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EDITORS NOTE:    UNRWA provide education, health, camps etc. for Palestinians in  each country in which they operate.  This means they have a ‘semi-state’ function.  Their abolition will mean that these functions will be taken over by the state.  Thus, for example, there will be one education system instead of two.

For many years there has been a call for the abolition of UNRWA. Apart from the  waste of billions of dollars it is also seen as the continuation of the Palestinian problem.  Having Palestinian refugees is the only reason for the existence of UNRWA. What was established by the UN for a few years has grown into a mini-state with 30,000 employees. Being a Palestinian Refugee has usually led to them having limitations compared to ‘normal’ citizens of the country in which they live.  They are also subject to separation, for example if you are a Palestinian refugee you will go to an UNRWA school.  If you are not, then you will go to a state school.   

In 1948 Israel was a new, impoverished country.  One of their challenges was in helping the impoverished exiles from Arab countries and refugees from Europe.  For this they were very grateful to receive help from the USA which was part of their WW2 package. (see. Jewish UNRWA – The US Aid for Jewish Refugees from Arab Countries

U8NWRA, with 30,000 staff, most of whom are Palestinians, is the biggest organisation on the West Bank.  Most employees are Palestinians.  A few ‘westerners’ have senior jobs.  Working in an atmosphere of high unemployment they are worried about their jobs.They are worried about their jobs should UNWRA be abolished.  A change in climate should bring an increase in prosperity which in turn will dramatically reduce unemployment.

This page is a few of the many articles written before, and after these, calling for the abolition of UNWRA so putting Palestinian refugees on the same basis as other refugees under UNHCR.

NRWA was created in 1949, and its mandate is renewed every three years by the UN General Assembly. However, the relief agency was supposed to be a temporary solution.
Jerusalem Post Editorial, August 18, 2019


As The Jerusalem Post’s Khaled Abu Toameh reported on Sunday, the Palestinian Authority is concerned that the mandate of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) will not be renewed next month at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly in New York.

US President Donald Trump decided last year to stop funding UNRWA, depriving the organization of its major donor. Now, Abu Toameh noted, the Palestinian leadership is worried about the recent temporary suspension of UNRWA funding by the Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium, following the serious allegations of corruption and sexual misconduct among UNRWA’s top brass.

The PA fears the current scandal might prepare the ground for ending the agency’s mandate or seriously reducing its scope.

UNRWA was created in 1949, and its mandate is renewed every three years by the UN General Assembly. However, the relief agency was supposed to be a temporary solution until the “Palestinian refugee problem” was resolved. Instead of helping solve the problem, UNRWA has contributed to it. All other refugees around the globe are cared for by the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, while the Palestinians were granted the privilege of having an agency dedicated only to them. Furthermore, while refugee status should be something transient, the Palestinians have been granted the right to pass on their refugee status in perpetuity.

As a result, the number of “Palestinian refugees” has ballooned from the original 700,000 or so Palestinian refugees from 1948 – who either left their homes by choice or were forced to leave – to what UNRWA claims today is five million. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren, even those with citizenship in another country such as Jordan, are still considered refugees. By comparison, the approximately 850,000 Jews who left their homes in Arab countries do not consider themselves “refugees” in Israel, and certainly are not considered refugees more than 71 years later by the UN.

Fourteen years ago this month, Israel disbanded all the Jewish communities in Gush Katif (and has suffered ever-worsening violence as a result.) Paradoxically, the thousands of Jews who left Gaza (and four communities in Samaria) in the 2005 disengagement were never considered refugees, even though they lost their homes, livelihoods and community support systems.

There is no refugee reciprocity.

UNRWA – which employs more than 30,000 workers – has no motivation to end the “refugee crisis.” And since UNRWA’s mandate to resettle the Palestinian refugees was rescinded in 1965 without a serious reform, the numbers will keep on growing, to be used as a political tool against Israel.

 The PA has reason to be concerned about UNRWA’s future, but it plays a double game, and it is time it is called out. On the one hand, the PA claims to represent the State of Palestine (which has observer-state status in the UN. and is recognized by more than 135 UN members), yet on the other hand it protests that the Palestinians continue to be refugees.

Alongside the status of perpetual refugeehood, UNRWA also perpetuates a culture of entitlement. Instead of fostering self-sufficiency, it is undermining the Palestinians it professes to care for. And that is without relating to the hate-filled nature of the education being received by Palestinian children, which deprives both the Palestinians and Israelis of hope for peace in the future.

UNRWA needs to be drastically reformed, with the aim of later closing it down and moving responsibility for the relatively small number of genuine refugees to the auspices of the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees. The Palestinians themselves would be the first to benefit from UNRWA being revamped. UNRWA has done nothing to build a sustainable, peaceful Palestinian state. On the contrary. The report containing allegations of serious flaws could be the wake-up call the UN needs to reexamine UNRWA’s status. It’s time for the absurdity to end.


Created in December 1949, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is a relief and human development agency which supports more than 5 million registered Palestinian refugees, and their descendants, who fled or were expelled from their homes during the 1948 Palestine war as well as those who fled or were expelled during and following the 1967 Six Day war. Originally intended to provide jobs on public works projects and direct relief, today UNRWA provides education, health care, and social services to the population it supports. Aid is provided in five areas of operation: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; aid for Palestinian refugees outside these five areas is provided by UNHCR.

It also provided relief to Jewish and Arab Palestine refugees inside the state of Israel following the 1948 conflict until the Israeli government took over responsibility for Jewish refugees in 1952.   In the absence of a solution to the Palestine refugee problem, the General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA's mandate, most recently extending it until 30 June 2017 (since extended).

UNRWA is the only agency dedicated to helping refugees from a specific region or conflict and is separate from UNHCR. Formed in 1950, UNHCR is the main UN refugee agency, which is responsible for aiding other refugees all over the world. Unlike UNRWA, UNHCR has a specific mandate to aid its refugees to eliminate their refugee status by local integration in current country, resettlement in a third country or repatriation when possible. Only UNRWA allows refugee status to be inherited by descendants.


MiDA,  Kobby Barda,  12/09/2018

Soon after the establishment of UNRWA, the US decided to aid the rehabilitation of Jewish refugees from Arab countries in Israel. What transpired is the story of the entire conflict.

The US decision to withdraw its support for UNRWA raises the possibility that other countries will follow suit, and this organization will come to its end. These circumstances call for a retrospective look at the period of UNRWA’s establishment. As so happens, alongside UNRWA, which was intended to help rehabilitate the Palestinian refugees after the war, the United States transferred funds for a parallel project to aid Jewish refugees from Arab countries.

This chapter of Israel’s history is forgotten for a simple reason – it succeeded. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab countries were assimilated into Israel. In contrast, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees were rejected by the countries that were supposed to absorb them, in a cynical move designed to perpetuate the Arab-Israeli conflict in conditions where other conflicts have long since been resolved.

In their book “The War of Return“, Adi Schwartz and Dr. Einat Wilf deal with the establishment of the organization and with the US administration’s involvement in its establishment. However, when the lens is slightly widened, one discovers that alongside the establishment of UNRWA, there was a large-scale move by the American administration taking place to rehabilitate refugees and countries in the years following World War II. UNRWA and the aid for Jewish refugees from Arab countries were supposed to be part of this process.

George Marshall was US Secretary of State under the administration of President Harry Truman. Truman entrusted him with the task of leading the world’s recovery after the horrors of WWII. Marshall played a crucial role in the European reconstruction: under his guidance and instruction, the United States transferred about $12 billion – about $120 billion in contemporary value – towards the rehabilitation of devastated Europe.

The funds were used mainly for loans to industrial plants and for the purchase of goods from the United States, but some were also allocated for the rehabilitation and assimilation of refugee populations. Thus, for example, a billion dollars were invested in the settling in Germany of Germans exiled from the Sudetenland. The program succeeded beyond all expectation, and the economic prosperity in Germany and Austria, for example, was dubbed the “economic miracle.”


Yeshayahu (Si) Kennan was the spokesman for the Israeli delegation to the UN during the Marshall Plan. Kennan’s boss, Ambassador Abba Eban, rejected his proposal to demand from the American administration a parallel plan in the Middle East, arguing that the Arabs would use the money they received against Israel. Kennan then joined the American Zionist Council (AZC) and in this framework began to lobby for the implementation of a similar program in the Middle East. At that time there were about 1.6 million refugees and displaced persons in the Middle East – half of them Jews and half Arabs. Kennan’s desire was for the countries to use grants to rehabilitate the refugees in the countries they came to after the war.

Encouraged by the success of the Marshall Plan in Europe, the Americans sought to rehabilitate the Middle East by the same means. The Truman administration’s support for the establishment of the State of Israel (in contrary to Marshall’s position) created a sense of responsibility among the administration for the consequences of the declaration of independence and the War of Independence.

Against this backdrop, Kennan’s initiative found a sympathetic ear in Congress and the State Department. 164 members of Congress signed a proposal to carry out the initiative, and in response the Arab countries began to exert counter-pressure. Kennan then harnessed leading economists to persuade Congress that aid to Israel was good not only for Israel but also for the United States.

In September 1951, nearly two years after the establishment of UNRWA, Kennan’s efforts bore fruit: Congress approved $160 million in aid to rehabilitate the region: $68 million was granted to Israel, and the rest were distributed between Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan.


The manner in which these funds were distributed is one of those specific cases that in miniature, tell the story of the entire Arab-Israeli conflict: The young State of Israel invested these funds, which came several years ahead of reparations from Germany, in housing development and infrastructure, and in the tremendous effort to absorb the Jews who were escaping en-masse from Arab countries. In this way, Israel acted similarly to the European countries’ handling of the American aid funds that came from the Marshall Plan.

On the other hand, the Arab states allowed these funds to be swallowed up within UNRWA’s overall budget, or perhaps just kept it for themselves. Schwartz and Wilf’s book describes the mechanism used by the Arabs against the American administration: they allowed UNRWA to provide humanitarian aid to refugees and agreed in principle to huge projects for infrastructure construction that would advance their countries alongside the rehabilitation of the Palestinian refugees. In practice, the Arab governments were dragging their feet and preventing reconstruction from happening. The motive was to leverage the plight of the refugees as a means of delegitimizing the State of Israel. In retrospect, then, it appears that Abba Eban was right in opposing the plan.

The UNRWA monster has become a petri dish in which anomalies have multiplied as far as the treatment of refugees goes: Palestinian refugee status is inherited, UNRWA itself is not working to rehabilitate the refugees but only involved in humanitarian aid, and a large majority of its workers are Palestinians themselves. UNRWA has become a decisive factor in perpetuating the Arab-Israeli conflict, rather than in solving it.

In April 2008, a month before Israel’s 60th Independence Day, there were first signs of an American awakening: in the face of the “unquestionable rights” of the Palestinians, Congress decided to grant identical rights to the Jewish refugees who fled Arab countries. Congress instructed the president to determine that the rehabilitation of the refugees in their places is the way to solve the problem of the conflict in the Middle East, and the “refugees” refers to people who fled all Middle Eastern countries during the 1948 war.

The Trump administration’s decision to cease funding for UNRWA looks like closing a circle. Time will tell whether the move will succeed, but if this is indeed the case, it can be assumed that this is a significant step towards quelling the end of the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Justice, Winter 2014-2015 35 Shabtai ShavitShabtai Shavit is a former Director of the Mossad (1989-1996). He is Chairman of the Board of Directors, Institute for CounterTerrorism (ICT) at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya

Editor's Note: Since Justice 55 is dedicated to exploring various aspects of "UNRWA," we are pleased to include this analysis by Shabtai Shavit, which is based on his presentation at the World Summit on Counter-Terrorism: Terrorism's Global Impact, IDC, Herzliya,
September 9, 2014. As such, it is published here partially referenced.

UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency), in contrast, has its own, unique definition:  “UNRWA is unique in terms of its long-standing commitment to one group of refugees. It has contributed to the welfare and human development of four generations of Palestine refugees, defined as [any]’persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict’.”4 “The descendants of Palestine refugee males, including legally adopted children, are also eligible for registration.”5 Thus, Palestine refugees eligible for UNRWA assistance are mainly persons who fulfill the above definition and descendants of fathers fulfilling the definition.

Consequently, the UNHCR definition deals with human beings as individuals, without any relation to ethnicity, nationality or territorial factor. On the other hand, the UNRWA definition deals with an ethnopolitical group that is related to a given territory in a specific and very short period of time (less than two years).

Justice, Winter 2014-2015 35 Shabtai Shavit  (Mossad retired)   
click on link to go to full article


Institute for Contemporary Affairs,
Amb. Alan Baker, Vol. 17, No. 23, August 15, 2017
Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation

Institute for Contemporary Affairs
click on link to go to full article

Times of Israel, David Horovitz,  31 July 2014,

Three times in the last two weeks, UNRWA — the United Nations Relief and Works Agency — has acknowledged finding stockpiles of rockets in its schools in Gaza. On the first occasion, according to Israel, it promptly gave the rockets back to Hamas. A “complete falsehood,” UNRWA’s spokesman Chris Gunness said in an Israeli Channel 2 interview on Thursday night. As anywhere else in the world, “the local bomb disposal experts are called in and they are taken away,” he said.

What UNRWA did with the weaponry it found on its premises is far from the worst of Israel’s problems with the UN agency, however. The extent of the problem is rooted in the fact that UNRWA’s actual name is not, as widely believed, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency — a moniker that would imply an organization with worldwide responsibilities. UNRWA’s full name is the “United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.” It has existed since 1949, that is, to look after Palestinian refugees only, and the scale and scope of its mandate — uniquely for a UN refugee organization — has been expanding continuously day after day, thanks to its definition of what constitutes a Palestinian refugee.

Broadly speaking, everywhere but here, the UN defines a refugee as someone who, credibly fearing persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, and so on, is outside his country or former habitual residence. If the normal UN definition had been applied to the estimated 650,000 Palestinians who fled or were expelled from what became Israel in the late 1940s, the Palestinian refugee problem today would extend to the relatively few survivors among those 650,000 — a number estimated in the low tens of thousands. Were that the case, one of the key “final status” issues of profound dispute between Israel and the Palestinians would become instantly manageable, clearing a central obstacle to the two-state solution that some Palestinians, many in Israel, and the UN, ostensibly seek so urgently.

With UNRWA in place, it is Israel’s contention that Hamas was that much freer to redirect resources to tunnel construction and rocket manufacture, and all other aspects of the pernicious military mechanism Israeli troops are now doing their best to uproot

But UNRWA works according to a different definition from the UN’s main High Commissioner for Refugees. It provides assistance not only for those remaining 1940s refugees, and for those who lost home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1967 war, but also — here’s the crucial bit — for their descendants.

Thus, rather than a refugee problem in the low of tens of thousands, there are today five to six million Palestinian “refugees” — impossibly awaiting a “return” to Israel. And their healthcare, social services and, critically, education is funded via UNRWA.  (Editor’s Note:  Extrapolate this forward and then ask ‘what will happen’)

Times of Israel,  2014  click on link to go to full article


Jerusalem Institute of Justice

This report analyzes the contrasting histories and track records of UNRWA and UNHCR. UNRWA’s original mission has been fatally compromised by a combination of systemic corruption and intervention into the internal political affairs of host countries. Most recently, this has included growing acquiescence, if not outright support, of ideological hostility to Israel and regional terrorism. By comparison, UNHCR remains faithful
to its original mission, demonstrating a track record of substantive assistance
to refugee communities.

Therefore, we recommend the dissolution of UNRWA
by its absorption, where useful, into UNHCR.

Jerusalem Institute of Justice   click on link to go to full article

fanak, Chronicle of the Middle East and North Africa

In retrospect, UNRWA is the only UN agency to have worked for such a long time in the exclusive service of one particular category of refugees – the ‘Palestine refugees’. Over the years, it has gradually established itself as a semi-state institution in the fullest sense, taking on responsibilities traditionally assigned to national governments. Its staff, the vast majority of whom come from the refugee communities, has grown fivefold since 1951, from about six thousand to 30,000 in 2009. However, UNRWA’s linkage with the refugees is only predicated on humanitarian considerations. Its definition of a ‘Palestine refugee’ was elaborated for operational purposes only. It did not determine who is a Palestinian refugee, but rather who is eligible for its assistance programs. While it has evolved over time, its core elements have remained the same: normal place of residence in Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and loss of means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict. Descendents of male Palestine refugees have also been eligible to register on a voluntary basis with UNRWA. Since 1951, the number of ‘Palestine refugees’ has increased fivefold, from 876,000 refugees to 4.7 million refugees in 2008. This represents about 90.8 percent of the total number of refugees in the Middle East; and about three-quarters of the estimated total Palestinian refugee population disseminated around the world.

Fanak   click on link to go to full article

Gatestone institute, Timon Dias, September 17, 2013

If the entire Palestinian Authority leadership lives off an international welfare check that arrives only because the conflict still exists, there isn't much incentive for ending the conflict.

The Palestinian people, according to a recent study by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, have received per capita, adjusted for inflation, 25 times more aid than did Europeans to rebuild war-torn Western Europe under the Marshall plan after the Second World War.

Most of these funds, according to the study, reached the Palestinian people through The United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

UNRWA is the only UN refugee agency dedicated to a single group of people, and the only agency that designates individuals as original refugees if they have lived in areas effected by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, for a minimum of only two years, before being displaced. UNRWA is also the only UN agency that designates the descendants of the original refugees as refugees as well – even though 90% of UNRWA-designated refugees have never actually been displaced.

UNRWA, furthermore, violates the UNHCR Refugee Convention by insisting that two million people (40% of UNRWA's beneficiaries) who have been given full citizenship in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, are nevertheless still classified as refugees, and by encouraging them to act on a "right of return."

Although, since World War II, fifty million people have been displaced by armed conflict, the Palestinian people are the only ones in history to receive this special treatment.

Gatestone institute    2013   click on link to go to full article


Op-ed: Disproportionate UNRWA aid to Palestinians comes at the expense of other refugees
The time has come to admit the truth: The world cares more about the life of a Palestinian than the life of a Syrian, Sudanese, Kenyan, Colombian or Congolese.

Ynet News Yoni Dayan| 05.27.13

This, quite simply, is an axiom, proven day in and day out since 1949, when the United Nations split the existing global refugee agency to created a special organization tasked with caring only for Palestinian refugees. To this day, the international community has two active refugee agencies: The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

An in-depth look at these two agencies reveals the depth of the international community's preferential treatment of Palestinian refugees over other displaced people throughout the world. The UNHCR, which cares for 33.9 million refugees and internally displaced people (IDP) in more than 125 countries throughout the world, has a budget of just $3 billion. UNRWA, which cares for the five million descendents of Palestinian refugees, has a budget of over $1 billion. Per person, that is $88.50 for each refugee/IDP around the world, and $200 for each Palestinian refugee.

It gets worse.

The UNHCR has 7,685 staff members, with a staff-to-client ratio of 1:4,411. UNRWA has more than four times the staff. With 29,602 members, the organization boasts a staff-to-client ratio of 1:168.

Allow me to reiterate: The organization tasked with caring for the descendents of Palestinian refugees has 26 times more staff members per client than the organization tasked with caring for refugees and IDPs in the entire rest of the world put together.

Ynet News   2013   click on link to go to full article


Gatestone Institute, Pierre Rehov, January 29, 2018

In the context of announced budget cuts, the US administration recently announced that it will drastically reduce its financial support of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees). US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley wanted the outright cancellation of the $364 million allocated each year to the UN agency, as long as it did not implement reforms and transparency, but US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was for the time being content to halve the first tranche of aid, originally set at $125 million.

At the heart of this case is the desire of US President Donald Trump to stop financing any agency or international organization that does not reflect American interests. There is also, however, a 180-degree turn on the US position in the Arab-Israeli conflict by the new administration. It seems determined not to make the same mistakes -- and fall into the same traps -- as previous administrations.

First, what is UNRWA?

Established in December 1949 with a one-year mandate, UNRWA aimed at its birth to help resettle the 600,000 Palestinian Arabs who had fled the conflict zone during the rebirth of the state of Israel, after five Arab armies had attacked it -- and lost.

The causes of this exile were threefold, according to several polls undertaken in refugee camps and summarized in an article by Tibor Mende, published in French newspaper Le Monde on April 21, 1951:

"Some did not want to live in a Jewish state, others fled the battle and, once that was over, could not return home. Many more left because they were told that it was for a few days, a few weeks at most, and that they would return with the triumphant Arab armies. "

Surprisingly (or not), no parallel office was created to help the 870,000 Jews expelled and despoiled by the majority of Arab-Muslim countries between 1948 and 1974 -- including those militarily forced out of Judea and Samaria by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, which hastened to rename this region the "West Bank" after illegally annexing it in 1948.

It is true that most of the Jews expelled from Arab countries were welcomed by Israel and in the Western world, whereas, with the exception of Jordan, no Arab country bordering the Jewish state made the slightest gesture to help its own victims in a conflict the Arabs had begun. They apparently preferred, instead, to let their co-religionists languish in the worst conditions, presumably in an effort to place the blame for their suffering on Israel.

In 1950, when Canada's General Howard Kennedy and Sir Henry Knight, the first UNRWA leaders, realized that their work was rendered impossible by the politicization of the humanitarian crisis with which they were charged, and that their mandate could not be fulfilled in such a short time, an English Labour MP, Richard Crossrian, was called to explain their failure in the House of Commons. His answer, as reported by Mende in Le Monde, was eloquent:

"As long as we rely on the United Nations to do something serious for the settlement of refugees, we will only deceive ourselves because the United Nations is a political organization. There is the Arab League, and all the politics of the Arab League. The Arab League needs the refugee problem to maintain cohesion against Israel. The refugee settlement would deprive her of her most important complaint ... "

This statement is arguably the best explanation for the fact that UNRWA, created for one year, as noted, is still in operation 70 years later.

In seven decades, the small humanitarian agency has become a monster. UNRWA now has responsibility for more than five million souls, of which only some 20,000 should be considered refugees according to the definition of the UN, which applies to millions of exiles around the world... with the intriguing exception of Palestinians.

"A refugee - within the meaning of the Convention of July 28, 1951 - is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries..."

Therefore, according to the UN's own definition, the status of "refugee" cannot be passed from generation to generation -- as it conveniently has been for the Palestinians. A Palestinian with a European, American or Jordanian passport has no reason to be considered a refugee. Except by UNRWA.

Compare some figures:

In other words, even if one accepts the inapplicable definition of the term "refugee" -- attributed not only to the exiles of 1948 but also to their descendants -- each beneficiary receives assistance in human assistance and money approximately 50 times higher than that of an African or Asian victim of persecution.

UNRWA's annual budget is close to $ 1 billion, of which more than a third, as noted, is funded by the US. Wait, there is more: Unlike other UN humanitarian agencies, the one in charge of the descendants of Palestinian refugees, has a pension fund -- and pensions on the stock market in various countries amount to more than a billion and a half dollars. These figures are astronomical, and only underscore several aberrations of UNRWA.

First, according to UNRWA:

"a refugee from Palestine is a person whose usual place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948 and who lost both his home and his means of livelihood because of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict. "

Clearly, any immigrant worker or visitor, regardless of his or her origin, could thereby enter the UNRWA statistics, if he could justify having spent just those two years inside what then became Israel.

Yasser Arafat's biographer, Said Aburish, a refugee from the northern region of Israel, and also a former adviser to the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, disclosed other aberrations when interviewed by the author:

"Since the UN took them over, the Palestinians started burying their dead at night, without declaring them, in order to share their rations. As a result, for nearly 20 years, the official death rate in the camps was close to zero. In addition, there was a lot of movement between the camps. But these displacements were rarely recorded, so that a Palestinian could appear in several camps at the same time, multiplying the financial support to which he was entitled." (Interview by the author, in 2006, featured in the documentary "From the River to the Sea.")

When it comes to UNRWA, however, the terms used to describe their mission quickly lose their meaning. The suburbs of Jenin and Ramallah, for instance, composed of small plush houses, bordering some overcrowded residences, continue to be called "refugee camps," while tents and stoves have long been replaced by solid constructions, all with sewage and electricity.

To quote a former minister and history professor, Shlomo Ben Ami, in an interview with the author, in May 2006: "Administrations, to survive, tend to perpetuate the problem they are supposed to solve".

UNRWA has mushroomed -- largely on account of at least five generations of "inherited refugee status" -- without apparently having even tried to solve a single refugee problem in seven decades.

In the 1960s, the Israeli government developed a humanitarian project for the self-rehabilitation of Gaza refugees. The idea was simple: it was to build modern residential neighborhoods in the unexploited areas of the formerly-Egyptian Gaza Strip. The 160,000 Palestinians living in camps there would obtain free loans, allowing them quick access to the property, while many would participate in the construction of units, infrastructure, schools and hospitals, in exchange for a salary that would allow them to repay the loan.

The reaction was not long in coming. PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat immediately appealed to the Arab League, which immediately put pressure on the United Nations, causing the organization to immediately to condemn Israel for this initiative, and .and concluded its resolution with the following injunction: "Return the refugees to the camps!" The project was aborted after only 7,500 Palestinians were able to enjoy it.

This "incident" was reported by Tibor Mende in Le Monde. Mende discovered, on the ground, that any initiative aimed at integrating or rehabilitating Palestinian refugees from Lebanon -- where, today, they still have no rights, no access to the labor market, nor to the most basic care -- was prohibited, and concluded:

"These examples support the generally held view that the United Nations would spend large sums of money to create a refugee problem rather than solve it."

Proponents of UNRWA, however, such as UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric, are right to say that, in a certain way "UNRWA is a stabilizing presence on the ground". If tomorrow the more than 50,000 UNRWA employees, 95% of whom are Palestinians, were left without work; and rations, aids, and access to education for dependents were removed, the already explosive situation in the "camps" could become equally unfortunate.

Another more serious problem remains: UNRWA is not just a humanitarian agency. Its political stance is evident at all levels of the organization. A report from the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education, says that the 2016-2017 curriculum for elementary schools in PA, partly funded by UNRWA, "teaches students to be martyrs, to demonize and deny the existence of Israel, and to focus on a 'return' to an exclusively Palestinian country."

Ann Dismorr (right), the Director of UNRWA in Lebanon, poses with a map that erases the State of Israel and presents all of it as "Palestine." (Image source: Palestinian Authority TV via Palestinian Media Watch)

On February 12, 2017, the non-governmental organization "UN Watch" sent a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres, denouncing the actions of about 40 UNRWA officials. The officials' Facebook pages, the report shows, make apologies for Nazism, venerate Hitler, call for the extermination of Jews, celebrate the murder and kidnapping of Israelis, publish Hamas propaganda to the glory of "martyrs" and, more generally, deny the right to Israel's existence, whatever its boundaries. With his back put to the wall by these overwhelming revelations, UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness hastened to call for an investigation -- against UN Watch!

Even the most moderate among UNRWA loyalists continue to promote the myth of a "right of return" -- a wish that can never be realized because it means flooding the tiny country of Israel (roughly the size of Vancouver Island) with millions of "Palestinian refugees" in order demographically to outnumber the Jews there and thus create the end of Israeli democracy -- and preventing any attempt at "integration".

During the wars between Israel and the terrorist organizations that rule Gaza, rockets were commonly fired from UNRWA schools or from near its hospitals.

Access to several terror tunnels was dug under UNRWA's infrastructure; ammunition was found in its college. Of course, when questioned on these points, UNRWA officials hastened to condemn the intolerable use of their neutrality for the purposes of war! But that did not stop UNRWA from returning the rockets and other mortars found in its infrastructure to Hamas.

Several video reports by the Center for Near East Policy to students at UNRWA schools are even more disturbing. No child, questioned on this point, recognizes the right to the existence of Israel. All girls and boys dream of one day becoming martyrs to the Palestinian cause, and some unashamedly say that their greatest wish is to kill Jews. When asked about the source of their motivation, most said that their teachers taught them that their country was "stolen by the Jews.

So, how to deal with such a situation?

The first logical solution would be to merge UNRWA with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), thus ending the "Palestinian exception," while distributing UN budgets more equitably among the true refugees suffering extreme misery.

Unfortunately, UNRWA is dependent on the UN General Assembly, where the anti-Israeli automatic majority, led by the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, has so far been preventing any change in its current status.

The gradual withdrawal of funds allocated by the US seems a positive measure, provided that the resulting shortage leads UNRWA to reform its structure and mode of operation. The danger is that rogue countries will probably try to take over.

The next step would be for the UN to be transparent; to have outside monitors from the US make sure that no member of any terrorist organization is a part of its staff; to trade its highly questionable school curriculum for an education toward peace; to denounce the paramilitary training that sometimes takes place in the courtyards of its schools and, as a token of good faith, to begin by canceling the world tour of its "young ambassador", Muhammad Assaf, who, during his talks, only encourages violence.

It is hard not to include a quote from UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness: "UNRWA will continue to work tirelessly to ensure the full implementation of our mandate, as defined by the General Assembly. "

In other words, in 30 years, if nothing is done, UNRWA, instead of managing the fate of supposedly between 5 - 6.5 million Palestinians as it does now, will be managing the fate of 40 million.

Pierre Rehov, born and raised in North Africa, is a reporter, author and the director of "Hostages of Hatred" and "Silent Exodus", documentary films about Palestinian and Jewish refugees


REUTERS,    Maayan Lubell, Additional reporting by Jeffrey Heller;
Editing by Mark Potter, June 11 2017

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on Sunday for the dismantling of the U.N. agency that aids millions of Palestinian refugees, accusing it of anti-Israeli incitement and saying he had conveyed his message to the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Adnan Abu Hasna, a Gaza-based spokesman for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), said Netanyahu was pursuing a “fantasy”. The United States, Israel’s main ally, was the biggest donor to UNRWA last year, pledging $368 million.

In public remarks to his cabinet at its weekly meeting, Netanyahu said UNRWA perpetuated, rather than solved, the Palestinian refugee problem and that anti-Israeli incitement was rife in its institutions, which includes schools.

“It is time UNRWA be dismantled and merged with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees,” Netanyahu said.

REUTERS   2017   click on link to go to full article

For the sake of peace, reform of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) is urgently needed,
Fathom, Einat Wilf, Autumn 2013

One of the greatest obstacles to peace, and certainly the least acknowledged, is the perpetuation of the Palestinian refugee problem and the inflation of its scale by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Whereas the actual number of Arabs who could still claim to be refugees as a result of the Arab-Israeli war of 1947-1949 is today no more than several tens of thousands, the number of those registered as refugees is reaching 5 million, with millions more claiming to have that status.

