Of the estimated hundreds of millions of people who were considered refugees after World War II, with minor exceptions, only one group remains designated and cared for as refugees: Arabs who were expelled and/or left Palestine/Israel during the 1948-9 conflict. For 60 years they have been used to attack Israel and prevent reconciliation.
Unlike all other refugee groups, Palestinian Arabs and their descendants are funded, generation after generation, to hate Jews and enable terrorism. Exploited and discriminated against by their host Arab countries, they have been denied the opportunity to lead normal lives, resettle and be compensated.
According to UNHCR statistics, of the over 10 million refugees in the world today, nearly half are “Palestinians,” most of whom live in and around UNRWA backed towns in Lebanon ,Syria , Jordan and PA administered territory.
The UNHCR’s annual budget was US $3.32 billion in 2011; UNRWA’s biennium regular budget for 2010 and 2011 is US $1.23 billion; in 2009, UNRWA’s total budget for its core programs, emergency activities and special projects was US$1.2 billion
UNHCR’s mandate covers all refugees, except those under UNRWA, and according to UN rules and guidelines the two organizations cannot be combined. The reason is simple and political: Maintaining a unique and separate status for “Palestinian refugees” – who currently numbers almost five million – and insisting on their “right of return” – aims to destroy Israel.
UNRWA spokespeople point out that they do not run refugee camps/towns, but only provide health, education and welfare services; security is up to local governments and militias. The Yarmouk camp in Syria, one of the largest refugee camps with 138,000 residents, for example, is dominated by a branch of the PFLP, a terrorist organization, with Syrian approval. The PFLP organized the buses that transported people to the Syrian-Israeli border in the Golan, which resulted in violent clashes and fatalities.
Not part of any political or social system, UNRWA-sponsored camps in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan as well as those in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are sources of discontent and abuse. Time-bombs, they are ready to explode – and the major funders of UNRWA – US, Canada and EU countries – are complicit.
Among new options that emerge from the “Arab Spring” can be the resettlement and integration of Arab “refugees” and their descendents wherever they are, allowing them civil and humanitarian rights, the opportunity to become productive and creative citizens. Contributions towards this end would promote peace and prosperity. President Obama and European countries can lead the way with a bold initiative that conditions future funding on dismantling UNRWA and assisting programs that serve the people, rather than anti-Israel political motives.
RESPONSE OF THE UNRWA SPOKESMAN, Chris Gunness
“Don” blame UNRWA”
The Ynetnews’ recent article , “The Arab refugee swindle” by Moshe Dann, fundamentally fails to understand international law, UNRWA’s mandate and its day-to-day operations.
All refugee communities, whether those under the care of UNRWA or UNHCR, have their refugee status passed through the generations while their plight remains unresolved. Refugees in Kenya administered by UNHCR are a good example. In this regard, the accusation that UNRWA uniquely perpetuates the Palestine refugee problem is ignorant of international refugee law and practice
Any suggestion that UNRWA is complicit in promoting anti-Semitism or terrorism lazily pedals old myths and fails to take account of the invaluable “neutrality” work that we carry out in our installations, whereby international UN staff work tirelessly, regularly inspecting our facilities, immediately rectifying any issues that come to light
Our strenuous efforts to assure the neutrality not just of our facilities, but also of our staff, are regularly reported to our major donors, included the United States, to their satisfaction. In addition, we teach human rights and peaceful conflict resolution every day to some 500,000 children in the Arab states and territories around Israel, encouraging in the next generation the belief in a peaceful and stable future. Here our contribution IS unique.
The article in question uses the phrase “UNRWA backed towns in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and the PA administered territory.” Such phraseology is so bafflingly ungrounded in reality that it is hard to know where to begin to unpack its ignorance. Similarly, Mr. Dann uses the phrase “UNRWA-sponsored camps.” This also appears ignorant of the fact that we do not “sponsor” or run camps, but we do administer facilities such as schools and clinics within them. Oddly, this point is made by Mr. Dann himself in the preceding paragraph.
On the question of resettling refugees, all internationally accepted paradigms for resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict envisage the refugee question being resolved in the context of a just and durable solution, based on UN resolutions and international law, agreed by the parties and in consultation with the refugees. It is the failure of the parties to reach such an agreement that is perpetuating the refugee crisis.
A neutral UN human development and humanitarian agency whose work promotes universal values in the Middle East cannot be blamed. Any suggestion that such an agency, working with the most marginalized communities in this troubled region, should be deprived of funds is irresponsible.
The conclusion that this would somehow promote “peace and prosperity” does not stand up to serious scrutiny.
Response of UNRWA expert, research analyst Arlene Kushner:
UNRWA has culpability
The article by Chris Gunness defending UNRWA positions begs for refutation. All we need are a few facts:
“All refugee communities, whether those under the care of UNRWA or UNHCR, have their refugee status passed through the generations while their plight remains unresolved.”
Ah, but UNHCR is mandated to solve refugee problems quickly and allow refugees to get on with their lives. If refugees must be resettled in another country, that is done.
UNRWA, on the other hand, maintains the position that a Palestinian Arab refugee retains that status as refugee until “returning” to Israel. Palestinian Arabs who have acquired new citizenship are still on the UNRWA books as refugees.
As to the denial that UNRWA is ever complicit in promoting terrorism, we need look no further than the fact that for years Hamas affiliated candidates have won the elections as representatives for the UNRWA teachers union in Gaza. These people control the schools. In the course of my work on UNRWA I have documented the fact that the Islamic Bloc, an affiliate of Hamas, actually runs activities in the schools that promote jihad and encourage students to join Hamas.