The Trump administration, in a move long overdue, is coordinating with Israel to tighten oversight and demand more transparency from the United Nations Works and Relief Agency. Known as UNRWA, this body of the United Nations was created to help the Palestinian refugees after 1948. First though, let’s find out some facts about the so-called refugee problem in the “occupied territories” as well as UNRWA.
After 1948, an estimated 500,000 Arabs fled from Israel to neighboring Arab countries. On the flip side, over 850,000 Jewish refugees were forced out of their homes throughout the Middle East, with many of them fleeing to Israel. Israel accepted and settled these Jewish refugees. The Arab countries surrounding Israel, with the exception of Jordan, refused to take in any of the Palestinian refugees.
After Israel’s war of independence, 160,000 Arabs accepted Israel’s offer to remain in the country, and today, there are more than 1 million Arab Israeli citizens, with full equal rights.
Today, the Palestinian refugee numbers have grown to five million. While UNHCR (United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees) is the branch of the UN that cares for all other refugees around the world, a special agency was created to deal with the Palestinian refugees, UNWRA (United Nations Works and Relief Agency).
Here are a few statistics in how UNWRA deals with the Palestinian refugees compared to the rest of the world:
- Normal refugees lose their status as refugees after receiving citizenship in a country. Palestinian refugees do not.
- Normal refugees cannot transmit their status from generation to generation. Palestinian refugees do.
- Normal refugees are encouraged to settle in other countries or integrate into their host countries. UNRWA avoids such policies.
- The United Nations spends almost three times the amount of money on a Palestinian refugee that it spends on a normal refugee and employs over thirty times the staff.
- Throughout the 20th century, the UN has found solutions for tens of millions of refugees. UNRWA has found zero solutions for Palestinian refugees.
Now though, the world is beginning to catch on to the farce of the UN Relief and Works Agency.
According to an Israel National News article from 2018, Bassam Eid is a human rights activist who has been studying UNRWA’s schools and institutions for years, bringing the paralyzed Palestinian Arab voices that have been struggling under UNRWA, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to the light.
“I have been saying for years that UNRWA has become part of the problem and not part of the solution,” said Eid. “For seventy years, UNRWA has been managing the affairs of the Palestinian refugees and has not managed to reduce the problem or resolve the refugee problem within seventy years. I am interested in continuing to manage the issue of the Palestinian refugees.”
According to Eid, 65% of UNRWA’s budget goes to salaries and renting office space.
Also according to Eid, children taught in UNRWA schools, specifically in the West Bank and Jordan, are being taught hate and violence. While at a school in Jordan, Eid heard children ages 9-10 talking about how they wanted to kill Jews and be killed. They said that was what they were learning in schools, and Eid asked the teachers if children were taught to blow themselves up and be killed. “Of course,” they said. “How else will they liberate the land from the Israeli occupation?”
With reports in the last several months of corruption in UNRWA, the Trump and Israeli administrations have decided to crack down. In discussions between the American and Israeli delegations in the UN, they have decided to introduce two main requirements. One is to shorten the agency’s mandate, so that it is forced to be renewed every year, instead of every three years. The second is to increase transparency within the organization, forcing them to publish all of their economic activities.
However, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, takes a much more hard line approach. In a recent article in Israel National News, he said, “We will work with all the tools until UNRWA closes.”
The normal UN agency that helps refugees around the world has assisted millions of refugees to resettle and integrate into normal life. Not only has the UNRWA not helped a single Palestinian refugee resettle into normal life, but they have prohibited them from doing so. The original number of refugees has grown from 600,000 to 5,000,000 over the last seventy years.
Until the UN Relief and Works Agency closes, and Israel or the United States steps in to actually do some good for the Palestinians, I believe they will continue to suffer. Their own leaders, and even the UN just want to keep them suppressed.