|Israel Resource Review
||9th November, 2005
Presented at the UNCA, the United Nations Correspondents Association, on November 1st, 2005
Apply the Principles of UNHCR to the Operation of UNRWA
Alleviate the Suffering of Refugees Instead of Perpetuating It
The UNHCR Model
The international community and most specifically the supporters of
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East, UNRWA, have for half a century countenanced a situation in which the agency operates as an anomaly:
UNRWA was founded by the General Assembly of the United Nations in
December 1949 specifically to provide humanitarian relief to the Arabs who fled from Israel in the course of the war of 1948-49. Envisioned as a temporary agency, it was afforded an extraordinary amount of latitude in terms of formulating its policies and even in its definition of refugee.
Exactly one year later the UN High Commission for Refugees was founded
by the same body. Within a matter of months after its founding, the UN
Convention relating to the Status of Refugees was adopted in Geneva at
The UN Conference on the Status of Refugees and Stateless Persons. The
Convention rules and its definition of refugee became binding on UNHCR
and remain the norm within international law.
UNHCR's original mandate was to attend to millions of refugees from
World War II who were still stateless; this was later expanded to include all refugees in the world, with the exception of those attended to by another UN agency. In real terms, this meant that UNRWA was permitted to continue to operate under its own terms with its own definitions and policies, and not bound by the Convention. It was, and remains, the only international agency devoted to one specific group of refugees.
One might well imagine that with the founding of UNHCR, the need for
UNRWA would have disappeared. And a solid case can be made for the fact that it indeed should have disappeared. The Arab bloc, however, was adamant that it not. A document found on the UNHCR website, "The State of the World's Refugees, Part 1, The Early Years puts the matter baldly: "[Arab States . . . ] feared that the non-political character of the work envisioned for the nascent UNHCR was not compatible with the highly politicized nature of the Palestinian question."
Over the years, UNRWA has developed into a massive bureaucratic agency
that provides for Palestinian Arab refugees at a level that exceeds what is given to any other refugees in the world. The Palestinian Arab
refugees are the only ones to have guaranteed health care, welfare assistance and primary education. In fact, 50% more per refugee is spent on the Palestinian Arabs than on any other refugees.
One of the reasons this is so is because UNRWA has come to function in
a quasi-governmental fashion for a growing population that has remained, according to UNRWA's rules and definitions, stateless now for 57 years. Whereas UNHCR seeks to help the refugees under their
jurisdiction finds solutions so that they might get on with their lives with permanency,
UNWRA operates under the premise that the Palestinian Arab refugees are
still refugees even if they acquire a new citizenship, as many have
in Jordan until such time as they will return to their homes and
villages in Israel, from which they or their grandparents fled.
The question remains: Why do western nations who finance UNRWA (That includes the 31% contribution from the US) not demand that UNRWA operate according to the principles of UNHCR - to resettle refugees instead of implementing a policy that perpetuates their suffering, while fostering their delusions about the "right of return" ?
THE "RIGHT OF RETURN" DELUSION
When UNRWA was founded by the UN General Assembly Resolution 302, it
included a "particular" reference to paragraph 11 of General Assembly
Resolution 194. This resolution, passed during the 1948-49 war in an
effort to bring it to closure, had not been supported by a single
nation within the Arab bloc because it recognized Israel's right to exist.
After the war, that same Arab bloc, influential in the drafting of
UNRWA's mandate, saw fit to call upon a specific clause from that resolution lifted from its broader context. That clause read:
"…Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with
their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest
This phrase has been used since as the basis for the claim that the
Palestinian Arab refugees have a "right of return," often referred to
What is more, when the entire resolution 194 is examined, references to
resettlement are found, and it becomes clear that return was not the
only option being recommended by the General Assembly.
Nonetheless, UNRWA has functioned on the basis of this presumed right.
Thus UNRWA accuses Israel of blocking the "legitimate rights" of
the Palestinian Arab refugees and operate under the premise that they must be maintained in a limbo status under its care until such time as "return" can be realized. Any attempts to provide the refugees with permanent residence elsewhere are blocked by UNRWA as when, in 1985, when Israel attempted to move refugees into 1,300 permanent houses built for them near Nablus and a UN resolution was passed demanding that Israel not move refugees.
