Israel Resource Review 25th May, 2006


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U.S. Congressman: UNRWA amendment planned
JTA wire, May 23rd 2006


A U.S. congressman plans to introduce an amendment that would condition U.S. funding of UNRWA on an independent audit.

Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), a member of the U.S. House of Representatives' foreign operations subcommittee, wants to attach the amendment to the foreign operations bill due for consideration in coming weeks, his office said.

Kirk withheld the amendment last Friday, when the subcommittee referred the bill to the full Appropriations Committee, offering instead a statement of his concerns.

The amendment was unlikely to pass out of the subcommittee, but Kirk may introduce it when the bill is considered by the full committee or by the full House.

The amendment also exists as a separate bill under consideration by the subcommittee.

Kirk says the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, the main body responsible for Palestinian refugees, is overstaffed, has not had an independent audit in years and does not rigorously seek to ensure that staff members don't affiliate with terrorist groups.

UNRWA says an independent audit by the South African government's comptroller is near completion and claims that any staffers must quit before joining political groups . . .

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Change Perceived in Canadian UNRWA policy
Paul Lungen
Staff correspondent, Canadian Jewish News


David Bedein has visited Canada many times and delivered his appraisal on UNRWA, the UN's agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, on more than a few occasions.

Last week, for the first time, Bedein, bureau chief for the Israel Resource News Agency, was guardedly optimistic that his suggestions on reforming the massive UN agency to actually push it to rehabilitate and resettle refugees might actually bear fruit.

Canada, he said, is preparing "for a modest diplomatic step in the Middle East. This is one issue where Canada can take the lead."

Bedein was in Ottawa last week for a series of meetings with parliamentarians, senior officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister's Office. Altogether, Bedein briefed about 50 legislators and officials in three meetings, including members of the Canada-Israel Interparliamentary Friendship Group.

He was invited to Ottawa by Jason Kenney, the prime minister's parliamentary secretary.

As chair of the refugee working group, an international body established 15 years ago to examine a solution to the Palestinian refugee question, Canada has some leverage on this issue, Bedein told his hosts.

"Canada has two tremendous opportunities at a time when the political aspects of the process has stalled. Canada can take the lead in looking at the refugee situation as soluble."

Bedein suggested Palestinians languishing in refugee camps face a choice between continued squalor or normalization of their lives. The UN maintains the status quo, he said, and he urged Canadian representatives to "enter dialogue with the refugees themselves" to address the humanitarian issues related to the peace process.

Normalizing Palestinians' lives might also defuse some of the political volatility in the camps, he suggested. "If you have permanent housing around you, you are less likely to be pushing for the 'right of return,'" he said.

Palestinians have called for the right of refugees and their descendants to return to homes in what is now Israel, and they consider that prospect "very real," he said.

Since there are no political prospects that that might occur, Canada could push for rehabilitation of refugees along the lines adopted elsewhere by the UNHCR, the UN agency responsible for refugees everywhere in the world outside the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Bedein also suggested that UNRWA, which Canada funds in part, should not employ members of the terrorist group Hamas.

This appeared in the CJN on May 24th , 2006

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"Embassy", Canada's foreign policy weekly in Ottawa: Two Letters Related to the "Right of Return"


In response to the article written by Sarah McGregor, Senior Staff Writer, "Embassy", Canada's foreign policy weekly in Ottawa, and posted at: http://israelbehindthenews.com/Archives/May-18-06.htm#Gesture, the "Embassy" ran two letters in its May 24th issue:

"Musing on the "Right of Return" And a related letter"

Like many other Canadians, I generally sympathize with the Palestinians' aspirations for self-determination on their own homeland (Re: "No Return For Palestinian Refugees" May 16). However, I have never fully understood is their insistence for a "right of return" to Israel. If the ultimate point is a two-state solution with the Israelis and the Palestinians living side by side each within their boundaries, how can the Palestinians claim both a Palestinian state and the right to return to live within Israel? This position seems fundamentally contradictory. Both peoples lay a claim to the totality of the land. As a compromise, they would purportedly agree to divide it up, with the Jews on one side and the Palestinians on the other. That is indeed the thrust of the Oslo accords and the Road Map. As such, the Palestinian claim to both a Palestinian homeland and a right of return within Israel is illogical.

Another contradiction with the Palestinian claim is that the Palestinians expect a total expunging of Jews from their territories. When Israel withdrew from Gaza, there was not a single Jewish person left. When the official voices for the Palestinians speak of their homeland, it is one for Muslim and Christian Arabs alone, it leaves no room for the Jews. Their media and school textbooks are fiercely anti-Semitic. So, while they want to vacate the Jews from Palestinian territory, they insist that they can live in Israeli territory. Thus, they apply a gross double standard, stating that it's acceptable for them to exclude Jews, but it is not acceptable for the Israelis to exclude them.

Finally, an important issue that was ignored by the article was that of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands. Between 1948-1967, an estimated 700,000 Jews fled Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq and Yemen due to persecution by the Arab majority. They left behind homes, possessions, and hundreds of years of history. While some left for Israel voluntarily, the majority fled against their will. Any talk of redressing the situation for Palestinian refugees must, therefore, be accompanied by the issue of the Jewish refugees from Arab lands.

For a "just" peace in the Middle East, it is vital to address every issue on its merits. This includes a more neutral look at the Palestinian claim for the right of return, one that takes into account the logical implications of a two-state solution and the plight of Jewish refugees.

JAMES BURN

Excellent research and coverage, thank you. Not so for David Bedein. How brilliant (and melodramatic) the spin of 'heroics' on the role he wishes to endow Canada. 'Heroic' that Canada turn its back on international law indicating the Inalienable Right of Return of Palestinian refugees? 'Heroic' that Canada address and even fund the 'issue of limbo,' a catastrophic disaster created by the State of Israel? 'Heroic' to deny the human factor of the Palestinian refugee crisis and distil it into an issue of "infrastructure"? Heroic is interchangeable with 'courageous.' In a day and age where the norm has become a denial of the international legal forum, 'heroic'/'courage' would be a Canadian role in seeing this Inalienable Right through to it's end, not by making it easier for a Palestinian to take a shower, but by allowing them to execute their inalienable right to return to the homes from which they were forced to flee.

MAHA ZIMMO Ottawa, ON.

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