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The Palestinian Refugee issue is unique on two counts. First, in that it is still unsolved after six decades, with no serious attempts at being solved unlike countless other refugee situations that have come and gone. Second, unlike most refugees, which are under the care of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees agency (UNHCR), Palestinian refugee camps are run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.
UNRWA was founded after the 1948 War of Independence to provide relief and employment to the roughly 600,000 Palestinians that became refugees as a result of the war. The agency defines Palestinian refugees as "persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood" in the 1948 war... plus their descendants.
It is important to note that the inclusion of the descendants of the uprooted people in the 'refugee' status is unique. By all other definitions, refugees are exiles fleeing their homeland for safety not including subsequent generations. Since the Palestinian refugee problem remained unsolved, UNRWA changed the criteria for refugee registration. While all other refugee populations declined as years passed, the number of Palestinian refugees continues to grow. Today, UNRWA provides education, health, relief and social services to over 4.6 million registered refugees in the Middle East, according to the agency's likely inaccurate numbers.
UNRWA, the agency responsible for Palestinian refugees does not have the mandate to solve their problem. It can provide services within UNRWA camps, but cannot find the refugees new homes. This is one reason that the Palestinian refugee problem has existed for 61 years. UNRWA has only served to perpetuate the issue and preserve the refugees as they are: waiting for the state of Israel to disappear and for the 'Right of Return' to be realized.
Other refugees around the world receive aid from UNHCR, and are rehabilitated within a few years. In keeping with UNHCR's charter, these refugees have either returned home or settled in other countries. This is how the international community has handled millions of refugees from wars in Africa, Yugoslavia, Southeast Asia and, in recent years, Iraq. This is true everywhere except in Israel. What makes Palestinian refugees different from the others? Why haven't they been rehabilitated? The answer is simple: UNRWA.
The War of Independence erupted in 1948, when the Arabs rejected the UN Partition Plan and attacked the young State of Israel. During the fighting, a large number of the area's Arabs left their homes with the expectation of returning later, accompanied by the victorious Arab armies. Israel succeeded in forming a sovereign country, and the Arabs that fled became refugees.
For many years, refugees sat in camps, while their Arab brethren chose not to rehabilitate them perhaps out of hope that the State of Israel would disappear.
Rather than properly taking care of the refugee problem, it became a political tool. When the PLO was established in the 1960s, before the Six Day War, it used the hardship in the refugee camps to promote the cause of "Free Palestine." In other words, according to the PLO, the problem was not the status and lives if these people, but rather the fact that they do not have a state of their own; that the Arabs do not rule over Palestine. The humanitarian problem was translated into a political one.
The Palestinians succeeded in promoting their cause. Today, the whole world talks about "two states for two nations," as if Israel took sovereignty away from the Palestinians. Hardly anyone remembers that there has never been a Palestinian state, other than Jordan, and that the problem created in 1948 is not political, it is a humanitarian crisis.
Once we realize that this is a humanitarian issue, it can be solved.
If the problem is political, we cannot solve it.
Palestine can only rise from the ashes of a destroyed Israel this is a matter of us or them. If we choose to treat the problem as political, it will not be solved, despite the enormous funds and effort expended towards this end.
The key to getting out of this dead-end situation is to see the issue for what it is: a humanitarian, not a political problem.
Since the War of Independence, Israel has opposed what the Palestinians call "the right of return" allowing all Palestinian refugees to come to Israel. The government has rejected the claim that it is Israel's fault that there are Palestinian refugees, and pointed out that Israel absorbed more Jewish refugees from Arab countries than the number of Arabs who fled Israel in 1948. Israel's position was that the fledgling state took care of the Jewish refugees, while the surrounding Arab countries chose to put Palestinian refugees in camps, not giving them the opportunity to lead normal lives.
Since then, Israel has, mostly, chosen to ignore the refugee issue. However, on occasion, governments have realized that although the refugee problem is not Israel's fault, it still exists, and must be taken care of. In 1952, Israel took care of 40,000 Palestinian refugees living in Israel and initiated a "family reunion" program, where 45,000 family members living in neighboring countries were brought to Israel. Israel also unfroze the bank accounts of the refugees.
Many years later, In the 1980s, Israel built housing complexes for Palestinian refugees in Nablus and Gaza. However, the refugees, facing threats from the PLO, refused to live in the new homes.
In addition, in 1983, a Committee to Rehabilitate the Palestinian Refugees was formed in then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin's cabinet. The head of the committee, Minister Without Portfolio Mordechai Ben-Porat, being himself a refugee from Iraq, visited many refugee camps and did extensive research, leading to the publication of a report in 1984. The report recommended that Israel will improve the state of the refugees in her territory, and demand from Arab countries to compensate the Jewish refugees for their lost property.
This plan was never executed, mostly because Arab leaders such as Arafat or King Hussein preferred to leave the refugees in camps, claiming that Ben Porat's plan would destroy the Palestinian people.
For the next 24 years, Israel was mostly silent on the refugee issue. Even the Oslo Accords pushed taking care of the problem until after a Palestinian state would rise. The only plan which dealt with the refugee issue was Benny Elon's "The Right Road to Peace" plan, published in its first version in 2003. However, in took till 2008, that MKs Benny Elon and Amira Dotan founded a Parliamentary Lobby to Solve the Palestinian Refugee Problem. The lobby included MKs from five different parties: Likud, Labor, Kadima, National Union and Shas, and was the first in the history of Israeli parliament to touch this delicate issue. Less than a year after the lobby's inception, elections were held, and thus the group was dissolved.
We in the Israeli Initiative hope that Netanyahu's government will follow Begin's legacy, and launch a new policy, aimed to solve the problem rather than ignore it.
After Israel's War of Independence ended, UN General Assembly resolution 302 (IV) founded the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) on December 8, 1949. UNRWA began operations in May 1950, with 860,000 registered refugees. UNRWA's mandate was to carry out relief and works programs for Palestinian refugees, including education, health, relief and social services.
The agency was defined as a temporary one, but the UN has repeatedly renewed UNRWA's mandate, which is currently extended until June 30, 2011. UNRWA claims to currently serve 4.6 million refugees. Its major donors are the United States, which has donated $187 million in 2008, and the European Union, which donated $177 million in 2008.
UNRWA has its own definition of "refugee," which it allows it to provide humanitarian assistance. Beneficiaries of UNRWA's aid had to have lived in the British Mandate of Palestine for at least two years before fleeing, and must have lost their home and their livelihood as a result of the 1948 War of Independence. This refugee status is also given to the descendants of those who meet these criteria. This definition differs from that used by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which deals with all other refugees in the world.
This is not the only discrepancy between the way UNRWA and UNHCR deal with refugees. First, UNRWA only takes care of the Palestinians. It also registers descendants of refugees, and leaves refugees that have found new homes and employment in its registry. Most important is that UNRWA does not rehabilitate its beneficiaries: It has no mandate to reduce the number of refugees, help them gain citizenship in the countries and areas where they are currently residing, or to recommend that they become citizens in other countries.
As opposed to other UN agencies, UNRWA is a huge organization that employs tens of thousands of refugees in its extensive bureaucratic framework, which serves one objective: to maintain the refugee camps and ensure that the Palestinian refugee problem remains intact.
Although UNRWA claims to be a neutral agency, providing only basic humanitarian services, it is an essential part of the Palestinian national movement. By providing education and healthcare and serving as a major employer, UNRWA has become an integral part of the Palestinian society and has aided its use of terror. This UN-based organization, which enjoys international funding, is in several aspects a Palestinian national organization and an anti-Israeli one.
Recently, there have been a number of scandals in which UNRWA showed its dangerous political nature. During Operation Cast Lead, the IDF reported that Hamas rockets were launched from UNRWA properties. Hamas had also been elected by UNRWA refugees to manage UNRWA camps. In addition, the Holocaust is not taught in UNRWA schools' "Human Rights Curriculum," but anti-Semitism and glorification of terror are.
Recently, Congressmen like Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Steve Rothman (D-NJ) have proposed the UNRWA Accountability Bill, demanding transparency and responsibility from UNRWA. Despite these efforts, UNRWA has only committed to general, long-term plans to include the Holocaust in their curriculum, and continues to employ thousands of refugees, many with connections to Hamas. UNRWA officials also planned to meet with Hamas to discuss these possible curriculum changes.
As long as UNRWA maintains its current mandate and international support, it will continue to be an obstacle to solving the Palestinian refugee issue, and an impediment in attaining true peace in the Middle East.
As we mentioned last week, UNRWA claims to be a neutral organization, but has proven time and again to be a puppet of the Palestinian National movement and of terror. In this chapter, we will specify how UNRWA is linked to these dangerous groups.
Even if UNRWA was not directly connected to terrorist groups, its existence would be enough to support Palestinian Nationalism. Since UNRWA does not rehabilitate refugees, it perpetuates the refugee situation, by providing many refugees with relatively comfortable conditions: housing in the camps, education, medical care and other welfare services.
The refugees are an essential part of the Palestinian National narrative; Palestinian leaders have insisted on the "right of return" since the movement's inception. This card has been played to block Israeli attempts to bring peace time and again. As long as UNRWA is around to maintain the refugee problem, there cannot be a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the Palestinians can continue in their war against "the Zionist entity."
UNRWA admits, and is even proud, that it identifies politically with the Palestinian National Movement. In 2004, former commissioner-general Peter Hansen said that, while UNRWA is supposed to be "above the fray" and not political, he found that in "good conscience [he] cannot turn a blind eye" to his perceived infringement of the refugees' human rights by Israel. According to Hansen, it comes down to "human rights" as opposed to "simple assistance."
The current commissioner-general, Karen Abu-Zayd, has the same approach. She has spoken out in an unbalanced matter, which has generated negative PR, causing grave damage to Israel's image. A recent example of UNRWA's politicization is a one-man play written by and starring UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness, in which he accuses the IDF of using illegal white phosphorus to bomb a warehouse in Gaza. This behavior moves UNRWA out of the realm of humanitarian aid and squarely in the political arena.
The UNRWA-terror link is not a new problem. Over 25 years ago, Lebanese ambassador to the UN Edward Ghorra complained that UNRWA camps in Lebanon had been taken over by terrorists. Soon after, UNRWA released a detailed report which described how its educational institute at Siblian, near Beirut, had become a military training base for PLO fighters.
In recent years, similar connections have been found in Judea, Samaria and Gaza. IDF incursions into camps as a part of Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, as a response to the second Intifada, revealed that UNRWA camps were filled with explosive labs, arms factories and suicide bombing cells.
One camp, Jenin, received more attention than others, when the IDF was met with strong resistance from terrorists located there in April 2002. A report to Marwan Barghouti, the head of the Tanzim, the military wing of Fatah, described the UNRWA camp as "characterized by an exceptional presence of fighters who take the initiative [to perform] nationalist activities...They are ready for self-sacrifice by any means. It is not surprising that Jenin [is nicknamed] the suiciders' capital [A'simat Al-Istashidin, in Arabic]"
UNRWA administrators claim to be unaware of terrorist activities in the camps. Karen Abu-Zayd, for example, declared: "We just don't see anything like this." It is unfeasible that camps could become "suiciders' capitals" without the knowledge of UNRWA personnel. These denials imply, at best, turning a blind eye, and at worst, implicit consent.
It seems unlikely that UNRWA's administration would not know about terrorist activities in their camps, when Hamas is the leading party in refugee-camp elections. The various UNRWA labor unions (teachers, civil service and general UNRWA workers) hold elections every three years to elect 27 representatives. The PLO, Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine all run for seats; all of these parties, except for the PLO, are on the European Union's and the United States' list of terrorist groups. Hamas has dominated UNRWA's unions in the Gaza Strip since 1990, often winning all 11 seats in the UNRWA teachers' union, giving them complete control of education. Results for the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas's parent organization, have been similar in Jordan and Lebanon.
Senior UNRWA officials have openly supported Palestinians' armed campaign against the State of Israel. In 2008, Amir Al-Misehal, the head of the UNRWA civil service sector stated "what was taken by force will only be restored by force and not by peace or resolutions." Karen Abu-Zayd attended and spoke at the same event. The UNRWA workers' union in Jordan announced their solidarity with the Palestinian people, and decided that every worker would contribute one day's salary to the families of suicide bombers. The funds were transferred through UNRWA's Relief and Social Services department.
When UNRWA's administration started monitoring workers, the unions issued a statement opposing these activities. Union heads refused to report on UNRWA teachers' terrorist activities, and wrote letters calling on John Ging, then-director of UNRWA's operations, to reinstate teachers who had been fired on suspicion of links to terror. In addition, in a 2005 event honoring 100 teachers from Khan Yunis (an UNRWA camp in Gaza) for academic excellence, an award was given to Dr. Yunes Al-Astal, who also happens to be a high-ranking Hamas official that openly preaches in favor of terrorist attacks against Israel. At the event, Khaled Madi, a teacher in UNRWA schools said "those worthy of being honored are the teachers who sacrificed their lives for the sake of Allah and the homeland," and proceeded to list "shaheeds" (martyrs) who taught in UNRWA schools.
This is only a fraction of the examples of cooperation between UNRWA and terrorists. There are long lists of teachers and other workers for UNRWA that are active members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Fatah, Al-Qassam Brigades, Al-Aqsa Brigades, and other known terrorist groups.
UNRWA in Gaza and Terror Groups: The Connection. Center for Near East Policy Research, Ltd., Jerusalem. 3242009.
Kushner, Arlene, UNRWA: Overview and Policy Critique. Center for Near East Policy Research, Ltd., Jerusalem. November, 2008.
In previous weeks we have presented the history of UNRWA and its failures as an organization that is mean to dela with the Palestinian refugge problem. This week, we present some information on UNHCR, the U.N. 's other refugee agency, as a contrast to UNRWA and a possible partner for future refugee rehabilitation. The Israel Initiative proposes that Palestinian refugees are transferred to UNHCR's jurisdiction as a part of the first step in any peace process.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was established on December 14, 1950, to help Europeans displaced in World War II. The agency was established with a three-year mandate, and became a more permanent part of the UN after facing its first refugee emergency when the Soviet Union crushed the Hungarian Revolution. Since then, UNHCR has helped refugees resulting from the decolonization of Africa, crises in Asia and Latin America, and waves of refugees from the Balkan wars. In the 21st Century, UNHCR has done most of its work in Africa and Afghanistan. The agency won Nobel Peace Prizes in 1954 and 1981 for its assistance to refugees.
UNHCR defines a refugee as "any person who is outside the country of his nationality, or if he has no nationality, the country of his former habitual residence, because he has or had well-rounded fear of persecution by reason of his race, religion, nationality or political opinion and is unable or, because of such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of the government of the country of his nationality, or, if he has no nationality, to return to the country of his former habitual residence."
This definition does not include descendants of refugees. It also does not specify where these refugees are from, because UNHCR takes care of all refugees, except for Palestinian refugees of the 1948 War of Independence.
UNHCR is "mandated to lead and coordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide." This role includes responding to emergency situations as well as providing aid with shelter, health, water and education. UNHCR also strives to find "durable solutions" for the refugees, through three options for seeking asylum and finding safe refuge: voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement.
UNHCR works in 118 countries, with a staff of about 6,650 with a budget of over $2 billion in 2009. The agency currently deals with 34.4 people: 14.4 million internally displaced people, 10.5 million refugees, 2 million returnees, 6.6 million stateless people and over 800,000 asylum seekers. By contrast, UNRWA has a staff of nearly 25,000 to deal with 4.7 million refugees in five areas, with a budget of $545.6 million.
In previous weeks, we presented the history of UNRWA and its failures as an organization meant to deal with the Palestinian refugee problem. Last week, we presented some information on UNHCR, the U.N. refugee agency, as a contrast to UNRWA and a possible partner for future refugee rehabilitation. The Israel Initiative proposes that Palestinian refugees are transferred to UNHCR's jurisdiction as a part of the first step in any peace process. The following are ways in which UNHCR rehabilitates refugees, and recent examples of this course of action.
UNHCR's ultimate goal is to find "durable solutions that will allow [refugees] to rebuild their lives in dignity and peace," offering three options to refugees. UNHCR has helped millions of refugees achieve one of these "durable solutions" since its inception.
The option of voluntary repatriation entails helping refugees return to their homes. This is the solution of choice for the largest percentage of refugees; however, in order to be successful, repatriation requires the commitment of the country of origin to help these people reintegrate in society and ensure a stable living environment.
Many refugees do not have the option of repatriation because their countries are involved in continual conflict or because they fear persecution upon their return. Some such refugees find a home in the country of asylum, integrating in the local community. This complex, slow process imposes demands on the refugee and the receiving society; integration includes cultural, economic, legal and social aspects. The culmination of the local-integration process is obtaining the nationality of the country of asylum.
Some refugees, in addition to not being able to go home for various reasons, live in perilous situations in their place of asylum. These individuals are resettled in a third country by UNHCR. The resettlement country grants refugees legal and physical protection as well as rights similar to those of citizens, usually allowing for refugees to become naturalized citizens. Governments and NGOs facilitate integration by providing services such as cultural orientation as well as language and career training. The United States is the world's top resettlement country, while Australia, Canada and Scandinavia have provided many places each year, and the number of European and Latin American countries participating in UNHCR resettlement programs has risen in recent years. In 2008, more than 121,000 refugees were considered by resettlement countries, mostly from Iraq, Myanmar and Bhutan, as well as Thailand, Nepal, Syria, Jordan and Malaysia.
Of the three options, resettlement seems to be the one that most suits the Palestinian refugees. Voluntary repatriation is not possible: it will lead to the desrtruction of the state of Israel. Due to the population exchange during the War of Independence, the 'Right of Return' is also not just. Local integration is a more realistic approach, but it is limited: the area is not fit for such large number of refugees, and the hostility of these people towards the Israelis turns their presence to be a problem.
Resettlement, however, is realistic for a number of reasons.
First, many Palestinians want to leave the Middle East, especially those in Gaza. As reported in last week's newsletter, "desperate Gazans fake fatal diseases in order to get permission to enter Israel and receive medical care, or pay hundreds of dollars to smugglers and counterfeiters in order to cross the border to Israel or Egypt."
Second, countries are willing to accept these refugees. Although the Palestinian refugees' Arab brothers do not want to help, in order to maintain the Palestinian narrative, others are more welcoming. The president of Chile, for example, has expressed that he is willing to free many refugees of their plight by welcoming them to his country. When resettlement will become a wide international effort, there will be dozens of states that will take part in rehabilitating the Palestinian refugees.
The UN refugee agency's program to resettle Iraqi refugees began in 2007, and as of October 2009 over 80,000 refugees from Iraq have been resettled in a total of 14 countries around the world, including the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, Norway and Sweden. This includes the 1,500 Palestinian refugees that lived in the Al-Waleed refugee camp in Iraq, near the Syrian border. In 2008 and 2009, 444 Palestinian refugees from Al-Waleed were resettled in Iceland, the UK, the US, Denmark, France, Netherlands and Norway. Nearly 1,300 other Palestinian refugees are expected to be moved temporarily to Romania before being resettled in the United States, in accordance with an agreement between the Romanian government, UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration.
As we mentioned in previous chapters, UNRWA is an expensive and inefficient agency, with a budget of $541.8 million in 2008 that rose to $649.9 million in 2009. This budget increases as UNRWA registers more refugees each year, due to its policy of counting descendants of refugees of the 1948 War of Independence as refugees, and expanding its services, forming a pseudo-state.
In June 2009, the listed number of registered UNRWA refugees rose by 2.2% as compared to the previous year, reaching a total of 4,671,811. In Gaza, where the refugee population rose by 3%, there are 1,072,303 refugees, and in Judea and Samaria there are 762,829 refugees, 2.2% more than the previous year. There also was an increase in Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. Top donors' contributions have risen in proportion to the increase in refugees.
The European Commission (EC) and the United States are UNRWA's top donors, contributing 47% of the agency's overall received contributions for 2008 ($799,337,517). Sweden, the next-largest donor, gave a little over one quarter of what the US did ($51,568,339). The only Arab donors in the top 20 contributors to UNRWA are the Saudi Committee and the OPEC Fund for International Development, giving a total of $13,999,977.
Each year, states offer an amount towards UNRWA's general budget. Services in this budget include:
Education: Elementary and Secondary schools, Vocational Training, Teachers' Training
Health: Primary Health Care Facilities, Dental Services, DiabetesHypertension Care, and Laboratory Services
Microfinance and microenterprise loans
Relief and Social Services: Special Hardship Cases, Women's Centers, and Community Rehabilitation Centers
29,563 (!) Staff Posts
The money donated to UNRWA's general budget essentially goes towards the formation of a pseudo-state in the areas of UNRWA activity. The agency goes beyond the provision of essential services to the refugees, building their dependence on UNRWA.