While claiming to protect the "rights" of the refugees, the question remains as to whether this UNRWA policy violates fundamental human rights.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the Florida Congresswoman who chairs the
Middle East subcommittee of the US House international relations committee, proposed on September 30th, 2005 that at a time "when the issue of U.N. reform is at the forefront, it is time for the Refugee Convention's inapplicability to Palestinians to be reconsidered. It
is time for UNRWA's separate status to be rescinded, and for UNRWA to be integrated into UNHCR".
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Alan Dershowitz's View of
by David Bedein
Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz has written The Case for Peace (Wiley and Sons, NYC, 2005), soon to be translated into Hebrew, that is based on commonly held assumptions about the Middle East.
The surprise is that a man of his stature never bothered to ascertain the veracity of these assumptions.
Palestinian willingness to compromise on the right of return?
Professor Dershowitz asserts that the "Palestinian leadership seems willing to compromise on the right of return," yet he cannot find any footnote to support any such newsworthy assertion. He also states that "Although Mahmood Abbas insisted on a full right of return during his election campaign, he has, since becoming president, moderated his stance somewhat." Yet Dershowitz relies only on a New York Times correspondent who thinks that this is the case, and cannot point to any such statement by Abbas to his own people in his own language and media.
Meanwhile, Professor Dershowitz calls for the "symbolic recognition" of the "rights of Palestinian refugees' which would include a "compensation package and some family reunification, without addressing implications of what it would mean for Israel if the Jewish State were to absorb a hostile population in its midst, without addressing the issue of who would choose which families would be "reunited".
For some reason, Professor Dershowitz does not consider the legal precedent that such recognition would create for all Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendants who demand the "right of return." While he writes that Palestinians stake claim to all lands lost in 1967, he neglects to mention that the PLO claims all lands lost in all of their wars with Israel in the context of the consistent PLO demands for the realization of the "right of return" to lands lost in 1948.
Instead, Prof. Dershowitz calls on Israel to allow for a "reasonable number" of Palestinian refugees and their descendants to return to their "homes" in Israel, yet he does not address the situation that would be created if, say, Israel were to allow 5% of the four million refugees and their descendents now registered with UNRWA's refugee camps to "return," an act that would force Israel to allow 200,000 people from a hostile entity to reside in Israel itself.
And he brings no source whatsoever to the possibility that the PLO would accept any such "compromise."
Professor Dershowitz asserts that the Palestinian leadership "would have to waive or compromise the broad, collective political 'right' to turn Israel into another Palestinian state by orchestrating a mass return of Palestinians to Israel," yet he produces no evidence that the Palestinian leadership would make any such move. .
Professor Dershowitz posits that "Israel should declare, in principle, its willingness to give up the captured territories in return for a firm assurance of lasting peace," yet he does not show any hint o evidence that the PLO would be willing to provide any such "firm assurance".
Dividing Jerusalem Leading to Peace?
Perhaps most astonishing of all is Dershowitz's call for a "division of greater Jerusalem," with the "Arab part becoming the capital of the Palestinian State," without relating to the fact that Arab & Jewish neighborhoods are intertwined in Jerusalem. For example, when you drive from the Israeli neighborhood of Gilo to Katamon, you travel through the Arab neighborhood of Beit Tzfafa. And when you travel from the Israeli neighborhoods of Neve Yaakov to French Hill, you traverse the Shuafat and Beit Hanina. And when you travel from Mount Scopus to the center of town, you traverse Wadi Jose. Imagine what it would be like to have to negotiate a PLO army base in the middle of Jerusalem. In other words, his suggestion would mean that PLO armed forces would be placed at the edge of every Jewish neighborhood in Jerusalem. Yet he asserts that "Jerusalem must be divided for peace," without saying on what basis he comes to the conclusion that relinquishing neighborhoods of Jerusalem to the PLO, which remains at war with Israel, would lead to peace. He advocates "Palestinian sovereignty in Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem," without explaining to the reader that sovereignty means guns in the hands of the PLO in Jerusalem, and that if his suggestion were implemented, it would be life-threatening to Jews throughout Jerusalem.
Prof. Dershowitz also asserts that the "Moslem Quarter should be under Palestinian or Islamic Authority," without taking into consideration the Jewish population who live and own property in the Moslem Quarter, which, by the way, has only been known as the "Moslem Quarter" since the Mufti-inspired expulsion of the Jewish population in that part of Jerusalem in 1936. He also asserts that the Temple Mount, on which two mosques stand, "should be largely under the sovereignty and control of the Palestinians and Moslems," without taking into consideration that such sovereignty would mean possession of weapons, which would allow armed Palestinians to threaten lives of Jewish worshippers below at the Western Wall Plaza.
