PA upset over UNRWA official’s remark on refugees

“The Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homes and lands is one of the most important rights,” says PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat in letter.

By
October 31, 2010 01:59
2 minute read.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat gives a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Erekat 311. (photo credit: AP)

 
X

Dear Reader,
As you can imagine, more people are reading The Jerusalem Post than ever before. Nevertheless, traditional business models are no longer sustainable and high-quality publications, like ours, are being forced to look for new ways to keep going. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. We want to keep our journalism open and accessible and be able to keep providing you with news and analyses from the frontlines of Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World.

As one of our loyal readers, we ask you to be our partner.

For $5 a month you will receive access to the following:

  • A user experience almost completely free of ads
  • Access to our Premium Section
  • Content from the award-winning Jerusalem Report and our monthly magazine to learn Hebrew - Ivrit
  • A brand new ePaper featuring the daily newspaper as it appears in print in Israel

Help us grow and continue telling Israel’s story to the world.

Thank you,

Ronit Hasin-Hochman, CEO, Jerusalem Post Group
Yaakov Katz, Editor-in-Chief

UPGRADE YOUR JPOST EXPERIENCE FOR 5$ PER MONTH Show me later

The Palestinian Authority is extremely disappointed with a senior UNRWA official who recently said that Palestinian refugees should acknowledge that they will almost certainly not be returning to Israel, officials said last week.

Andrew Whitley, outgoing director of the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency’s New York office, was quoted earlier this month as saying, “If one doesn’t start a discussion soon with the refugees for them to consider what their own future might be – for them to start debating their own role in the societies where they are rather than being left in a state of limbo where they are helpless but preserve rather the cruel illusions that perhaps they will return one day to their homes – then we are storing up trouble for ourselves.”

Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.


RELATED:
'Hamas is in contact with most foreign countries'
Mashaal: Israel as Jewish state is attack on refugees

Whitley added: “We recognize, as I think most do, although it’s not a position that we publicly articulate, that the right of return is unlikely to be exercised to the territory of Israel to any significant or meaningful extent.

“It’s not a politically palatable issue, it’s not one that UNRWA publicly advocates, but nevertheless it’s a known contour to the issue.”

Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat strongly protested against Whitley’s remarks in a letter to UN Middle East envoy Robert Serry.

Erekat praised UNRWA for quickly distancing itself from Whitley’s remarks.

JPOST VIDEOS THAT MIGHT INTEREST YOU:


“The Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homes and lands is one of the most important rights,” Erekat stressed in his letter.

“The Palestinians haven’t given up this right since the nakba [catastrophe] that happened in Palestine in 1948, when Israel expelled more than 700,000 Palestinian refugees. And they will never give this right up.”

Erekat said that “despite Israel’s insistence on denying the Palestinians’ right of return to their homes and lands, the right of return was legitimate in accordance with international law and UN resolutions, first and foremost [General Assembly] Resolution 194.”

Erekat added that it would have been better had Whitley defended the rights of the Palestinian refugees instead of asking them to accept harm and displacement and relinquish their rights.

Zakariya al-Agha, a member of the PLO Executive Committee and head of the organization’s refugee affairs department, condemned Whitley’s remarks as “extremely dangerous.”

Agha said that Whitley should have demanded that Israel implement the UN resolutions that it’s refusing to comply with. He also urged donor countries to fulfill their financial obligations to close the deficit in UNRWA’s budget.

Agha too said that sooner or later the refugees would implement their right of return.

“Those who think that the Palestinians would give up the right of return or accept resettlement are living in an illusion,” he said, calling on the UNRWA official to apologize for his statements.

Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>

Related Content

A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter looks down the road to Makhmur
September 21, 2018
A year after referendum, Kurds in Iraq face Iran and US powerbrokers

By SETH J. FRANTZMAN