For years we have been part of a small cadre of determined individuals who saw clearly the damage being done by UNRWA — the UN Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees. Damage to prospects for peace in this region, and damage directly to Israel.
There is so much wrong with this agency that it’s impossible to document it all in this post. Suffice it to say the following:
UNRWA is the only international refugee agency in the world dedicated to one group of refugees — the Palestinian Arab “refugees.” All other refugees are tended to by the UN High Commission for Refugees. And what’s astounding is that UNRWA’s rules for “its” refugees are different from the rules for all those other refugees.
UNHCR works to get refugees resettled as quickly as possible — even if the only alternative is settling them permanently in the place to which they had fled or to a third place — so that they might get on with their lives.
UNRWA, however, which is functioning from an orientation that is highly politicized and heavily anti-Israel, says that “its” refugees continue to be refugees even if they get citizenship elsewhere. ONLY “returning” to Israel would eradicate that status. What is more, UNRWA says descendants of refugees are also refugees, indefinitely via the patrilineal line. Which means UNRWA promotes “return” to Israel of people who have never been here, and whose parents or even grandparents have never been here either.
So, while other refugee populations diminish over time, the rolls of UNRWA have grown exponentially. Hey! the idea here is to invade Israel by demanding that “right” for some roughly five million counted locally, or seven million world-wide. A good way to conquer Israel without lifting a machine gun.
Over the years, I have examined this approach of UNRWA and written about the fact that the so-called “right of return” does not exist. But I have also considered the deprivation of human rights endured by those refugees; the tendency for them to be radicalized because of their frustrations; the inciteful nature of UNRWA education; and the close link to UNRWA of Hamas — which, for starters, controls its school system in Gaza.
But now the focus has turned on the matter of refugee status within UNRWA, with regard to the number of descendants (which is increasing) vs. the number of original refugees (which is clearly diminishing as time passes).
Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) is attempting to have an amendment attached to the funding bill for the State Department, for fiscal year 2013, that would require the State Department to provide to Congress: 1) the number of Palestinians physically displaced from their homes in what became Israel in 1948, and 2) the number of their descendants administered by UNRWA (that is, on UNRWA’s rolls today as refugees).
This is just a beginning, but a fantastic one that is long overdue. It calls public attention to the games being played by UNRWA, and ultimately will call into question US funding for UNRWA. The US is the single largest donor to UNRWA and the fact that a great deal of the US funds for UNRWA go to assist grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who fled in 1948 is not going to be received well in many quarters.
It is, however, a tough battle. The State Department is on UNRWA’s side. (Are you surprised?) UNRWA itself, along with its adjunct American Friends of UNRWA, does exceedingly good PR. At any given time you can find an article in one place or another documenting the splendid work that UNRWA does for these poor, long-suffering refugees.
If you live in IL, and are thus a constituent of Senator Kirk, let him know if you are pleased with what he is doing:
Let me add here, as well, that Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) has taken a very active interest in UNRWA as well: He has focused on the textbooks, and deprivation of human rights of the refugees. His contribution is valuable, and there is hope that he will advance his work via Congressional hearings on the issue.
And again, if you are a constituent of Congressman Smith (4th Congressional district of NJ), let him know if you are pleased that he is looking into UNRWA’s school books and related problems: