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.
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.
EDITORS NOTE: 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 UNWRA school. If you are not, then you will go to a state school.
Jewish communities were exiled from Arab countries when the Palestinian Refugees appeared. They were quickly resettled. No contributions for help with resettlement were requested from other governments.
WHY SHOULD UNWRA BE ABOLISHED?
A TALE OF TWO “REFUGEE” ORGANIZATIONS: UNRWA VS. UNHCR
Shabtai 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).
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.
SEMI-STATE 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.
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.
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. UNWRA, 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.
THE UNRWA DILEMMA Gatestone Institute, International Policy Council - click on link to go to full article
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 peopht 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.
ISRAELI PM CALLS FOR DISMANTLING OF U.N. PALESTINIAN REFUGEE AGENCY 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.
UNRWA: AN OBSTACLE TO PEACE? 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.
REFUGEES WHO INSIST ON THE IMPOSSIBLE UNRWA should be abolished CN PublicationsJonathan 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.
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.
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.
AN ARAB-CHRISTIAN DIPLOMAT AND ATTORNEY SPEAKS ABOUT ARABS, JEWS AND PEACE
Medisraelforfred 1 Oct 2014, 30.12 On September 27, 2014, at an event hosted by Med Israel for Fred (With Israel for peace) in the House of Literature, Oslo, a captivating speech was given by George Deek, an Arab-Christian who served as Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of Israel in Norway. The text has been excerpted due to space limitations.
JEWISH VS PALESTINIAN REFUGEES ConfuseMeWithFacts 2012 (3.01) You think you really know about the Palestinian refugees? This short animated clip covers the story of how they became refugees and why they have stayed that way. It also shows the history of Jewish refugees from Arab lands -- a story that's been ignored -- until now.
WHY ARE THERE STILL PALESTINIAN REFUGEES? PragerU 2016 (4.22) It's been seven decades since the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, and yet there are still an estimated 4 million Palestinian refugees...and zero Jewish refugees. With so many nearby Arab allies of the Palestinians, how did this happen? What does it say about Israel? What does it say about its Arab neighbors? Dumisani Washington, Diversity Outreach Coordinator for Christians United for Israel, explains.
WHAT DOES THE UN TEACH PALESTINIAN CHILDREN AT UNRWA SCHOOLS? ASKDrBrown 2014 (12.14) You think you really know about the Palestinian refugees? This short animated clip covers the story of how they became refugees and why they have stayed that way. It also shows the history of Jewish refugees from Arab lands -- a story that's been ignored -- until now.
UNRWA GOES TO WAR David Bedein (15.38)
ABSORPTION Different sources show slightly different figures.
They all show the same collapse of Jewish populations in Arab countries.
Of the nearly 900,000 Jewish emigrants, approximately 680,000 emigrated to Israel and 235,000 to France; the remainder went to other countries in Europe as well as to the Americas..About two thirds of the exodus was from the North Africa region, of which Morocco's Jews went mostly to Israel, Algeria's Jews went mostly to France, and Tunisia's Jews departed for both countries.