Thursday, April 1, 2010

How to solve the Arab refugee problem. Part II

2nd part of 3
UNRWA and Terror Groups
UNRWA Camps Used to Train Terrorists

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.

Terrorist Domination of UNRWA Labor Unions

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.

Chapter 6: UNHCR and its Achievements

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.

UNHCR History:

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's Mandate

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 By the Numbers

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.

Chapter 7: How Refugees are Treated Around the World

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.

Three Possible Solutions: Voluntary Repatriation, Local Integration or Resettlement

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.

Voluntary Repatriation

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.

Local Integration

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.

Rehabilitation Options and the Palestinian Refugees

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.

Recent Examples of Refugee Rehabilitation Successes

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.


York Sorek

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


No comments:

Post a Comment