- the Biden administration is part of the genocide. It's a genocide that the Biden administration is complicit in. The Biden administration is complicit in genocide. It is killing people just as the Israelis are. It's our weapons. It's our money. It's our money that's doing this.

And the money for UNRWA is very important to keep people from starving to death after we're trying to kill them all. Two million people that are there, crammed into a tiny part of Gaza, and we're trying to kill them, starve them to death, and all of the people that need medical care, that need help, and they're not getting it. We're killing them.

I interrupted this program that they're having, that the Congress has on UNRWA, an organization that is critical for Palestinian survival in Gaza, critical for that-- the health, the education, the medical care. Easy, easy, I really bruise. I bruise. Yeah. I've been to Gaza 10 different times. I've been there to see the destruction of earlier times when the Israelis were killing people. It's just terrible what's going on right now.

26,000 people that have been killed. 10,000 kids that have been killed. All of these people that are undergoing, you know, amputations with no medicine, anesthesia, nothing. And then the starving-- these kids that are starving to death, that there's no food, that they're not letting the food in. And then the Biden administration, I mean, we're giving them weapons. We're killing them with weapons. We're killing them with no food. It's just all of it.

- Hey, guys, you're not permitted to the floor. Let's go back.

Please do not defund UNRWA. It's their lifeline. It was established in 1948 with the refugees of Palestine. It's a death sentence! They're already starving. They're already starving. Please don't defund UNRWA.

- --attack on the Jewish people.

- Please, don't defund UNRWA.

- Again, most of this is not new information.

- Please, don't defund UNRWA. Please.

- Many watchdog organizations--

- Please, I'm begging you, for the children of Gaza, for the mothers of Gaza. It's the only thing that's keeping them going.

- I've got a broken finger.

Please, don't defend UNRWA. Please. I'm begging you. I'm begging you. Please. Please, I'm begging you. Don't defund UNRWA. It's what's keeping the Palestinians alive. It's the only food and water they're receiving. It's the only medicine they're receiving. They don't get anything from Israel.

- And now this is the chance. They were pulled by the International Court.

- It's what's keeping the Palestinians alive.

- Israels is starving them to death. They're starving them. They're depriving them of water and medicine. They bomb them. They've killed over 11,000 children. They killed 20,000-- 27,000 people. Oh, my God.

- One atrocity does not justify another.

- --Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.

- Israel does not have the right to starve the civilians of Gaza.

- Thank you very much, Chairman.

- Please, do not defund UNRWA. I-- I [INAUDIBLE]. I have an important message for you. That is, do not defund UNRWA. It's the only agency that's capable of--

- --public pressure motivated by--

- --even managing to provide services. There's no other agency large enough to have the capacity to meet the need of the genocide that's happening to the Gazan people.

[CAMERA SOUNDS]

The Palestinians in Gaza are dying!

CHERYL BARNES: --who has a long-time plan of getting rid of the lifeline for the Palestinians. You cannot take the word of Israel, who is torturing prisoners who have been charged with nothing and use that as evidence!

[INTERPOSING VOICES]

CHERYL BARNES: There has been no evidence! Many people have been fire already! You are taking their lineline!

UNRWA has been the lifeline for the Palestinian people since Israel was created and pushed them off their land. This is how they have survived. Israel has long been trying to get rid of this CHERYL BARNES: that provides food, water, shelter, health care, medicine. And now this is the chance. They were told by the International Court that they had to stop the genocide and that they had to provide humanitarian assistance.

And their response the same day was to get the United States and some other of their followers to cut funding for the lifeline for the Palestinian children, mothers, women, the people are innocent civilians. This is sick. And it is wrong. And we have to stand up as Americans and say that we object, that we won't have our tax dollars funding this genocide, and that we won't be quiet while the US cuts funding for humanitarian assistance for people who desperately need it.

- What's your name?

CHERYL BARNES: Cheryl Barnes.

- Thank you, Cheryl.

CHERYL BARNES: Honor the Earth. Free Palestine. --blood on your hand Shame on you! This is a genocide! You are starving 2 million people to death. This is a genocide, and you are responsible for it. Shame on you! Shame on you! Shame on you! Ceasefire now! Ceasefire now!

Shame on you! You are killing people! You are killing innocent people! You are killing innocent people! We will never forgive you for this! We will never forgive you for this! You are on the wrong side of history! You are on the wrong side of history! Shame on you! Shame on all of you! Shame on you!

- Let go. Hands behind your back.

- Right here, sir.

- On your back.

- Ali, why are you being arrested?

- Cause I'm trying to stop a genocide. These people are enabling a genocide. Shame on them. They're on the wrong side of history. They're starving people to death. America is complicit in this genocide. By stopping UNRWA funding, which is the only lifeline the Palestinians have at the moment, we are starving them to death. We are enabling a genocide. Shame on Biden. Shame on our Congress people. This is a genocide. And we're gonna say no. We're gonna say no.