In the midst of the ongoing conflict, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has emerged not only as a provider of humanitarian aid but also as a contentious element fueling violence. Investigative reporter David Bedein has been shedding light on UNRWA’s role as a host for Arab terrorism since 1987, offering a crucial perspective on its implications for regional stability.
Dr. Eli Lasch, former head of medical services in Gaza, warned of an imminent eruption of violence within UNRWA refugee camps back in 1987. Lasch, having observed the aftermath of the PLO’s influence within UNRWA camps in Jordan and Lebanon, underscored the organization’s reluctance to invest in improvements, leaving the refugees in a state of stagnation.
The historical context reveals a pattern of hindrance to development within UNRWA. Israeli troops entering Gaza in 1967 discovered appalling living conditions – no electricity or running water, and residents forbidden to work outside the camps during the Egyptian rule. Only when Israel assumed administrative control did these conditions begin to change.
Despite attempts to improve the refugees’ living conditions, UNRWA consistently opposed such efforts. In 1985, Israel’s initiative to resettle refugees faced resistance from UNRWA, which argued against moving them from temporary shelters, citing the questionable “inalienable right of return.”
Fast forward to today, and UNRWA’s refugees have become unwitting pawns in a geopolitical struggle, operating under the slogan of an armed struggle for the right of return. This situation not only perpetuates a cycle of violence but also jeopardizes the well-being of over five million residents living as “refugees for perpetuity” in 59 UNRWA “temporary” camps.
Recognizing the urgency for change, Member of the Israel Knesset Parliament, Sharren Haskel, a native of Canada, has initiated a Task Force for UNRWA Policy Change. Scheduled to launch on January 2, 2024, this task force aims to unite parliamentarians and conscientious individuals globally to address the root causes of violence stemming from 75 years of what Dr. Lasch termed the “UNRWA denial of dignity” to an entire refugee population.
The call for an overhaul of UNRWA is not just a response to the current conflict but an acknowledgment of the need for a fundamental shift in policy. MK Haskel’s task force represents a step towards a more just and dignified future for those living within UNRWA’s sphere of influence. The world now watches as efforts to reform this institution unfold, with the hope of quelling the flames of violence and fostering a genuine path to peace and prosperity for the affected population.