The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was founded in 1950, with its stated goals of providing “education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance and emergency assistance” for 150,000 Palestinian Arab refugees. The organization was supposed to be temporary, but the number of “refugees” has since swelled to 5 million. The Palestinian Arabs are the only people on the planet that have been accorded by the U.N. their own agency to deal with their refugee status; the rest of the world’s many millions of former refugees fall under the auspices of the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees, and have for the most part been successfully integrated, transferred and settled.
The Palestinian Arabs, however, have become entrenched, victimized refugees, many for several generations, mostly for political purposes as a hammer over Israel. This is a failure of the U.N., Arab countries — their brethren — and the Palestinian Arabs themselves.
In recent years especially, the efforts of UNRWA have been subverted by the terror organizations that have taken over its facilities and resources. Most recently, ample evidence has accumulated during Operation Protective Edge, which started on July 8, 2014, documenting Hamas’ de facto takeover of UNRWA institutions in the Gaza Strip.
Noted investigative journalist, author, researcher and speaker David Bedein has been an indefatigable chronicler and critic of UNRWA for decades. The former Philadelphian, who lives in Efrat, Israel, is the founder and director of the Jerusalem-based Center for Near East Policy Research (CNEPR). He recently appeared before the Canadian Parliament and the U.S. congress for policy briefings, and this month will be appearing before the UK Parliament, Danish Parliament and Israeli Knesset. Bedein’s latest book, Roadblock to Peace, How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict: UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, now available on Amazon.
Bedein has also unveiled a new film, UNRWA Goes to War. In the film, he documents how UNRWA has become a convenient surrogate for terrorist organizations, led by Hamas, which was chosen in successive elections to lead the workers union and the UNRWA teachers union, as the key mentors who influence generations of Palestinian refugee descendants about engaging in the “right of return” to Arab villages that existed before 1948 through jihad, “holy war.”
According to Bedein, the Hamas takeover of the UNRWA institutions and staff should set off alarms regarding the possibility of funding given by donor countries, primarily the U.S., finding its way to financing the salaries of Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists.
Beyond the issue of terrorism, UNRWA and the Palestinian leadership assist through their policies in perpetuating the problem and misery of the refugees.
The Palestinian Arab leadership has made it clear that they will not settle the refugees in the settlement areas evacuated by Israel during the 2005 Disengagement, in order to maintain their right to “return.” The interests of the Hamas government and UNRWA are one and the same in this regard: to prevent the dismantling of the refugee camps, despite the severe distress that leads to extremism, as part of the nurturing of the dream of return to Palestine.
A striking example is seen at the entrance into the Al Aida, “right of return” UNRWA camp next to the Tomb of Rachel in Bethlehem, with a two-ton key sculpture on top of a massive key hole-shaped gate. The sign at the base of the monument says, “Our sons will return to their borders,” to paraphrase the statement most often associated with the Matriarch Rachel, “And Your Children Have Returned To Your Borders.”
Bedein argues that the continued status quo of UNRWA has no justification if the organization sees its entire purpose in maintaining the misery of refugees in the camps, and certainly after the deep involvement of the terrorist organization in the war on Israel from Gaza this past summer. An immediate and independent investigation is therefore required into the infiltration of Palestinian terrorist groups into UNRWA and the use of its facilities for the purpose of terrorist attacks and rocket storage, as well as the transferring of UNRWA equipment to be used by Gaza terrorist organizations.
Bedein has been briefing donor nations that providing aid to UNRWA must have several conditions:
• changing the school curricula, which teach about hatred and genocide of Jews and serve to perpetuate the hatred;
• removal of terrorists from the institutions of the U.N. agency; and
• the organization’s commitment to act to dismantle the refugee camps that are under Palestinian-Arab control, and rehabilitate the refugees in new and spacious communities.
In short, Bedein reveals the truth behind the misperception that the U.N. determines the policies of the UNRWA. In fact, UNRWA is a self-run authority, funded by donor nations, not by the U.N., with no board of directors and no external audit.
What the donors do not know is that donations given to UNRWA wind up in the wrong hands. Despite an annual ongoing budget of $1.2 billion, UNRWA has not helped to resettle one refugee in its 66-year history. Bedein and CNEPR briefed the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa at a special session dedicated to UNRWA on October 20, 2014. CFNEPR presented its latest studies on the Hamas takeover of the UNRWA school system, an analysis of the latest UNRWA school books, which do not conform to UNESCO’s guidelines, and its latest film, which portrays deliberate UNRWA-Hamas collusion during 2014.
“UNRWA Goes to War” is an enlightening and alarming film. It should be a wake up call to U.S. taxpayers who are funding this.
More on the UNRWA investigations can be found at the Center for Near East Policy Research. More information can be found at Bedein’s Israel Behind the News.