UNRWA. Where were you when we fled Anatevka?
The Definition of ‘Refugee’
“Refugees are people forced to flee their own country and seek safety in another country. They are unable to return to their own country because of feared persecution as a result of who they are, what they believe in or say, or because of armed conflict, violence or serious public disorder.
Many have been forced to flee with little more than the clothes on their back, leaving behind their homes, possessions, jobs and loved ones. They may have suffered human rights violations, been injured in their flight, or seen family members or friends killed or attacked.
Today, there are 35.3 million refugees globally. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is mandated to protect 29.4 million of them. A further 5.9 million are supported by UNRWA(United Nations Relief and Works Agency), which was set up in 1949 to care for displaced Palestinians.” https://www.unhcr.org/about-unhcr/who-we-protect/refugees
To put this into perspective, 29.4 million people are overseen by one UN relief agency, while the Palestinians with a population of 5.9 million people have their own unique and separate agency to care for them. A single UN agency cares for 20% of the world’s refugees while the other 80% are disproportionately cared for by another single UN agency.
The story gets even better.
The History of Refugees
The history of refugees goes back to biblical times. The destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE records the movement of the population from Israel to Babylon. But there were earlier cases of mass migrations which could be considered a “refugee” problem. The Hebrews moved and settled in the land of Goshen under the Pharoahs and then fled later, only to wander for 40 years without a home.
Britannica gives us a short history of refugees with data on the number of refugees who were forced to flee in the following paragraphs….
Refugee, any uprooted, homeless, involuntary migrant who has crossed a frontier and no longer possesses the protection of his or her former government. Prior to the 19th century the movement from one country to another did not require passports and visas; the right to asylum was commonly recognized and honoured. Although there have been numerous waves of refugees throughout history, there was no refugee problem until the emergence of fixed and closed state frontiers in the late 19th century. By the 1920s and ’30s the tradition of political asylum had deteriorated considerably, partly because of growing insensitivity to human suffering and partly because of unprecedented numbers of refugees.
For many centuries, refugee movements were a result of religious and racial intolerance. Entire groups were uprooted, exiled, or deported by secular or religious authorities in an effort to enforce conformity. Examples of such action include the expulsion of Jews from Spain in the late 15th century, the exodus of Huguenots from France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, and the eviction of Jews from Germany, Austria, and Sudetenland (now in the Czech Republic) in the 1930s.
Politically motivated refugee movements, frequent in modern times, have occurred intermittently since the development of governments powerful enough to oppress nonconformist minorities. The Russian Revolution of 1917 and the postrevolutionary civil war (1917–21) caused the exodus of 1.5 million opponents of communism. Between 1915 and 1923 more than 1 million Armenians left Turkish Asia Minor, and several hundred thousand Spanish loyalists fled to France in the wake of the 1936–39 Spanish Civil War. When the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, more than 2 million Chinese fled to Taiwan and to the British crown colony of Hong Kong. The 1950s were marked by the Korean War (1950–53), the Hungarian Revolution (1956), the Cuban revolution (1959), and the Chinese take-over of Tibet (1959), all of which resulted in the flight of more than a million refugees.
Between 1945 and 1961, the year that the communist regime erected the Berlin Wall (opened 1989), Politically motivated refugee movements, frequent in modern times, have occurred intermittently since the development of governments powerful enough to oppress nonconformist minorities. The Russian Revolution of 1917 and the post revolutionary civil war (1917–21) caused the exodus of 1.5 million opponents of communism. Between 1915 and 1923 more than 1 million Armenians left Turkish Asia Minor, and several hundred thousand Spanish loyalists fled to France in the wake of the 1936–39 Spanish Civil War. When the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, more than 2 million Chinese fled to Taiwan and to the British crown colony of Hong Kong. The 1950s were marked by the Korean War (1950–53), the Hungarian Revolution (1956), the Cuban revolution (1959), and the Chinese take-over of Tibet (1959), all of which resulted in the flight of more than a million refugees. Between 1945 and 1961, the year that the communist regime erected the Berlin Wall (opened 1989), more than 3.7 million refugees from East Germany found asylum in West Germany.Written and fact-checked by The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica
This particular post is only a discussion about refugees. But, if we were to add the number of deaths in World War 1 (17 million) and World War 2 (60 million) with the amount of refugees, we are looking at about 100 million people who were under tumoil.
Of course we cannot count the dead of the wars since they are dead and not refugees. This would be the logic of Antonio Guterres who was the head of the UN’s Relief Agency before becoming Secretary General of the UN.
Even George Orwell and Franz Kafka would be confused by Guterres’ claim that the Hamas War is the worst humanitarian disaster. Ever.
Back to UNWRA
UNRWA is a separate UN agency that specifically supports the relief and human development of Palestinian refugees. UNRWA’s mandate encompasses Palestinians displaced by the 1948 Palestine War and subsequent conflicts, as well as their descendants, including legally adopted children. As of 2019, more than 5.6 million Palestinians are registered with UNRWA as refugees. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UNRWA
- UNRWA was established in 1949 by the UN General Assembly to provide relief to all refugees resulting from the 1948 conflict.
