In March 1968, less than a year after the Six Day War, Rabbi Eugene Weiner addressed my senior high school class at Akiba Hebrew Academy in Philadelphia, Pa. about a moral implication of that war: Arab refugees from the 1948 war now live under Israeli control. Rabbi Weiner, who became a professor of sociology at Haifa University, shared his insight that “refugees from the 1948 war are now our responsibility” and implored Jews to take the initiative to move refugees out of “temporary” UN refugee camps into permanent humanitarian conditions, Israel we will never see peace in our time.

Rabbi Weiner who died in 2003, addressed a roadblock to Middle East peace: UNRWA, an agency created to promote the idea that Arab refugees must remain in:”temporary” facilities and while they wait for ”political solution” Five million Arab refugees and their descendents now endure the indignity of refugee conditions- instead of being encouraged to get on with their lives and not to dwell on the false hope of the “right of return” to villages that existed before 1948.

Instead, the current Palestinian Arab leadership observes the Nakba day n May 15 – the day that marks the Arab League’s failed invasion of the nascent state of Israel in 1948. – and the day that the Arab League relegated Arab refugees from that war to remain in UNRWA refugee camps for perpetuity, under the promise of return to Arab villages that existed before 1948 war.

Why is this Nakba different from previous Nakba observances?

Because this year, upwards 300,000 Palestinian Arab refugees have been forced out of UNRWA refugee camps in Syria, now engulfed in a bloody civil war, catapulted into even worse conditions in Jordan and Turkey. They know full well that they can never return to Syria, and they know that they cannot go back to villages from before 1948..

Most recently, our agency dispatched a reporter to visit a new Palestinian Arab refugee camp in Northern Jordan which is comprised of more than 140,000 refugees who have fled from UNRWA camps in Syria. Our journalist reported that the conditions were horrific. He was not allowed to film anything, however. Yet our reporter brought back the encouraging news is that the new Arab refugee camps in Jordan are by UNHCR- a UN which promotes resettlement of refugees, not the “right of return” to Palestine, and he witnessed the UNHCR staff working tirelessly to find places where these people can move to, so that they can begin a new life of dignity.

Western democracies, which fund 95% of the 1.2 billion dollar budget for UNRWA, can now redirect their energies to remove the blight of refugee camps, instead of supporting a policy that mandates the perpetuity of refugee squalor.

In the spirit of Rabbi Eugene Weiner’s message from 46 years ago, Israel must now lead the way to help Arab refugees forced out of Syria to seek a better life, in permanent humanitarian conditions.

David Bedein is the author of “ROADBLOCK TO PEACE- How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict: UNRWA policies reconsidered”, published on May 1, 2014, the day which marked 64 years since the creationf of UNRWA.

David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.

1 COMMENT

  1. Beautiful thoughts. I was wondering about the possibility of Arab-Israeli cooperation on this endeavor – and other efforts to improve the lot of Palestinians. Specifically Qatar. I know that they have wanted to create a fund for the Palestinians and help to heal the rifts between Hamas and Fatah. Here is a reference – I think more has happened since, but don’t have references at hand: 25 March 2014 Arab League summit opens with row over Palestinian support ….Qatar’s ruler kicked off the opening session of the annual Arab League summit on Tuesday by criticizing fellow Arab leaders over their attitude to the Palestinians.
    Sheik Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani reprimanded member states for not following through on a Qatari proposal made a year ago to set up a $1 billion fund to help the Arab residents of East Jerusalem, defiantly declaring that his tiny but super-rich nation will go ahead with the $250 million it has already pledged. A resolution to create the fund was adopted by last year’s Arab summit held in Qatar.

    Thoughts?

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