Given UNRWA’s broad definitions, it is therefore no wonder that the current number of Palestinian refugees, according to the Agency’s figures, amounts to nearly 5 million – half of the number of refugees in the entire world - whereas the formal number of original refugees who fled Palestine in 1948 was around 700,000 – 750,000 out of whom only 8 percent are still alive. [Ben Ari]
has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives. Today, a staff of some 8,600 people in more than 125 countries continues to help some 33.9 million persons [UNHCR website].
A UN panel will discuss an effort to revise the rules under which the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) operates. The pending debate is the result of an initiative pushed by the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Judges and seeks to redefine who can be considered a Palestinian refugee and therefore a recipient of UNRWA’s largesse... This discussion not only calls attention to UNRWA’s misguided policies but also highlights an issue that is one of the chief obstacles to peace. Though UNRWA is tasked with helping the Palestinians and is, for lack of a Palestinian government or groups dedicated to providing their people with a path to a better life, their primary source of sustenance, it actually plays a central role in their continued victimization... Rather than help the refugees to adjust to reality, UNRWA’s policies have dovetailed nicely with a Palestinian political identity that regards accommodation to Israel’s existence as tantamount to treason. The Palestinian belief in a “right of return” for not just the original Arabs who totaled a few hundred thousand but for the millions who claim to be their descendants is only made possible by UNRWA’s willingness to go on counting second, third, fourth, and now even fifth generations of Palestinians as refugees. [Tobin]
education programs that foment hate against Israel and employees who aid terrorists... But so long as the Palestinians believe they have the support of the world in their effort to undo the verdict of the war they launched in 1948, the millions who call themselves refugees will never give up their goal of eradicating Israel’s existence.
Ben Ari refers to a modest degree of push-back, with Canada ending its UNRWA funding in 2010, and the Dutch declaring their intention to “thoroughly review” their UNRWA policies in December 2011. He writes how, in recent years, a growing awareness has emerged about UNRWA's active political involvement, its lack of accountability, and what he calls "the unfettered freedom of speech enjoyed by its executive officers, defying the fundamental norms of objectivity and neutrality that oblige UN officials as international civil servants".
is to get rid of the underlying causes: the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and the closure of Gaza which is stifling the economy, increasing poverty and unemployment, and forcing even greater dependency on aid provided by the international community. The need for emergency interventions would diminish dramatically if Gaza was opened up for normal business and trade.Consistent with everything we know about UNRWA and its management team, she sees no need to touch on the perpetual state of war against Israelis imposed by the jihad-minded Hamas rulers of Gaza on their principal victims, the Gazan Arabs. Nor on Hamas criticism of UNRWA schools for its inadequate focus on terror [source] as an educational goal.
But there's something else about her stated views that bothers us no less:
In the West Bank, current underfunding projections would necessitate a significant reduction in food assistance at a time when food insecurity is rising, with more and more families – especially inside refugee camps – requiring assistance to meet their basic food needs. [Ellis in The Guardian, March 12, 2014]Think about that. UNRWA regards itself as addressing the basic food needs of thousands of Palestinian Arab families. We read those words and we're thinking: an underfunding problem that causes people to starve? In a country (the one declared recently by Mahmoud Abbas and his Palestinian Authority) that has sufficient budget capacity to award fat pensions, bogus senior jobs in the PA security forces, and salaries that are multiples of the national average to men freed by political extortion from life terms in prison for murdering Jews, and officially celebrated by the PA elite for that reason? This Margot Ellis cannot bring herself to mention? Because one has nothing to do with the other?
Ms Ellis obviously knows at least as much as we do about the hypocrisy and double-talk that is at heart of the two Palestinian governments and their policies. She chooses not to refer to it because attributing the problems to Israel works far better. It delivers the goods.
The puzzle for us is how the blame-Israel-first-and-last strategy elicits a supportive response year after year from the likes of Australia, Switzerland, the EU, the United Kingdom and the United States, and peanuts in cash terms from the mind-bogglingly wealthy regimes of Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the Sultan of Brunei. Certainly, money can't solve every problem, but when the woman who owns the budget says there's a disaster happening in which people are starving because of "underfunding", then some extra attention to funding might be the responsible management thing to do.
And tipping people off to the shabby role played by the PA would be a good start.