by Barry Rubin, Asaf Romirowsky and Jonathan Spyer
2nd part of 6
Bibliography and footnotes in part 6
Thwarting offers of permanent housing
Over the years there have been numerous opportunities for groups of refugees to move into decent, permanent housing, and almost always they have been thwarted. For example, in 1985,
"measures to resettle Palestine refugees in the West Bank away from the homes and property from which they were displaced constitute a violation of their inalienable right of return, [called] once again upon Israel to abandon its plans and to refrain from...any action that may lead to the removal and resettlement, of Palestine refugees in the West Bank and from the destruction of their camps."
Dr. Eli Lasch, head of medical services in
It should be noted that in neither instance did
Equally significant is that the Palestinian Authority (PA), which ruled the Gaza Strip and
UNRWA: a unique international body
There is no other body like UNRWA in the UN system. Millions of refugees worldwide –– over 130 million since the end of World War Two –– fell under the responsibility of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which aims to resettle and rehabilitate the refugees. UNRWA was created as a separate body and its jurisdiction is solely the Palestinians. It is UNRWA that defines the term "refugee" in the broadest terms by including not only those Arabs who fled from territories held by
All in all, not a single Palestinian has ever lost his refugee status. There are hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees or their descendants who are citizens of
Consequently, UNRWA over the past 60 years has transformed itself into the main vehicle for the perpetuation of the focus on the Arab-Israeli conflict in the UN. In contradistinction to UNHCR, UNRWA is an apparatus that maintains the status quo –– in other words, the office has no incentive to move toward a resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem.
As one of the largest employers in the host countries which have Palestinian refugee camps, UNRWA is staffed there by local Palestinians, over 23,000 people, with only about 100 international UN professionals. The pattern of hiring within the served population is unique in the UN constellation-both UNHCR and UNICEF (United Nations International Children's Fund) avoid employing locals who are also recipients of agency services, considering it a conflict of interest.
The bureaucracy, well over 99 percent Palestinian, has created an infrastructure of Palestinian dependency on the ground whereby Palestinian refugees rely on the services UNRWA provides (medical assistance, jobs, education) and have absolutely no incentive to plan or implement any solutions that may endanger their livelihood by rendering their services obsolete.
Thus, UNRWA is not so much in reality a UN body but a Palestinian organization funded by the UN. Since its employees have traditionally been supporters (or at least feel the pressure to act as such) of Fatah and the PLO, UNRWA behaved largely on the ground as a PLO front group. Today, especially in the Gaza Strip, it has moved toward becoming a virtual arm of Hamas.
Since its inception UNRWA has became a vehicle for Arab propaganda and incitement towards violence. As
"The refugees were a gift to Arab propaganda, which succeeded, by perverting the facts, in turning them into the gravest political liability with which
And although, some support the Palestinian "right of return" out of good-hearted naiveté many others have a different agenda. Their purpose is not the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but the destruction of
UNRWA is simultaneously a UN agency and an integral part of a long-term Arab strategy to use the perpetuated misery of the Palestinians in order to keep this humanitarian burden at the center of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Its approach basically said:
In this context, up until 1967 there was no attempt to bring a humanitarian option to the Palestinians. In fact, only when
He pursued the same policy after he took over the Gaza Strip in 1994 and the Palestinian-populated areas of the
A secondary factor was that, after the establishment of the PA, UNRWA meant that Arafat could continue to disclaim all responsibility for the well-being of the refugees. Their social, medical, educational, service, and even financial provider remained UNRWA and the UN, at no cost to Arafat in resources or governmental effort, contrary to every principle of normal territorial integrity and autonomy. The situation signaled that no outcome of the
Barry Rubin, Asaf Romirowsky and Jonathan Spyer
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