Opportunity for donor nations to consider UNRWA POLICY CHANGES
Tthe renewal of the UNRWA mandate set for June 30, 2014, provIdes an opportunity for the donor nations to UNRWA to insist that UNRWA implement basic reforms that can be found in any respectable public concern. The leading donor to UNRWA is the United States, which granted $272 million to UNRWA during 2013.
New UNRWA standards should pave the way towards a higher level of openness and good government within UNRWA. If UNRWA adopts standards which stress accountability, donor nations can confidently inform their taxpayers that they are creating a better society for Palestinians to live in a manner that secures peace for the region
The UNRWA annual budget now exceeds $1.2 billion
As with any public authority, specifically one supported by taxpayers of other countries, there is a continuing need for UNRWA to be seen as transparent
However, UNRWA’s management in recent decades exposes it to claims that it does not apply the rules of good governance.
An analysis of the UNRWA operation raises six key problem areas: –
UNRWA is not subject to any external audit, a financial phenomenon virtually unknown in the public or corporate sectors in any of the donor nations.
UNRWA employs 30,000 workers, while comparative agencies function with far less sums proportionally.
UNRWA perpetuates the notion that descendants of refugees are themselves refugees, supporting the Palestinian demand of ‘the right of return’, and conflicts with the UN call for a two-state solution with Israel, which rejects the “right of return”.
The UNRWA budget is used to promote methods diametrically opposed by the UN itself, especially in the violent language found in UNRWA school text books that reject the existence of Israel and promote war against the Jewish state..
UNRWA has found itself concentrating primarily on Gaza and the West Bank, helpless to respond to the Syrian cruelty to Palestinians who have lived in UNRWA facilities in Syria since 1950.
UNRWA has become a self-perpetuating mechanism, whose focus has become political and diplomatic, rather than on the humanitarian concerns of of Palestinians, wherever they may live. Western taxpayers are therefore not receiving value for their allocation of resources to UNRWA. At a time when the world emerges from a global economic crisis, there are more urgent cases in need of greater resources.
With the input of an Arab language education expert, journalist Dr, Arnon Groiss, here are some necessary changes that must be made in the textbooks which are now used in the school books which now educate the 492,000 students who now learn in UNRWA schools, so as to make sure that UNRWA school books advocate for peace, in accordance principles of UNRWA, whose slogan is “peace starts here”
Addressing Legitimization of the State of Israel
Every UNRWA map that shows today’s political boundaries in the region should mark Israel’s pre-1967 territory by the name “Israel”. Such a territory shall not be left un-named and certainly is not to be named “Palestine” as that constitutes a distortion of the present situation on the ground.
Israel should be mentioned as an ordinary sovereign state in every text used by UNRWA that identifies the region’s countries..
Every discussion in the books of the holy places in the country should refer to the Jewish holy places alongside the Muslim and Christian ones. Any reference to a place which happens to be sacred to Jews (such as the Western Wall Wall in Jerusalem, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem) should state that fact.
Any discussion of subjects related to population and demography issues in the country should include the 5.5-6 million Jews there. Any map that shows cities in the country should include the important Jewish cities as well (such as Tel Aviv, Eilat, Ashdod, etc.).
UNRWA school books should not use circumlocutions such as “the lands of 48”, “the Interior” or “the Green Line”
Schoolbooks used by UNRWA schools should not include pieces with virulent demonization of Israel (such as the one starting with the words “Your enemies killed your children…”), or de-humanization, or any description that goes beyond the presentation of Israel and/or the Jews as an ordinary adversary with its own rights, interests and positions.
UNRWA school books should convey objects objective information about with Israel and Jews. For example, pieces that talk about the Israeli government structure, economy, science and technology, the Hebrew culture, Jewish history, etc.that would balance the enormous anti-Israeli critical material in the books.
It is crucially important to stress in the books that, in spite of the Arab Israeli conflict, the Jewish/Israeli individual should be portrayed as a human being, apart from being an adversary, and should be treated accordingly.
Advocacy of peaceful solutions instead of the “violent struggle”
UNRWA school books should emphasize that peace is a strategic choice and that negotiations are the only way to achieving a solution to the conflict.
UNRWA school books should refrain from any presentation of an armed or violent struggle as a means for attaining a solution to the conflict.
The traditional Islamic ideals of Jihad and martyrdom should be mentioned in historical contexts only and not as a desired part of today’s reality.
Any discussion of what is termed “Nakbah” should stress the fact that the Nakbah was a direct result of a war initiated by the Arab League and not as a result of Jewish aggression, contrary to what is said today in the textbooks used by UNRWA.
Within this context, Palestinian children should be taught to recognize shared responsibility for past events and not restrict that to the adversary alone. For example:, the so-called “Separation Wall” which was built for defending the Israeli population against incursions and suicide bombing attacks by Palestinians.
UNRWA should mention the so-called “Right of Return” as a demand representing the PLO position regarding the solution of what is termed “the Refugee Problem” while the solution itself can still be attained in the framework of the negotiations between the two parties and on the basis of a mutual agreement only.