The Hon. Samantha Power
US Ambassador to the UN
Dear Ambassador Power,
Welcome to Jerusalem!
At a time of continued deadlock in political negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, you can use thie leverage of the US, which donates $400 million to UNRWA each year — 33% of the UNRWA budget, to launch an effort to find solutions to the humanitarian plight of the five million of descendents of the refugees from the 1948 war who still live around UNRWA facilities.Instead of just throwing money at UNRWA, The US could assert its leadership amongst donor nations to advance UNRWA policies that could improve living conditions of UNRWA refugee residents…and offer a realistic humanitarian alternative to the “right of return” mantra that has been drummed into the minds of half a million UNRWA students… as an excuse to allow for the status quo of UNRWA refugee status for perpetuity. In that context, you, as the US ambassador, to address six UNRWA challenges, which could guide UNRWA policy reform.
- The US could work with all donor nations to ask for an audit of donor funds that flow to UNRWA. This would address widespread documented reports of wasted resources, duplicity of services and the undesired flow of cash to Gaza-based terror groups, which gained control over UNRWA operations in Gaza over the past 18 years.
- The US, as the largest donor to UNRWA, could introduce UNHCR standards to UNRWA, to advance the resettlement of Arab refugees, after 67 years. Current UNRWA policy is that refugee resettlement would interfere with the “right of return” to Arab villages that existed before 1948.
- The US could ask fellow donor nations to reconsider the new UNRWA curriculum, which incorporate principles of Jihad, martyrdom and an assurance of the right of return ‘ by force of arms – in a UN school system which is supposed to promote the UNRWA slogan of “Peace Starts Here.”
- The US could ask about the appropriateness of paramilitary training in Gaza based UNRWA schools. Should UNRWA, as a UN agency, not show a commitment to UN principles of “peace education”?
- Perhaps this would be an opportune time for US to work with all donor nations to insist that UNRWA dismiss employees who are affiliated with Hamas, in accordance with laws on the books in US which forbid aid to any agency that employs members of a terrorist organization.
- Last but not least, since UNRWA has recently hired the “youth ambassador” Mohammad Assaf, to travel the world to encourage insurrection and violence, would this not be the appropriate time for the US to work with all donor nations to ask that UNRWA cancel such a contract?
This is your opportunity to take an initiative during the final year of the Obama Administration to address a pressing humanitarian issue that can be solved.
David Bedein, MSW*
*Author, “ROADBLOCK TO PEACE- How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict: UNRWA policies reconsidered”, David is a social worker and journalist active in efforts to reform UNRWA for the past 28 years. David runs the Israel Resource News Agency and the Center for Near East Policy Research, which have produced produced books, monographs and movies filmed on location in UNRWA. Special website on UNRWA policies; recent report on UNRWA school books; recent UNRWA films.