Palestinian Leadership Desire for Peace?
Somehow, Prof. Dershowitz comes to the conclusion that "mainstream Israelis and mainstream Palestinians, along with their respective governments, are largely on the same side: they all want peace, compromise and a two state solution," yet no one has ever found mainstream Palestinians who make such expressions of compromise in the official publications, radio or TV broadcasts of the official Arabic language Palestinian Authority media.
Professor Dershowitz posits that the "only real hope for peace is that the current Palestinian leadership will be more like the pragmatic leadership of the Jewish Agency in 1937 and 1948," yet he provides no evidence that the PA leadership has expressed any such pragmatism in their public statements to their own people in the Arabic language.
Professor Dershowitz refers to preventive measures by PA armed forces against terrorists, yet he brings no sources to support any such measures.
Professor Dershowitz gives credence to the assertion of Tom Friedman from the New York Times that "hot pursuit" of terrorists does not work , yet he does not say on what basis he accepts that premise. He does not relate to the fact that the IDF's dispatch of troops inside Palestinian population centers, since April 2002, has served to curtail infiltrations of terrorists
Professor Dershowitz contends that Abbas condemned a terror attack in Tel Aviv in February, 2005, yet brings no evidence from Palestinian Authority Arabic language media to support that assertion, and makes no mention of the honor that the official Arabic language Palestinian Authority media afforded these killers.
Since monitoring the Arabic language expression of the Palestinian Authority has become a cottage industry of late , Professor Dershowitz could have easily accessed Palestinian Authority media from news organizations that retain credible Arabic speaking professionals such as the Israel Resource News Agency, The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, IMRA, PMW, MEMRI or Middle East News Line, all of which produce timely and publicly available updated reports from what is said in the PA public domain.
None of these organizations have found that " mainstream Palestinians" express support for "peace, compromise and a two state solution," in their own language and in their own media, except in Dershowitz's imagination.
Furthermore Professor Dershowitz fantasizes that the Palestinian state might become "economically viable, politically secure, religiously free, and protective of individual rights," yet makes no mention of the rampant corruption in a PA regime which is currently devoid of human rights and civil liberties.
Is this the same Alan Dershowitz who has made his name synonymous with his lifelong struggle for human rights and civil liberties?
Professor Dershowitz advocates a "secure elevated highway" between Judea/Samaria and Gaza, without taking into consideration that since the PLO remains in a state of war with Israel, would this not give them the opportunity to fire on Israeli lands from their "elevated road" on Israeli vehicles and on Israeli communities in the Negev.
Professor Dershowitz quotes the covenant of the Hamas to dispossess the Jews and destroy Israel, which remains in force, yet makes no mention of the PLO covenant which also remains in force with the same goals.
Professor Dershowitz asserts that the "only way that Israel is going to have security is if the Palestinians provide it by restraining their own…" , yet he does not relate to the fact that the PLO has not foresworn its war against Israel, raising the question of why an entity at war with Israel would "restrain" their forces.
Professor Dershowitz gives credence to the statement of President Bush's press secretary that the Israelis and Palestinians "must work together to fight terror", yet he does not relate to the fact that over the last five years, the security services of the PA have been engaged in direct acts of terror against the state and people of Israel.
While Professor Dershowitz notes that Palestinians have been raised in hatred of Jews, and that this is a by product of their school curricula, he then goes on to mention The Hamas Charter, without a word about the fact that the Palestinian school curriculum, available in English at www.edume.org, is produced by the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education, and not by Hamas.
Professor Dershowitz praises the PA Minister of Information for requesting that the Religious Affairs Ministry dismiss Sheik Ibraham Mudreis from his position after Mudreis had delivered an anti semitic sermon - yet he does not report that the Religious Affairs Ministry simply refused the request to fire Mudreis, and that Mudreis continues to deliver his virulent message every Friday as a paid employee of the PA, and that his speeches are broadcast by the official PBC Radio and RBC TV.
Professor Dershowitz reports that the "elders of Zion" allegation was removed from an official PA web site, yet he neglects to report that.that the PA refused to remove the "Elders of Zion" lesson from its new official tenth grade civics book issued this past year by he PA education ministry, despite the protests of 34 congress people who petitioned Abbas when he visited Washington in May 2005 to remove such blatant anti-Semitism from the PA curriculum?
