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Opinion The Trump administration must release all approved funds to help Palestinians fight the coronavirus

A Palestinian man walks past a coronavirus-themed mural in Gaza City on April 28. (Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

Rashida Tlaib, a Democrat, represents Michigan’s 13th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Alan Lowenthal, also a Democrat, represents California’s 47th Congressional District.

As members of Congress who come from different backgrounds — a Jewish American from Queens and a Palestinian American from Detroit — and who hold different views on how to achieve peace and justice in the Middle East, we share a fundamental belief that the humanity, dignity, safety and rights of all people should be protected.

Again and again, though, we see division and nationalism undermining the global response to the coronavirus pandemic. From withholding critical funding from the World Health Organization to failing to coordinate policies with our closest allies, the Trump administration has pursued counterproductive policies which make the world less safe.

The Palestinian people are particularly vulnerable at this moment. In 2018, the Trump administration eliminated funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the international organization charged with addressing the humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees. While covid-19 does not recognize borders, we must recognize that without aid and assistance, the Palestinian people will be greatly affected by this health crisis.

Full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic

That’s why we are calling on the Trump administration to release all funds appropriated by Congress to support the well-being of the Palestinian people and restore the U.S. relationship with UNRWA.

The world faces an unprecedented threat, which no nation can face alone. The need for global cooperation, for transparency, for mutual aid and for trust has never been clearer. There can be no return to normal, no global recovery, as long as the coronavirus disease continues to rage uncontrolled through vulnerable regions.

This failure is brought into stark relief in the West Bank and Gaza, where the Trump administration continues to withhold the vast majority of humanitarian assistance to Palestinians — including all funding to UNRWA and $75 million in humanitarian and development aid, appropriated with bipartisan support by Congress.

Conditions in the occupied Palestinian territories have deteriorated for decades and are especially critical now. Years of tight restrictions on the flow of goods and people have left local health systems unequipped to cope with a large-scale pandemic. Occupation has contributed to inadequate infrastructure, widespread poverty and critical environmental degradation, particularly in Gaza, where Israel has imposed a long-term military blockade.

These factors all raise the risk posed by the coronavirus. The administration’s failure to provide appropriated humanitarian assistance has only exacerbated these tragic conditions.

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The impact of the pandemic spreading throughout the West Bank and Gaza would be, first and foremost, a humanitarian catastrophe and a moral failure. It would also profoundly threaten the prospects for a just and lasting peace, and the stability of the entire region. The Trump administration paradoxically recognized that acting to protect Palestinian lives is indeed a key interest of the United States, when it moved to provide $5 million to fight the disease, but this effort remains insultingly insufficient.

International cooperation, American moral leadership and genuine concern for human rights and the health and safety of the some of the most vulnerable people on earth are nonnegotiable.

Read more:

Gaza is an open-air prison. As covid-19 spreads, it’s time to lift the siege.

Jackson Diehl: Trump now has the power to forever alter Israel’s character

Hanan Ashrawi: The latest shot in the Trump administration’s war on Palestinian rights

Daoud Kuttab: Why Palestinians aren’t surprised by the humiliation of Rashida Tlaib

Coronavirus: What you need to know

Vaccines: The CDC recommends that everyone age 5 and older get an updated covid booster shot. New federal data shows adults who received the updated shots cut their risk of being hospitalized with covid-19 by 50 percent. Here’s guidance on when you should get the omicron booster and how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections.

New covid variant: The XBB.1.5 variant is a highly transmissible descendant of omicron that is now estimated to cause about half of new infections in the country. We answered some frequently asked questions about the bivalent booster shots.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. In the U.S., pandemic trends have shifted and now White people are more likely to die from covid than Black people. Nearly nine out of 10 covid deaths are people over the age 65.

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