Fathom   2013   click on link to go to full article

UNRWA should be abolished
CN Publications Jonathan S. Tobin, January 22, 2014

The only answer is the abolition of UNRWA  and its replacement by an agency dedicated to giving Palestinians the same resettlement help other refugees have received. Until that happens, the refugees—still the driving force of Palestinian politics—will ensure peace with Israel can never be achieved.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has a budget problem, and as a result its workers are on strike. As the New York Times reports, that’s bad news for Palestinian refugees in the West Bank who depend on the UN agency for food, services, and employment. But the controversy over the impact of the strike and the refugees’ demands for the Palestinian Authority to step in and pick up where the UN left off doesn’t address the heart of their problem. Instead of arguing over who should take care of them, the Palestinians should be seeking the same resolution that has successfully solved every other refugee problem since the Second World War: resettlement. Instead, they have been allowed to languish in camps to keep the war against Israel alive, doing far more injury to themselves than they have ever done to the Israelis.

CN Publications    2014   click on link to go to full article



The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies, Adi Schwartz July 14, 2017

UNRWA’s initial role was to distribute humanitarian assistance to Palestinian Arabs displaced during the 1948 war. However, over the years, instead of being a tool to solve the refugee problem, UNRWA has become a tool for its eternal perpetuation. Without UNRWA, the Palestinian refugees, and certainly their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, would have resettled in their Arab host countries or elsewhere in the world, as many millions of other refugees have done. They would have done so reluctantly, of course, but would have had no other choice, as no organization would have taken care of them for so many years.

Because UNRWA did nothing to reduce the number of Palestinian refugees, their numbers have swollen from 750,000 in 1949 to more than 5 million today. This was a surrender to the Arab wish to perpetuate the problem. From its earliest stages, UNRWA was a politicized agency, more interested in appeasing the Arab world’s wish to destroy Israel than in the humanitarian cause for whose sake it was established.

Without UNRWA, the Arabs could not have come to the negotiations table with international support – as embodied by UNRWA – for their ridiculous demand that 5 million refugees and their descendants be allowed to resettle in Israel, thus subverting its Jewish nature. Without UNRWA, only a small fraction of its “registered refugees” would be considered real refugees in the first place. Many of UNRWA’s refugees should never have been granted that status, and the vast majority of them are descendants who would not be granted automatic refugee status elsewhere in the world. The Arabs would likely have attempted these demands, but would not have had the backing of a special UN agency.

As the years have worn on, UNRWA has maintained a system expressly meant to perpetuate the refugee problem rather than solve it. Unlike the UNHCR, which provides six options for the cessation of the status of refugee, UNRWA offers zero. Whereas the primary concern of UNHCR is to resettle refugees and help them build new lives, UNRWA promotes only one future: repatriation to Israel. That prospect is contrary to worldwide historical practice and anathema to Israel. It is also toxic to both the prospects for a peace agreement and Palestinian national development.

BESA The Begin-Sadat Centre for Strategic Studies   2017   click on link to go to full article

The Journal of Humanitarian Assistance,
Manuel Marx, Nitza Nachmias, June 15,


The prolonged existence of UNRWA and the vast resources that have been invested in the highly exposed refugee issue makes the agency an excellent model for present and future complex aid operations. This thorough and in-depth study reveals serious hitherto unknown, unexpected and disturbing facts. Most of the criticism concerns the UNRWA showing the pathology of  “aging”, including symptoms of inflexibility, resistance to adjust to the changing political environment and refusal to phase out and transfer its responsibilities to the Palestinian Authority. The first phase of any humanitarian operation is a short emergency endeavor, carried out as a fire-extinguisher mechanism. The second phase, the agency develops working norms and bureaucratic procedures. UNRWA was highly successful in the first and second phases, supporting the refugees during the critical emergency period, and later during the resettlement and rehabilitation processes.  However, UNRWA failed in the third phase. The agency has been resisting any contraction of its operations, never took any steps to fold up, and to date, service responsibilities were never transferred to the legitimate Palestinian Authority. UNRWA continues to act as a “non-territorial government” competing with the elected Palestinian Authority for funds and responsibilities. Other problems involve a hastily drawn mandate resulting in lack of proper accountability and management procedures, and lack of clarity concerning UNRWA’s involvement in the human rights of the refugees.  Our study shows that when a short-term crisis turns into a long-term assistance operation, the hastily adopted mandate becomes a recipe for mismanagement. While UNRWA has contributed significantly to the resettlement and rehabilitation of the refugees in the countries of refuge, the agency’s prolonged operation has actually perpetuated the politicization of the refugee issue. It has also curtailed and undermined the Palestinian Authority’s legitimacy and capability to govern the community. According to Olof Rydbeck, Commissioner- General of UNRWA between 1979 and 1985, “Either dissolving UNRWA or making it permanent would be an admission by the United Nations that there was no solution to the Middle East struggle. That leaves us with a permanently jerry-built structure to keep the fiction alive.

The Journal of Humanitarian Assistance   2004   click on link to go to full article


UN Watch  January 15 2016

In the wake of U.S. threats to cut aid to the U.N. relief agency for Palestinians, a look at UNRWA textbooks—which deny Jewish rights in Palestine and erase Israel from the map—shows that the agency is violating the basic tenets of the U.N. Charter by fostering conflict instead of maintaining peace and harming Palestinian children.

More than half of UNRWA’s budget—54%—is devoted to education for 500,698 students at 692 schools supported by 21,571 educational staff. Recent media about UNRWA praises its work in education.

