UNHCR stops cash aid to 20,000 Syrian families in Lebanon

Syrian refugee children play on a street in the Palestinian Shatila refugee camp, on the southern outskirts of the Lebanese capital Beirut, on September 1, 2017. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees on Thursday said it has halted cash assistance to 20,000 Syrian families in Lebanon due to a shortage of international aid. (AFP / ANWAR AMRO)
Updated 15 September 2017

UNHCR stops cash aid to 20,000 Syrian families in Lebanon

BEIRUT: The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it has halted cash assistance to 20,000 Syrian families in Lebanon due to a shortage of international aid.
Some 20,000 “more needy” Syrian families will receive cash assistance instead, UNHCR spokeswoman Lisa Abu Khaled told Arab News. “We’re making tough decisions, but we have to deal with limited resources,” she said.
The spokesman for Syrian refugees in Arsal, Lebanon, said about 10,000 of them received text messages from the UNHCR saying they will be removed from its cash assistance program from November.
“This will be a disaster for these families, who are already living under the poverty threshold and have no other resources apart from what they get from the UNHCR,” he told Arab News.
Lebanon’s state minister for refugee affairs, Mouin Merehbi, warned on Thursday that the shortage of international aid will worsen the circumstances of Syrian refugees in his country.
The rise in tensions between them and Lebanese host communities is due to “many factors, including pressure on public services and employment competition,” he told the new head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Lebanon, Chris Jarvis.
Meanwhile, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report published on Thursday said: “Millions of dollars in aid money pledged to get Syrian refugee children in school last year did not reach them, arrived late, or could not be traced due to poor reporting practices.”
The report noted the lack of transparency in financing the education of Syrian refugees. It said HRW “followed the money trail from the largest donors to education in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan, the three countries with the largest number of Syrian refugees, but found large discrepancies between the funds that the various parties said were given and the reported amounts that reached their intended targets in 2016. The lack of timely, transparent funding contributed to the fact that more than 530,000 Syrian schoolchildren in those three countries were still out of school at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.”
The report added: “Donors and host countries have promised that Syrian children will not become a lost generation, but this is exactly what is happening. More transparency in funding would help reveal the needs that aren’t being met so they could be addressed and get children into school.”


Lebanese donor hands Nazi artifacts to Israel, warns of anti-Semitism

Updated 08 December 2019

Lebanese donor hands Nazi artifacts to Israel, warns of anti-Semitism

  • Abdallah Chatila spent about 600,000 euros ($660,000) for eight objects connected to Hitler
  • He said he had felt compelled to take the objects off the market

JERUSALEM: wealthy Lebanese-Swiss businessman said Sunday he had bought Adolf Hitler’s top hat and other Nazi artifacts to give them to Jewish groups and prevent them falling into the hands of a resurgent far-right.
Abdallah Chatila said he had felt compelled to take the objects off the market because of the rising anti-Semitism, populism and racism he was witnessing in Europe.
He spent about 600,000 euros ($660,000) for eight objects connected to Hitler, including the collapsible top hat, in a November 20 sale at a Munich auction house, originally planning to burn them all.
But he then decided to give them to the Keren Hayesod association, an Israeli fundraising group, which has resolved to hand them to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial center.
Chatila told a Jerusalem press conference it had been a “very easy” decision to purchase the items when he saw the “potentially lethal injustice that those artifacts would go to the wrong hands.”
“I felt I had no choice but to actually try to help the cause,” he added.
“What happened in the last five years in Europe showed us that anti-Semitism, that populism, that racism is going stronger and stronger, and we are here to fight it and show people we’re not scared.
“Today — with the fake news, with the media, with the power that people could have with the Internet, with social media — somebody else could use that small window” of time to manipulate the public, he said.
He said he had worried the Nazi-era artifacts could be used by neo-Nazi groups or those seeking to stoke anti-Semitism and racism in Europe.
“That’s why I felt I had to do it,” he said of his purchase.
The items, still in Munich, are to be eventually delivered to Yad Vashem, where they will be part of a collection of Nazi artifacts crucial to countering Holocaust denial, but not be put on regular display, said Avner Shalev, the institute’s director.
Chatila also met with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and visited Yad Vashem.
Chatila was born in Beirut into a family of Christian jewellers and moved to Switzerland at the age of two.
Now among Switzerland’s richest 300 people, he supports charities and causes, including many relating to Lebanon and Syrian refugees.
The auction was brought to Chatila’s attention by the European Jewish Association, which has sought to sway public opinion against the trade in Nazi memorabilia.
Rabbi Mehachem Margolin, head of the association, said Chatila’s surprise act had raised attention to such auctions.
He said it was a powerful statement against racism and xenophobia, especially coming from a non-Jew of Lebanese origin.
Lebanon and Israel remain technically at war and Lebanese people are banned from communication with Israelis.
“There is no question that a message that comes from you is 10 times, or 100 times stronger than a message that comes from us,” Margolin told Chatila.
The message was not only about solidarity among people, but also “how one person can make such a huge change,” Margolin said.
“There’s a place for optimism.”