Throughout the year, UNRWA petitions donor states and NGOs for additional contributions for "Projects" (another $28.5 million in 2009), "Emergency Appeal: Occupied Palestinian Territories (oPt)" ($275,288,085) and "Lebanon: Nahr el-Bared Camp Appeal" ($42,711,715). Parts of these so-called emergency appeals by this supposedly apolitical agency include blatant opposition to Israeli actions. For example, one of the "strategic objectives" of "Emergency Appeal: Occupied Palestinian Territories" is to oppose and work towards the abolishment of restrictions on movement in and out of "the oPt." As a result of these "emergencies," which seem to happen every year, the European Commission's contribution rose from $139,685,831 to $189,979,113, and the United States' contribution nearly doubled, increasing from $95,726,691 to $187,008,231 more than the donations received from the entire world in 1986.
UNRWA does not provide figures for all 60 years of its operation, but the information it does provide shows that the number of refguees is more than double what it was 25 years ago, and governments and the EC nearly tripled their annual contributions in the same amount of time.
In the past decade alone, UNRWA has spent more than 4.5 billion dollars.
The price of keeping UNRWA alive keeps rising. Think about how much of this money has lined the pockets of terrorists employed by UNRWA. Imagine, in UNRWA's 60 years of existence, how much of your tax-money has been spent in order to perpetuate the refugee situation, and continue the violence against Israel.
It is complicated to determine the cost of rehabilitation. It is a process that demands careful and weighty analysis of many factors. The rehabilitation of refugees in host countries requires resources and infrastructure projects in order to improve the refugees' lives, providing employment and education and freeing hundreds of thousands from their dependence on UNRWA. In the case of emigration to other lands, there is no need for major infrastructure projects, but each family must be granted a significant amount of money in order to enable them to successfully integrate into society.
Any arrangement should encompass the $6.5 billion granted to UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority each year, plus the supplemental $7 billion donor countries promised in December 2007.
A number of studies have shown that a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem is financially feasible. Rex Brynen, a professor of Political Science at McGill University and an expert on Middle East politics and post-conflict reconstruction wrote a report entitled "Implementing a (Just) Solution to the Palestinian Refugee Issue: Estimating the Financial Costs." Based on unpublished analysis by the World Bank from the years 2000-2003, Brynen estimated the costs of relocation, returnee absorption, third-country resettlement, closing UNRWA, camp improvement/refugee development, refugee compensation and host country compensation.
The results of his research is that a ten-year project, combining all different expenses listed above, will cost between $21 to $30 billion, bringing the Palestinian refugee problem to an end once and for all.
It sounds expensive, but this sum is equal to 4 or 5 years of regular funding funding that has only kept the problem alive.
The world's yearly contributions to UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority, along with contributions from the World Bank and Israel, should more than cover the costs.
If UNRWA is not dismantled, and the refugee problem is not solved, the world will spend over $60 billion on the Palestinians in the next ten years.
Even with Brynen's most generous estimate, solving the refugee problem will cost the world half of what it is currently spending to maintain the refugee problem and perpetuate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Not much has been done to eliminate UNRWA since its inception in 1949; the idea has been considered cruel and not "PC." However, as we've proven in previous chapters, keeping UNRWA alive is even crueler. The organization has made the refugees dependant on UNRWA, unable to lead independent lives, thus increasing their frustration. UNRWA also employs members of terrorist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Therefore, this agency plays a direct role in perpetuating the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Recently, the United States and Canada have awakened, and members of these governments have called to reduce support of UNRWA.
In September 2009, Congressmen Mark Kirk (R-IL) Steven Rothman (D-NJ) proposed the UNRWA Accountability Bill, which was appended to the State, Foreign Operation and Related Programs Appropriations Bill 2010. The Bill reads as follows:
"The Committee is cognizant of concerns over whether UNRWA is taking all reasonable steps to prevent United States assistance from supporting terrorists, terrorist organizations or other extremists, particularly in the West Bank and Gaza is operating in an open and transparent manner... Therefore, the Committee recommendation includes a provision (Sec. 7085) requiring the Secretary of State to submit an accountability report to the Committees on Appropriations not later than 45 days after enactment of this act."
