The United Nations Relief and Words Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) was founded in December 1949 to provide jobs on public works projects and direct relief to the Palestinian Arabs that had left Israel during the war of 1948-49. It was mandated as a temporary agency that would continue to operate only until solutions were found for the refugees, numbering some 600,000.
Today UNRWA continues to operate, with an expanded mandate of providing relief and human development services, including basic health care, education, social services and human development. According to UNRWA, there are now more than five million Palestinian Arab refugees registered with the agency.
This situation evolved because UNRWA is the only international agency devoted to the care of one particular population of refugees and has great latitude in setting the parameters of its operation. It is not bound by the definitions of the 1951 Refugee Convention.
All other refugees in the world are attended to by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is mandated to protect refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people, and assist in their repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country.
The goal of UNHCR is to help people get on with their lives as quickly as possible. If refugees cannot return to their original home, they are helped to integrate in the country where they currently are, or are helped to resettle in a third country. According to UNHCR, a person who has received citizenship in a country is no longer a refugee.
The difference between this policy and the highly politicized policy of UNRWA is stunning:
UNRWA maintains that a Palestinian Arab who was a refugee retains that status until he or she is able to return to his or her home in Israel. (See “Right of Return” for additional information.)
A person who was once a refugee might have acquired citizenship in the US or Britain, for example, but is still a “refugee” on UNRWA’s books.
What is more, while UNHCR says that the status of “refugee” is not transferable through the generations, UNRWA says it is. Thus there are Palestinian Arabs down to the third and fourth generation now who still carry that “refugee” status on UNRWA’s books, even though they have never seen the home they allegedly came from.
In this way, does UNRWA tally the artificial number of five million “refugees,” with the number continuing to grow. All are said to have a “right to return” to Israel.
UNRWA services are offered in 58 refugee camps, located in Jordan, Syria, Gaza, Lebanon, and the West Bank (and eastern Jerusalem), although at this point many of the refugees live outside the camps, in areas near the camps.
There is a hostile attitude towards the Palestinian Arabs in places such as Syria and Lebanon; even before the situation was as horrendous as it now it, the Palestinian Arabs were not permitted to integrate into the host societies. In Lebanon, for example, there are restrictions on the jobs Palestinian Arabs can hold. (Jordan, which has provided most with citizenship, is the exception.) This has been promoted by design, to foster in the Palestinian Arabs a sense of disenfranchisement and longing to “return” to Israel.
There is an on-going attempt in UNRWA schools and day camps run by UNRWA to “educate” the children to the fact they have a “right” to go back to where their parents or grandparents came from. The sense of having been robbed of the land that is theirs is promoted in the youngsters. This fosters anger and violence and is counterproductive to all goals of peace in the Middle East.
Please see this through to the end:
Many of the refugee camps are hotbeds of terrorism. But nowhere is this more the case than in Gaza, where there is a solid link with Hamas.
Leaders of Hamas, such as Ismail Haniyeh, were educated in UNRWA schools. Posters of “martyrs” are hung in the schools, and many members of the faculties of these schools have Hamas connections. A notable instance was that of school principal Suhail al-Hindi, who was elected to a leadership position in Hamas.
“Al-Kutla Al-Islamiya” (the Islamic Bloc), a wing of Hamas, operates educational programs in UNRWA schools. On March 23, 2017, the Islamic Bloc organized a series of student activities in UNRWA schools in the north of Gaza, to mark the 13th anniversary of the “martyrdom” of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas.
It is impossible to separate current Gaza terrorism from the education that many of the rioters received in UNRWA schools.