But while providing education to underprivileged youth seems like a laudable endeavor, in the case of UNRWA one has to ask: What is being taught? Is the curriculum consistent with the U.N. Charter?


According to a September 28, 2017 study by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Middle East Forum, UNRWA textbooks show that there is “no hope for peace in the region.” The study reviewed 150 Palestinian Authority textbooks for grades one to 12, half of which were published in 2016-17. Among other things, the textbooks claim Jews have no rights in Palestine, deny the existence of Jewish holy places there and delete Israel from the map. The books also promote violent struggle as the path to liberation.

This is one of the ways UNRWA, to borrow Prime Minister Netanyahu’s words, “perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem, and also the narrative of the so-called right of return, whose goal is the elimination of Israel.”

UN Watch    2016   click on link to go to full article


Nir Barkat wants to replace UN agency services to 20,000 residents of capital’s Shuafat refugee camp with municipal provisions
Times of Israel Staff, Stuart Winer contributed to this report, 4 October 2018,

Outgoing Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat on Thursday detailed a proposal to expel the UN’s Palestinian refugee agency from the capital and have the municipality provide education, health, welfare, and sanitation services in its place.

Barkat, whose term as mayor ends at the end of the month, accused the UN’s Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) of failing those under its purview and instead inciting terror activity.

He gave details of a plan prepared by a team of city officials and experts to replace all of UNRWA’s functions with municipal services in the Shuafat refugee camp, founded in 1965 and home to some 20,000 residents.

The plan comes after the Trump administration announced it was cutting nearly $300 million in planned funding for UNRWA, and said that it would no longer back the agency after decades of support. Instead, the US said, it would seek other channels by which to aid the Palestinians.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat speaks at a conference organized by the Hadashot TV news channel, September 3, 2018. (Hadashot news)

“The US decision to stop funding UNRWA creates a rare opportunity to deal immediately and decisively with the PA’s intention to perpetuate the ‘refugee problem’ and encourage incitement,” Barkat said in a Thursday statement.

“There are no refugees in Jerusalem, only residents. They will receive their services from the Jerusalem Municipality alone, like all other residents,” he added. “The municipality, at my instruction, has developed a detailed plan of action to replace all UNRWA services by the services of the Jerusalem Municipality, including education, welfare, health, and sanitation.”

According to the plan, the seven UNRWA-run schools — with a total of 1,800 students — which operate without a license from the Education Ministry will be closed at the end of the current academic year, and the pupils absorbed into existing municipal schools.

Barkat wants to expropriate or lease the existing UNRWA schools to use as municipal buildings, and in addition will construct an educational and municipal services complex near the East Jerusalem neighborhood “whose services will be far superior to those that UNRWA has provided.”

Schoolgirls watch as UNRWA’s commissioner-general, Pierre Krahenbuhl, gives a press conference to launch a global campaign to support UNRWA, at the UNRWA Rimal Girls Preparatory School in Gaza City, January 22, 2018 (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

The municipality will also issue closure orders for UNRWA’s medical centers, which operate without approval from the Health Ministry, and construct a new public health center in their place, Barkat said.

Existing UNRWA-run welfare programs operating within the Shuafat camp and nearby Kufr Aqeb will continue but will be transferred to the governance municipality welfare and employment services, according to Barkat’s plan.

Garbage disposal and sewage infrastructure, which Barkat said was currently under the auspices of UNRWA, will also be transferred to the municipality’s responsibility.

Other than saying he would close the schools at the end of the current academic year, Barkat gave no timeframe for when he intends to implement the changes.

Palestinian apartment buildings seen past the separation wall surrounding the Shuafat refugee camp in East Jerusalem, on May 7, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In March, Barkat announced he would not seek a third term in municipal elections scheduled for October 30 and will instead run for Knesset on the Likud party ticket.

His replacement as mayor would not be bound by the plans prepared by Barkat’s committee.

In defunding UNRWA, the US also indicated that it rejected the criteria by which the UN agency defines Palestinian refugees, whereby the UN agency confers refugee status not only on original refugees but on their millions of descendants.

The “right of return” is one of the key core issues of dispute in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians claim that five million people — tens of thousands of living original refugees from what is today’s Israel, and their millions of descendants — should be allowed to resettle in the Jewish state. Israel rejects the demand, saying that it represents a bid by the Palestinians to destroy Israel by weight of numbers, and argues that other refugees under the United Nations High Commissioner of Refugees (UNHCR) are treated differently and much more quickly resettled.

Jerusalem has welcomed the US decision to cut the funding.



to Peace

No Need

Jewish UNRWA – The US Aid
Jewish Refugees from
Arab Countries

Why Should UNRWA
be Abolished.

A Tale of Two “Refugee” Organizations: UNRWA vs. UNHCR

UNRWA Condemns
the Palestinians
Refugee Status in Perpetuity

Trouble with UNRWA

Continue to




Preferential Treatment

The UN Agency
that Creates Palestinian Refugees

Israeli PM
Calls for Dismantling
of UN
Palestinian Refugee Agency (UNRWA)

an Obstacle to Peace?

Refugees Who Insist on the Impossible


Dilemmas of Prolonged Humanitarian
Aid Operations:
The Case

UN Charter

Jerusalem Mayor Lays Out Plan
to Oust UNRWA from City
(Oct 2018)




(United Nations Relief and Works Agency)