As the eyes of the world focus on the dysfunctional US-Iranian accord, yet another dysfunctional accord with the US government has escaped public scrutiny: The new understandings reached between the US government and UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, most recently posted on the website of the US State Department.
The US, the largest funder of UNRWA, (Reaching $400 million this year, one third of the UNRWA budget), could have predicated further funding of UNRWA on a humanitarian commitment to resettle UNRWA’s client population: 5.4 million descendents of Arab refugees from the 1948 war – into decent permanent living conditions.
Yet the US-UNRWA accord mentions nothing of the kind.
Instead, the US-UNRWA accord mandates that thousands of these descendents of Arab refugees who have wallowed in the indignity of refugee life for 66 years, must continue to live in refugee squalor “until a comprehensive and just solution is secured”, something which UNRWA will not let happen.
Dr. Arnon Groiss, a journalist from the Arabic language service of the Israel Broadcasting Authority, who has extensively studied PA textbooks used in the UNRWA schools, has concluded that no solution to the refugee issue is offered by UNRWA for the future of the Palestinian refugees except for one: the “right of return” to villages that existed before 1948.
Manifestations of the “right of return” in PA textbooks, as taught in UNRWA’s schools are not nostalgic literary pieces.
Rather, as presented to the students and shown here, the “Right of Return” plays a prominent role in the Palestinian political vision of a continued struggle against a delegitimized and demonized Israel until its eventual destruction.
The educational services provided by UNRWA to their 492,000 students promote this non-peaceful line, in contradiction to the Agency’s declared mission as a UN agency dedicated to peace.
Meanwhile, The US- UNRWA accord proudly features the UNRWA “Human Rights, Conflict Resolution, and Tolerance curriculum” as a step in the right direction.
However, Dr. Groiss has evaluated that curriculum and discerned what was missing: any mention of freedom of religion, religious equality and religious tolerance. In fact, the books are totally devoid of any mention of religion.
The US – UNRWA accord also lauds section 301(c) of the US Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended (hereinafter referred to as “section 301(c)”), which states: “No contributions by the United States shall be made to (UNRWA) except on the condition that (UNRWA) take all possible measures to assure than no part of the United States contribution shall be used to furnish assistance to any refugee who is receiving military training as a member of the so-called Palestine Liberation Army or any other guerilla-type organization or who has engaged in any act of terrorism.”
Yet there no clause appears in the new US-UNRWA accord, which called for enforcement of this anti-terror clause.
Instead, the US –UNRWA accord relies on UNRWA itself to enforce this clause, which according to the accord “is committed to taking all possible measures in conformance with conditions on U.S. contributions to UNRWA pursuant to section 301(c). The accord “expects UNRWA to maintain constant vigilance in its efforts and actions to fully meet the conditions on U.S. contributions as described in section 301(c)”
In other words, the US gives UNRWA the benefit of the doubt, stating that “The United States and UNRWA share concerns about the threat of terrorism, adding that “UNRWA is committed to taking all possible measures to ensure that funding provided by the United States to support UNRWA is not used to provide assistance to, or otherwise support, terrorists or terrorist organizations”.
Just as the US accord with Iran places the burden of proof of any wrong- doing on the determination of the Iranian regime, the US allows UNRWA to determine if it has committed a security indiscretion.
At the same time, the US- UNRWA accord turns a blind eye to Hamas takeover of UNRWA facilities in Gaza.
Sixteen years ago, the Gaza-based employees of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency held elections to choose union leaders.
Hamas took advantage of the campaign and took over the entire teachers association and workers association.
By 2012, more the 90 percent of UNRWA employees had become Hamas supporters.
As a result of the takeover, Hamas created an apparatus whose mission was to maintain its grip on the Gaza-based UNRWA schools.
Al-Kutla Al-Islamiya (the Islamic Bloc) changed the school curriculum and introduced new textbooks, to disseminate Hamas ideology to young Gazans.
US STATE DEPARTMENT informed our agency that the US flatly denies the presence of Hamas in the UNRWA camps.
US government documents show that UNRWA, as a matter of policy, refuses to check if Hamas is present in UNRWA facilities.
All you have to do is to peruse the US government report entitled,
“U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians” written by Jim Zanotti, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs on July 3, 2014
That report reveals that UNRWA’s terrorist screening list, required by UN resolution #1267, does not even “include Hamas, Hezbollah, or most other militant groups that operate in UNRWA’s surroundings. UNRWA is unwilling to screen its contractors and funding recipients against a list supplied by only one U.N. member state”.
And when it comes to widespread allegations against UNRWA for lack of transparency, the US-UNRWA accord could have set up a new system of accountability to address the cumbersome funding process for UNRWA.
Instead, the accord’s financial responsibility section totally relies on UNRWA, saying that, UNRWA is “expected to provide relevant information pertaining to its implementation of UNBOA recommendations and, in accordance with UN and/or UNRWA procedures and policies, required data for U.S. reporting against the United Nations Transparency and Accounting Initiative (UNTA)”
And if UNRWA does not provide that financial oversight, “as expected”?
Not a word.
The conclusion of the document says it all:
“The United States is committed to continuing its partnership with UNRWA to assist the more than 5.4million registered Palestinian refugees and other registered persons assisted by UNRWA until a just solution is achieved and UNRWA’s mandate ends”.
And if the UNRWA definition of a “just solution” is not achieved?
Not a word.
Instead, the US-UNRWA accord sentences an entire population of refugee descendants to the indignity of continued refugee life, with no end in sight, preparing them to return to their homes back within the 1967 lines, while the US governments promises the rest of the Palestinian Arab population to settle them beyond the 1967 lines.
For whatever reason, the new US-UNRWA accord conveys one message:
UNCLE SAM TRUSTS UNRWA