- UNRWA employs over 30,000 people, most of them Palestinian refugees, and a small number of international staff.
- UNRWA is the only UN agency dedicated to helping refugees from a specific region or conflict.
- UNHCR has a specific mandate to assist refugees in eliminating their refugee status by local integration in the current country, resettlement in a third country or repatriation when possible.
- UNRWA does not seek to eliminate refugee status.
- UNRWA’s budget was $1.6 billion in 2022
UNRWA and Hamas – Gaza’s Answer to Start-Up Nation
UNRWA is basically a Palestinian industry doing over $1.6 billion yearly. In 2023 terms, we could call UNRWA a Palestinian “Unicorn”. And if UNRWA is to be considered a Palestinian “Unicorn”, then the recipient of its largesse, Hamas, should also be considered a Palestinian “Unicorn” with its leadership residing in Qatar and Turkey having a combined worth of $11 billion, according to the New York Post and the Times of India. According to a document published by the U.S. Treasury after October 7, Hamas’ annual revenues are estimated to amount to between $2.5 billion and $3 billion.
To use modern economics terms, UNRWA and HAMAS are major “stakeholders” in Gaza on a “micro” level and in the Israel-Palestinian dispute on a “macro” level!
From Refugee to Immigrant to Citizen
The immigration experience of the United States is characterized by waves of immigrants fleeing their homeland “in search of a better life”. The immigrant groups included Quakers and Protestants, Germans, Irish, Italian, Jews, Asians, Cubans and South Americans. The uniqueness of the American immigration experience is that within two to three generations, the immigrants were fully integrated into American society.
UNRWA has deliberately chosen a different route, even from its sister agency UNHCR. UNHCR works to integrate refugees into their new homes. UNRWA’s deliberate policy is to maintain the status of the refugees. This in effect keeps the Palestinian refugees downtrodden.
UNRWA’s home page clearly outlines the agency’s position on refugees…..
Palestine refugees are defined as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.”
UNRWA services are available to all those living in its area of operations who meet this definition, who are registered with the Agency and who need assistance. The descendants of Palestine refugee males, including adopted children, are also eligible for registration. When the Agency began operations in 1950, it was responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees. Today, some 5.9 million Palestine refugees are eligible for UNRWA services. https://www.unrwa.org/palestine-refugees
But the UN defines “refugee” differently…
Refugees are persons who are outside their country of origin for reasons of feared persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order and, as a result, require international protection. https://refugeesmigrants.un.org/definitions
UNRWA separates itself from the UN Official definition of “refugee” and attaches a separate and specific definition to Palestinian “refugees”.
A refugee is a refugee for only one generation. Only in UNRWA’s twisted worldview is a refugee a multigenerational phenomenon.
According to the Cambridge University Dictionary, ” apartheid is a system of keeping groups of people separate and treating them differently, especially when this results in disadvantage for one group.” https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/apartheid
In a logical and clear-thinking world, the claim can actually be made that UNWRA is fundamentally racist and has created an apartheid state for its charges to live in. It has done so by designating future generations of the original 750,000 refugees as refugees as well. Thus the current number of Palestinian refugees has ballooned to 5.6 million. UNRWA has basically created a welfare state in Gaza.
Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands
In the same period that the Palestinians became “refugees”, approximately 900,000 Jews migrated, fled, or were expelled from Muslim-majority countries throughout Africa and Asia. This figure is greater than the amount of Palestinians who became refugees as a result of the War of Independence and the Six Day War. Primarily a consequence of the Israeli Declaration of Independence, the mass movement mainly transpired from 1948 to the early 1970s, with one final exodus of Iranian Jews occurring shortly after the Islamic Revolution in 1979–1980.
Similar to the refugees who made their home in America a generation earlier, these Jewish refugees became part of their new homelands within two to three generations. The UN did not set up a special agency for them.
In an article published by the Wall Street Journal on November 3, 2023, Edward Meir writes,
“Many Israelis Are Refugees From Arab Lands – In 1948 some 900,000 Jews lived in Iraq, Yemen and other countries. Almost all of them were violently forced out.”https://www.wsj.com/articles/many-israelis-are-refugees-from-arab-lands-middle-east-history-9cf540f6
In May 2018, Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis recorded a few interviews with Swiss media. He stated that “So long as Palestinians live in refugee camps, they can dream of returning home. Five million Palestinian refugees currently live in such camps, with aid and protection provided by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.”
“It is unrealistic that all of them can fulfill this dream. Yet the UNRWA keeps this dream alive,” Cassis said. “For a long time the UNRWA was the solution to this problem, but today it has become part of the problem. It supplies the ammunition to continue the conflict. By supporting the UNRWA, we keep the conflict alive. It’s a perverse logic.”https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/politics/palestinian-refugees_minister—un-aid-agency-is-part-of-the-problem-in-middle-east-/44124956
Yes, Mr. Guterres. The Hamas War did not happen in a vacuum. There are so many “stakeholders” that need to keep this conflict alive and ongoing. Nothing will change until we erase the equation UNRWA + HAMAS = APARTHEID .