Palestinians at the entrance to a UNRWA office in Gaza. (AP/Khalil Hamra) (AP/Khalil Hamra)
UNRWA Gaza

Why is there a special UN agency that only serves so-called Palestinian refugees, who receive massive amounts of aid while real refugees receive far less?  

A so-called Palestinian refugee receives quadruple the amount of aid that a real Syrian, Iraqi or African refugee receives from the United Nations, according to a study conducted by the Abba Eban Institute of International Diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya.

The study, reported by Israel’s Ynet news, shows that in 2016 the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which provides assistance solely to Palestinian refugees, spent an average of $246 for each of the 5.3 million Palestinians it defines as refugees, while the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spent only a quarter of that, $58 per refugee, on non-Palestinians.

UNRWA recently released its annual financial report, which stated that in 2016 UNRWA employed some 30,000 people, while the World Refugee Agency, which handles tens of millions of refugees worldwide, employs only 10,000 people.

The Palestinians are the only group of refugees with a special UN agency dedicated to their cause.

Unique Palestinian ‘Refugees’

Similarly, the Palestinians have a unique definition for their status as refugees, enabling them to retain that status 70 years after gaining it.

The number of Palestinian refugees has been vastly inflated by the fact that refugee status is passed on to succeeding generations and is unaffected by citizenship from other countries, in contrast to the definition of refugee status for every other refugee population in the world.

For instance, the vast majority of the “refugees” in Jordan, more than two million, are citizens of Jordan who identify as Palestinian.

Former Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor heads the research institute, which formulated a plan that will improve the treatment of refugees around the world by merging UNRWA into the UNHCR.

“Consolidating the budgets and manpower of both agencies will lead to better treatment of refugees,” Prosor told Ynet. “In Jordan, for example, there are 44 clinics that treat refugees from the civil wars in Syria and Iraq, out of 233 clinics that are required for this mission. Alongside them are 25 UNRWA clinics that ignore Syrian refugees and care only for Palestinian refugees.”

Prosor said that combining the resources of the two agencies will “enable more quality and efficient assistance, and contribute to a solution for what that the UN itself has defined as the most serious refugee crisis in history.”

UNRWA has come under fire not only for its actual ties to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, which has used the agency’s schools to hide rockets and dig terror tunnels, but also for its textbooks and other curriculum materials that indoctrinate Palestinian youth and promote anti-Semitism.

Furthermore, Prosor pointed out that UNRWA’s existence perpetuates the conflict with Israel because it enshrines the status of the so-called Palestinian refugee, instead of seeking a permanent solution for them.

Prosor intends to present his plan to UN bodies and promote it.

UNRWA is the Problem, Not the Solution

Israel has for years argued that the UN and the Palestinians are working to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee problem and oppose any attempt to seek any kind of solution.

Their status as refuges ensures an endless flow of international aid.

Speaking on the 65th anniversary of the founding of UNRWA in June 2015, Israel’s Deputy Representative to the UN Ambassador David Roet charged the organization with undermining the peace process and damaging the future of the Palestinians.

Roet asked why UNRWA was working “to validate the Palestinian narrative,” including carrying out “massive media campaigns,” while ignoring the suffering of refugees in Arab countries.

“The Middle East today is in a state of turmoil…. Palestinian refugees in [Syria and Lebanon] are caught in the chaos,” he said. “In light of the real needs of the refugees, it is troubling that UNRWA would focus its resources on political campaigns, even as it cuts humanitarian assistance. Such campaigns only serve to support the Palestinian political agenda and distance us from achieving peace.”

“From an early age, Palestinian children are taught that the only solution to their plight is the so-called ‘claim of return.’ Many UNRWA facilities are decorated with keys, symbolizing this claim of return,” the ambassador noted. “The ‘claim of return,’ make no mistake, is a euphemism for the destruction of the State of Israel. This ‘claim’ is the real obstacle to the two-state solution, to which Israel and so many of us in this room are fully committed.”

He pointed to the failure of UNRWA to act impartially in carrying out its mandate, accusing Israel of misbehavior while turning a blind eye to acts of terror by Hamas. “UNRWA had over 10,000 employees in Gaza – most of them Palestinian, but also many internationals. Where were they when Hamas stockpiled thousands of rockets, many of them in close vicinity to UNRWA facilities? It seems that while they are quick to condemn Israel, when it comes to reporting on Hamas, UNRWA’s employees become blind, deaf and mute.”

By: United with Israel Staff