Incidentally, he writes that the PA negotiators at Camp David "seemed" to accept the limitation of the PA armed forces to "only" have light weapons, yet he brings no Palestinian source to support any such assertion.
Professor Dershowitz mentions that Al Aksa Brigades as one of the terrorist organizations threatening the stability of Abbas's regime, yet forgets to mention that the Al Aksa Brigades remain an integral part of the Fateh, and that Abbas remains the chairman of the Fateh.
Professor Dershowitz does mention "incitement to violence from Palestinians themselves", and yet only alludes to Hamas, and mentions that the Imams who preach hatred on Palestinian-run radio and television, official textbooks, and neglects to mention that this message of hatred emanates from the official Palestinian Authority-run radio station and TV, and that the Palestinian Authority employs these imams, and that the PA has done nothing to ameliorate the hatred which emanates from its education system
Professor Dershowitz expresses confidence that Palestinian pragmatism will emerge, yet he cites no statements made by Palestinian leaders to their own people in the Arabic language which would support any such confidence.
Professor Dershowitz devotes much space to resentment of those who engage in holocaust denial, yet makes no mention of Abbas's PhD. which promotes holocaust denial.
Professor Dershowitz mentions the Palestinian "thirst for education", yet he does not address the connection between current Palestinian Authority education and incitement to terrorism. He could have mentioned how incitement to terror remains a focus of the curriculum at Palestinian Universities., as shown in studies conducted by The Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center in Herzelia, or he could have mentioned the study of Palestinian school books conducted by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace.
Professor Dershowitz rewrites history when he asserts that Ben Gurion sank the Altelana because he wanted to "prevent arms from reaching Israeli paramilitary groups such as Etzel . . . and Lechi." And he ignores the fact that the IDF fired on the Altelena and killed 19 Jewish passengers only AFTER an agreement had been reached to hand over ALL of the weapons on board the ship to the IDF.
Professor Dershowitz even ascribes past peaceful intentions to Syria, and writes that "Syria seemed willing at least for a time to make peace with Israel in exchange for the Golan Heights and other considerations…," yet he brings no documentation of any kind that Syria ever sought peace with Israel.
Coping with Reality?
Professor Dershowitz waits until page 91 in the eighth chapter of his
Case of Peace to comment that " a Palestinian state may probably evolve into a
launching pad for terrorism", and notes only on page 96 in chapter nine that "Abbas will
not disarm terrorist organizations". Such statements, buried in the midst of his book,
undermine almost every premise of any theoretical possibility of peace with the Palestinian
entity, and then he goes back to asserting that the new Palestinian entity will make peace with Israel.
Professor Dershowitz suggests that US troops could be positioned to respond to terror attacks on Israel, yet he does not relate to the danger that US troops placed in the line of fire would be hurt in response to attacks on the sovereign state of Israel.
Yet even after Professor Dershowitz notes that Abbas will not disarm terrorists, he still advocates light weapons for the PA armed forces.
Does he not know that the PA's mainstream armed forces have taken credit for use of "light weapons" to murder hundreds of Israeli citizens, especially over the past five years.
His reassurance that the PA entity would have to "control terror in its midst" is left hanging, since he gives no indication that the PA will ever "control terror in its midst".
Instead, he concludes with a bland wish for "democratic governance"
Professor Dershowitz makes no reference to the 51 dissidents against Abbas who linger on death row, and makes no reference to the proposed Palestinian State Constitution, which denies juridical status to Judaism and to Christianity and which is based on the Sharia Law.
Again, is this the same Alan Dershowitz who has made his name synonymous with his lifelong struggle for human rights and civil liberties?
Is this a prescription for "democratic governance"?
Is the PA attitude towards democracy since its inception not an indication of how a PLO state would behave?
Then again, Professor Alan Dershowitz did not base his book on what the Palestinian Authority conveys in the Arabic language, in their own media, to their own people, but rather on what he hopes they would be saying.
However, given Professor Dershowitz's immense credibility and his direct access to the media, the damage that this book to Israel will be immeasurable.
Instead of using his immense skills to challenge questionable assumptions that this book is based on , Prof. Dershowitz has written a book that joins the cacophony of detractors of Israel, adding his respected voice to their chorus.
