Someone should pull the plug on UNRWA

Already, a strong report issued by NGO Monitor explores some of the many war crimes perpetrated by Hamas, which caused most of the civilian deaths in Gaza.

June 22, 2015 21:06
Gaza City

A Palestinian student sits on a motorcycle as he watches a protest at the gate of the headquarters of UNRWA in Gaza City. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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Israel is accused of shooting at United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) facilities in the Gaza Strip without making sufficient effort to avoid hurting innocent civilians encamped there. The Schabas-McGowan Davis report to be released on the 23rd of this month and soon to be leaked, will concentrate on proving these charges, while accusing the IDF of many more violations of international law.

Already, a strong report issued by NGO Monitor explores some of the many war crimes perpetrated by Hamas, which caused most of the civilian deaths in Gaza. Another report, issued by UN Watch, establishes and details the high moral standards governing IDF conduct in Gaza, which in many instances were far more exacting than international law requires.

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The IDF has just issued another report, which is extremely well documented and reliably authenticated.

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It demonstrates the utter falsehood of the biased charges.

The charges surrounding the shooting of UNRWA facilities mostly relate to the return of fire against attackers, and in one instance, a likely failed Hamas rocket which exploded in an UNRWA school yard.

UNRWA, for its part, has admitted that on three separate occasions its schools stored ammunition and rockets, claiming that this violated its policy of neutrality. It “corrected” the unfortunate violations by returning the ammunition to “local authorities.”

There can be little doubt about what these “local authorities” did with the ammunition and rockets given to them by UNRWA.

But it is interesting to ask who and what is this UNRWA which plays such a central role in the life of Gaza and of the terrorist organization Hamas. A comprehensive study on UNRWA has just been published by the Institute for Zionist Strategies.

UNRWA was created in 1948 to help the Palestinian refugees. After the end of WWII, there were millions of refugees and the UN had established an agency to help them. But because of the power of the Arab delegation, the UN set up a special agency to help Palestinian refugees. With malice aforethought, no definition of “refugee” was included in the founding enactment, so that UNRWA was able to establish its own criteria. While all over the world refugee status is personal and applies to those who fled or were evicted, UNRWA extends the definition to the children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and to all those who follow. Thus the approximately 650,000-800,000 genuine Palestinian refugees, many if not most of whom have died, are currently counted by UNRWA to number around 5.5 million.

In addition, while the major UN refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), considers it most humane and effective to resettle refugees in the land of their current residence and not seek to uproot them again nor to impose turmoil and resistance in their former countries of residence where new, ethnic-based nation states have been created, UNRWA accepted the Arab League’s dictates to define its goal as the return of all refugees and their progeny to their original place of residence – no matter how much time has elapsed and no matter what has taken place there in the interim.

While UNHCR considers itself a facilitator to help direct the funds given by members of the UN to host countries which are to provide the services and thus facilitate integration, UNRWA did the opposite. It quickly established a huge bureaucracy which takes the contributed funds and then operates its own programs of education, welfare, health, culture, legal representation and many others. UNRWA is a major government agency within Hamas-controlled Gaza. It may not be called a government, but it is precisely that.

It operates schools, medical facilities, cultural centers and activities, and provides welfare payments and services.

UNRWA employs over 26,000 workers, including 200 highly paid executives.

Can anyone doubt that it is in bed with Hamas? As far back as 2004, all of its governing council members were Hamas activists, and 23 of the 27 UNRWA labor union representatives were from Hamas.

Who, besides UNRWA, could so beneficently employ the rank-andfile minions who build, staff and administer the vast Hamas military infrastructure? In fact, an August 2014 FBI report found that many tens – perhaps hundreds – of UNRWA employees directly commit acts of terrorism.

Compared to the UNHCR, UNRWA spends four times more per capita for administration and has 30 times more employees per refugee. In total, it spends about $1.2 billion for the 5.5 million “refugees” it helps compared to the $2.3b. spent by the UNHCR for the 40 million refugees which it aids.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that the sooner a refugee integrates into society, the faster he becomes well adjusted and productive.

The UNHCR seeks to do just this. It believes that its connection with the refugee must be short-lived and not symbiotic. It seeks to integrate the client into the place of his current residence. It will therefore not employ the “client” refugee nor encourage him to focus on the past.

It helps the refugee based on current emotional and physical needs, not past grievances. It seeks to help the client move ahead and advance rather than wallow in what could or might have been.

UNRWA, of course, does just the opposite. It creates an identity of interest with the clients. It employs them as much as possible. Its schools emphasize and romanticize their past and the hardship their families suffered. They (and their progeny until eternity) are defined as permanent refugees. They are kept apart from the local population and the agency’s policies contribute mightily to local antipathy and bitterness.

UNRWA seeks to preserve and nurture the problem, not resolve it.

The IDF is falsely accused of recklessly harming civilians seeking refuge at UNRWA facilities. Though the biased Schabas-McGowan Davis report soon to be visited upon us will again regurgitate these conclusions, they have already been largely disproven.

UNRWA was originally created for a period of a little over a year, but its right to life has been renewed 65 times. Enough. UNRWA should be allowed to expire. Mankind would benefit greatly, including especially its Palestinian clients, whose lives it has ruined for generations.

The author, an attorney in Israel and the US, is the founding president of the Institute for Zionist Strategies. He is the chairman of the board of NGO Monitor.

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