November 18, 2018

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"If UNRWA goes, the refugee issue is over"

Sometimes you can unearth gems even in the cesspool of Electronic Intifada.

In an article about how some Palestinian Arabs are biased against their “refugee” brethren, it says:

Ghassan Weshah, head of the history and archaeology department at the Islamic University of Gaza, says the role of institutions supporting refugees should not be reduced to simply providing relief. UNRWA, he notes as an example, plays an important relief role, especially as the general economic situation has deteriorated in Palestine. But its function is more than economic.

“The responsibility of UNRWA is to help refugees, but it must also continue this work to remind the world of the refugee issue and the right of return. If UNRWA goes, the refugee issue is over.

In two sentences, Weshah accurately describes UNRWA’s real purpose – not to help refugees but to perpetuate them.

If it would disappear or merge with UNHCR, the UN organization for all the other refugees in the world, then the refugee issue would go “poof.”

The article mentions how the Palestinians resent their UNRWA-supported fellows:

Such social stratification is not unusual in Palestinian society. It is mirrored across the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip where refugees wound up with their UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) ration cards, poverty and homelessness.
As a sense of shared Palestinian kinship competed with, and often came out second to, traditional ties to village and town, refugees came to be seen as outsiders to be treated with “a mixture of pity and contempt,” according to George Bisharat, a lawyer and commentator on Palestinian affairs.
Every city in occupied territory has refugee camps attached to it, and these often organize themselves in parallel to the city.
Refugees have their own schools – run by UNRWA, which was originally set up as a stopgap measure until refugees could return – often their own soccer teams and it is common for people to speak of themselves as being from either the camp or the city.

UNRWA’s very existence has caused a decades-old rift in Palestinian society. Instead of helping their brethren, they resent them for getting free food and medical care and schooling. SO they look down on them.

UNRWA didn’t do anything to integrate Palestinians with their fellow Arabs, within or without the Mandate area. As a result, UNRWA has helped ensure that they are perpetual outsiders – who therefore need more UNRWA help.

The exact opposite of what a refugee agency is supposed to do.

Normal people want to solve refugee problems. Getting rid of UNRWA is the simple formula to do so.

I’ve been giving specific ideas on how to dismantle UNRWA for years. most recently last summer. Now we know that even the Palestinians themselves know that UNRWA’s only real purpose is antithetical to human rights and refugee rights.

(h/t Andrea)

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