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Israel Asks for UNRWA in Gaza
to be absorbed by the PA
FM Shalom meets with new UNWRA commissioner
(Communicated by the Foreign Minister's Bureau)
7th November 2005
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom yesterday (Sunday,
6 November) held his first meeting with United Nations Works and Relief
Agency Commissioner-General Karen Koning Abu Zayd since her appointment in
June 2005. The minister congratulated her on her appointment and said Israel
has already felt an improvement in the atmosphere.
Minister Shalom raised the issue of transferring authority from UNWRA to the
Palestinian Authority, saying that, in the aftermath of the disengagement,
Israel is interested in gradually transferring UNWRA's authority to the PA,
without any connection to the status of refugees.
Shalom said that the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip can receive welfare and
municipal services from the PA with regard to education, health, and
employment, and that a transfer of authority could strengthen the position
of the PA among the inhabitants of Gaza, thereby weakening Hamas in its
efforts to replace UNWRA.
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U.N. Agency Balks At
Transferring Duties To Palestinians
Staff Reporter, NY Sun
UNITED NATIONS — A U.N. agency dedicated to the welfare of Palestinian Arabs is resisting Israel's suggestion that it hand over some of its responsibilities in Gaza to the Palestinian Authority.
The idea was raised by Israel's foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, last Sunday in his first meeting with the new American head of the U.N. Relief and Work Agency, Karen AbuZayd.After Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in August, Mr. Shalom suggested, some of the social services currently handled by Unrwa could be handed over to the Fatah party-controlled Palestinian Authority.
"As part of the new reality in Gaza,we have to strengthen the Palestinian administration," Israel's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mark Regev, told The New York Sunday Currently, he said, the only two entities supplying education,health, employment,and other social services in Gaza are UNRWA and the fundamental religious organization Hamas, which Israel and America consider a terrorist group. "The Palestinian Authority could gain in prestige in Gaza if it was to undertake some of the services UNRWA currently handles," he said.
The Palestinian Authority, however, argues that though no Israelis are left in Gaza, its status as an "occupied territory" has not changed. The United Nations agrees. "Has there been a change in the status of the refugees in Gaza? The answer is no," UNRWA's liaison in New York,Maher Nasser,told the Sunday UNRWA, he added, will therefore not transfer any responsibilities to the Palestinian Arabs.
Citing similar statements made by Ms. AbuZayd at a Gaza press conference this week, the head of the Palestinian U.N. observer mission, Ambassador Riyad Mansour, told the Sun, "We are satisfied by her explanation."
America supplies 30% of Unrwa's budget, which in 2005 was $339.3 million.The agency, which according to Ms. AbuZayd assists 4.3 million Palestinian Arabs in U.N.-run camps in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank, and Gaza, is separate from the U.N. High Commission of Refugees, which handles 20 million refugees worldwide on a budget just twice as high as UNRWA's.
Mr. Regev stressed that Israel was only advocating changes in Gaza. Nevertheless, Mr. Shalom's request marked a shift in policy. In the past, Israel has never questioned the viability of the agency despite a widely held feeling among Israelis that UNRWA is part of a machine that maintains the refugee status of Arabs who fled during the 1948 war, rather than solve the problem.
"This is the first time Israel has requested any change in UNRWA's status," a Jerusalem-based journalist, David Bedein, who has followed the U.N. agency for years, said.
This piece ran on November 9th, 2005 in the NY Sun
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UNHCR will not Handle the
Descendants of Refugees . . . Unlike UNRWA
[An official of UNRWA responded to David Bedein's lecture to UNCA on November 1st, 2005 in which Bedein stated that UNHCR will not provide services to the descendants of refugees. UNRWA claimed that UNHCR indeed provides services descendants of Refugees . . . The response received below refutes that claim by UNRWA.]
This information was secured from Brenda Goddard, who is with the legal department at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva:
If a refugee situation continues for a long period of time -- as for example it has with Afghani refugees for some 20 years -- children who are born of those original refugees and are in the same situation have the same status as their parents and are afforded the same assistance by UNHCR that the parents receive. However, if the parents flee as refugees to a country such as the U.S., where the law automatically counts anyone born there as a citizen, and have children in that place, these children, who have the protection of the country where they were born, are not counted by UNHCR as refugees and do not receive assistance even if the parents do.
If a durable remedy is found for the parents and they have the protection of a state (which does not necessarily mean they are repatriated), UNHCR assistance ends.
If the refugees have fled to a country that is a signatory to the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees, it is that country and not UNHCR that has the primary responsibility for the refugees.
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