The report submitted by the Secretary of State must include whether UNRWA is
This language was introduced in H.R. 3081 amongst other requirements. The bill also put a special emphasis on textbooks used by UNRWA schools, that "include inflammatory and inaccurate information about the United States and the State of Israel, anti-Semitic teaching, as well as the glorification of terrorists." The bill calls upon the State Department to review the educational materials in UNRWA schools, and report on them to the Committees on Appropriations.
(For the full text of the bill, click: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.3081:)
The language including UNRWA accountability has been removed in the Senate version of this bill, S. 1434, authored by Senator Leahy (D-VT), and his bill has not yet passed in the Senate. This allows 400 million in US taxpayers' dollars to go to UNRWA without accountabiltiy as to whether it will be used for anti-American or even terrorist activity. This Senate Bill will supersede the progress made with H.R. 3081.
(For the full text of the bill, click: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:S.1434:)
In Canada, however, more concrete progress has been made. This week, the Jerusalem Post reported that Canada, which until now provided UNRWA with 11% of its budget, has allocated some of its usual donation to UNRWA to the Palestinian Authority justice system.
Victor Toews, president of Canada's Treasury Board, said that aid has been redirected from UNRWA "to specific projects in the Palestinian Authority that will ensure accountability and foster democracy in the PA." In the past, Canadian donations to UNRWA went into a general operating fund, making it difficult for Canada to monitor how funds were being used. Canada also refused to contribute directly to the Palestinian Authority's treasury, for reasons of accountability.
"It is obviously more difficult to monitor the use of money sent into general funds than specific projects," Toews explained. "Canada has made a $300 million [Canadian] commitment over five years to the Palestinian Authority, but we want to put that money only into programs that are consistent with Canadian values...We need to ensure that [the PA and UNRWA have] less wide discretion and the funds are being directed into specific projects."
Toews also told PA Minister of Planning and Administrative Development Ali a-Jarbawi that Canada's "paramount concern is the security of Israel."
The redirected money has been pledged towards training lawyers, judges and police and building courthouses in Ramallah, Hebron and Tulkarm. Canada is helping the Palestinian Authority build a criminal justice system, a step Toews sees as "integral to the process and to securing long-term peace and stability in the Middle East."
(For more information, see: here.)
While the Israeli Initiative does not agree with supporting the Palestinian Authority, it commends Canada on reducing its donations to UNRWA, the first step towards a lasting peace.
York Sorek is manager of The Israeli Initiative, the Right Road
to Peace, a solution promoted by MK Benny Elon. It advocates a
regional approach involving both Israel and Jordan to solve the Arab
appeared as individual items on the Israel Unity Coalition website.
They are archived on the Jerusalem Connection.
Chapter 1 appeared November 17, 2009 and is archived at
Chapter 2 appeared November 17, 2009 and is archived at
Chapter 3 appeared February 9, 2010 and is archived at
(http://www.thejerusalemconnection.us/blog/2010/02/09/ israeli-initiative-chapter-3-israel-and-the-palestinian- refugee-issue.html)
Chapter 4 appeared December 4, 2009 and is archived at
(http://www.thejerusalemconnection.us/blog/2009/12/04/ israeli-initiative-chapter-4-unrwas-foundation-mandate-and- history.html)
Chapter 5 appeared December 10, 2009 and is archived at
Chapter 6 appeared December 18, 2009 and is archived at
Chapter 7 appeared December 27, 2009 and is archived at
http://www.thejerusalemconnection.us/blog/2009/12/27/ israeli-initiative-chapter-7-how-refugees-are-treated-around- the-world.html
Chapter 8 appeared January 1, 2010 and is archived at
Chapter 9 appeared January 12, 2010 and is archived at
Chapter 10 appeared January 15, 2010 and is archived at
http://www.thejerusalemconnection.us/blog/2010/01/15/ israeli-initiative-concluding-chapter-10-the-attempts-to-cut-off- unrwa.html
appeared as individual items on the Israel Unity Coalition website.
They are archived on the Jerusalem Connection.
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