A Brief History of Time and Place: UNRWA, the Palestinians and Israeli Right of Existence
"An article by Rachel Ehrenfeld and Alyssa A. Lappen reported that in 2001 the Islamic Development Bank transferred $538 million raised by Saudi and Gulf royal telethons to support families of Palestinian suicide bombers and the cause of the Palestinian intifada. On August 1, 2001 Dr Ahmad Muhammad Ali, a Saudi academic and president of the Islamic Development Bank, reportedly said during an interview with Asharq al-Awsat: “There was no delay in paying financial assistance to the families of Palestinian martyrs…We have started paying them soon after receiving the money."
"The Islamic Development Bank (IDB), is made up of 5 groups:
"Until very recently, the main funders of UNRWA were the member states of the United Nations.
- The Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit
- The Islamic Research & Training Institute
- The International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation
- The Islamic Solidarity Fund for Development
- Islamic Corporation for the Development of the Private Sector
Now, the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), is listed as one of the funders of UNRWA on the new chart of donors issued by UNRWA." David Bedein: The New Islamic Funders of UNRWA --
Photo Credit: Wissam Nassar/FLASH90
"UNRWA, in particular, dropped all pretenses of being a neutral body, which UN agencies claim is their policy when they are interposed within an armed conflict. UNRWA’s deputy commissioner, Margot Ellis, complained at a UN donor conference about a lack of construction materials in the Gaza Strip, pointing to “the illegal blockade imposed by Israel.” She added that the blockade had “now intensified with the non-admittance of building supplies urgently needed for UNRWA construction projects – to build schools and rehabilitate shelters.” Ellis did not even raise the fact that Hamas had been siphoning off building supplies for its vast underground tunnel network, the extent of which was revealed by Operation Protective Edge."United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA) was authorized in 1949 and estabkusged in 1950, as an arm of the United Nations with a special mission, funded by the international community in support of Palestinian refugees. This type of organization is not unique to the Palestinians; after all conflicts resulting in refugee populations requiring international support, the United Nations appoints group-specific agencies to aid in their social and financial support with a particular mission to settle them elsewhere in the world, eventually removing their refugee status when haven is found elsewhere.
Ambassador Dore Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the UN
And eventually the mission tasked to look to their interests is dissolved, with no further need for their auspices when all the refugees resulting from one conflict or another have been settled. This has never happened with the Palestinians. They themselves insist that they be regarded as refugees in perpetuity, until such time as the State of Israel, which they claim was founded on land belonging to the Palestinians, is no more, and they can all return whence they came. The surrounding Arab/Muslim nations which incited them to remain refugees by refusing to give them citizenship initiated this culture of refugee status.
Now UNRWA, as the United Nation's internationally funded welfare agency whose client is exclusively the Palestinian diaspora living in refugee camps dispersed within the Middle East, the West Bank and Gaza, represents the longest active such refugee agency that has ever existed, with no end in sight, unless Israel agreeably submits to the demand that it cease existence. An unlikely scenario for a nation and a country which has returned to its roots and providing haven for an ingathering of Jews expelled from Arab countries with others returning to their ancient homeland from around the world.
UNRWA has become a stand-alone business, a corporate interest of its own, funded by the United Nations, few questions asked. Re-settlement as refugees abroad is out of the question since the 'refugees' insist they must return 'home' to Palestine. That would be the very same Palestine of the late 19th, early 20th Century where its inhabitants were Palestinians to be certain, and all Jews, most of whom had never in history departed from the area. The succeeding Arab population from Egypt and elsewhere in the vicinity simply took on the mantle of Palestinians.
|Ottoman era Palestine -- Jews in Jerusalem praying at the Wailing Wall|
And it is those Palestinians, as refugees, who comprise the majority of UNRWA employees. Of the 30,000 employed by UNRWA, several hundred are non-Palestinians, the rest are Palestinian employees. UNRWA represents the largest single employer in Gaza and the West Bank. Compare that to the entire UN High Commission for Refugees which employs five to six thousand people globally. The UN High Commission for Refugees has a distinct focus to resettle and rehabilitate refugees so they may take on new lives. In contrast, the UNRWA specific to Palestinian refugees maintains services that a civil society would otherwise provide.
It has been UNRWA which has given official designation as refugees to all offspring of the original Palestinians granted the designation of refugees, approximately 700,000 originally. A number which has swelled over the past 60 years to an estimated six and a half million Palestinians considering themselves legitimate refugees, a status that UNRWA is in agreement with. And it is that number of six and a half million that the Palestinians insist must be welcomed back to the area where they claim to have originated from: Israel.
Their claim to 'right of return' would simply overwhelm the current population of Israel, a majority of Israeli Jews, but one and a half million Palestinian citizens, along with a large Christian community, another of Druze and Bedouin and Kurds, as well as the Muslim-persecuted Baha'i community whose World Centre is located in Haifa, Israel. Israel is a state where all were welcome and offered citizenship and equality under the law. In contrast, the lives of Jews exposed to Palestinians in their towns are fraught with danger.
UNRWA's mission elsewhere in the world would be to provide refugee relief. For the Palestinian mission it has shifted to providing education and the expansion of a legal mandate to protect and represent the refugees. Effectively the clients of UNRWA, the Palestinians, have gained control of the organization and the education provided through their auspices is a simmering cauldron of hatred passed on from adult to the next generation.
UNRWA stepped in where the Palestinians should have been creating their own civil institutions to foster a democratic society, prepared to launch itself into statehood in an agreement with its neighbour that would guarantee a cessation of hostilities and mutual acceptance of each other's presence. Instead, UNRWA became a permanent installation, neutrality vanished as it handed over the organization to its clients and UNRWA itself undertook an adversarial position with Israel, exacerbating disagreements between Jews and Arabs, rather than aiding their resolution.
Palestinians will never be responsible for themselves and grow into a civil society based on democratic order and respect for the law and justice to prevail, as long as the smokescreen of a United Nations protector from the consequences of its rabid hatred against Israel and its determination to wreak destructive havoc materially and through the loss of lives carries on unimpeded because the international community regards Palestinians as victims not the perpetrators of violence they inflict upon their neighbours.