Israel Resource Review 16th November, 2005


David Bedein

One consistent aspect of cultural life in the United Nations-run Palestinian Arab refugee camps: the film screenings in the camps which motivate the refugees longing for a Palestinian "right to return" to villages that they left in 1948, even though these villages were turned into Israeli communities after that war.

These films are organized through the Cine Club, a project of the Palestinian Diaspora and Refugee Center, orchestrated under the framework of a Palestinian advocacy group known as Shaml and registered with the Palestinian Authority.

What is not generally known is that the agency that sponsors the Shaml organization is not an Arab entity, but rather the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, funded by the German Social Democratic Party, which in turn receives direct funding from the German government.

According to the Ebert Foundation's website, its primary mission is "promoting peace and understanding between peoples".

Yet UN article 194 is touted by the German sponsored Shaml as proof for an absolute "right of refugee" return.

That article states that: "Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible."

Besides Shaml, the Ebert Foundation also aids PASSIA: the Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs.

In 2004, PASSIA published a multicolored bulletin still in circulation titled "Palestinian Refugees", offering facts and proofs for the so called "right of return".

This publication highlights the Friedrich Ebert Foundation as the sole sponsor of this brochure.

Cohre, the Geneva based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions is yet an other Palestinian entity which campaigns for the "right of return" Scott Leckie, Cohre's director, was a member of the PLO's Palestinian Negotiations Support Unit on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees.

Cohre has teamed up with Badil, The Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, another leading Palestinian advocate for the "right of return".

In the Cohre Activity Report of 2000 - 2002 it says, "Cohre and Badil are planning to jointly hire a lobbyist to co-ordinate a campaign to change policies within various UN agencies and States with regard to the right of Palestinian refugees to repossess the properties confiscated by Israel since 1947". On page 72 of that report, the Cohre Activity Report praises support provided for the "right of return" campaign by The Friedrich Ebert Foundation.

Badil, for its part, was recently deferred from membership to the UN Social and Economic Council.

According to NGO Watch, Badil's "extremist anti-Israel political agenda is incompatible with universal human rights norms".

This is evidenced by their 23rd Occasional Bulletin of December 2004, where they candidly reveal the scope of a Palestinian "right of return" :

"The real Zionist opposition to return is that return would alter the demographic balance in Israel so much that it would destroy Israel's Zionist, exclusionist character. This, of course, is true. But the preservation of this character of Israel is neither an international responsibility nor a moral-juridical-political fact that outweighs in importance the restoration of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people."

When the President of Germany, Horst Kohler visited the Israeli Knesset in January, 2005, Israel Member of the Knesset Gila Finkelstein waved the Ebert Foundation funded PASSIA "right of return" brochure at President Kohler and walked out of the Knesset in protest.

Finkelstein requested and received an appointment with German President Kohler, to personally d express her outrage that Germany would ever fund an effort that supported the "right of return", which is a code name for dismembering the state of Israel.

Kohler promised to look into the matter.

In April, German President Kohler wrote to MK Finkelstein that he relied on the professional judgment of the Fredrich Ebert Foundation and rejected MK Finkelstein's protests.

However, in contrast to the lofty goals of peace and reconciliation advocated by the Ebert Foundation website and by the President of Germany, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation in practice has clearly aligned itself with the most virulent proponents of the Palestinian "right of return", all of whom operate with funds traced directly to the German government, with programs designed to dismember the state of Israel.

A generation after a previous German government sponsored a JudenRein campaign in Europe, a new German government now sponsors a JudenRein campaign ­ in parts of the land of Israel.


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Critics say:
U.N. Agency's Work Misleads Palestinians

Joey Lomicky
Correspondent, Scripps Howard

November 11th, 2005

(AXcess News) Washington - A 10-year-old boy maneuvers through a schoolyard in Jenin, a Palestinian refugee camp of about 15,000 - the largest in the West Bank. He has been told by family and friends that one day they will return to Palestine, even though he's never seen it.

On this day in 2002, his Palestinian school - a service of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency - is taking part in a ceremony. UNRWA employees of the school gather the children to pay tribute to Mahmud Tavalba, a leader of Islamic jihad, killed weeks earlier by the Israeli Defense Force.

After being handed a picture of the man he knew nothing about, the boy and others sing out in unison and stomp the ground. "Be strong," they cry. "We are your soldiers; our camp is one great lit torch."

A year later, 170 students from two UNRWA schools in Gaza participate in a culture day at a mosque where they learn the importance of Muslims falling as "martyrs."

Reports of these incidents, compiled by Arlene Kushner, an investigative journalist for the Center for Near East Policy Research, are two examples of activities recorded in UNRWA refugee camps.

Serving the humanitarian needs of more than 4 million Arab refugees ­ now mostly descendents of those forced from their homes after Israel was established in 1948 ­ UNRWA's legacy of helpful services has become a bombardment of alarming allegations, Kushner's reports say.

Since 2003, UNRWA has publicly defended its mission, denying assertions of providing anti-Semitic textbooks in its schools, not keeping an eye on employee activities and inadvertently funding terrorism.

David Bedein, bureau chief of the Israel Resource News Agency, spoke to the U.N. Correspondents Association about what he's seen firsthand since he began visiting and reporting on UNRWA camps 28 years ago.

"This is not an issue of Arabs versus Jews but of a moral code of UNRWA," he said. "We're more asking questions than giving answers, and we've been asking questions for a while."

Bedein offered statistics and investigative literature, information gathered in the last two years, showing where U.N. funds are going and who is keeping track. UNRWA serves 59 Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

UNRWA has a budget of more than $400 million a year ­ 30 percent from the U.S. It has been criticized for negligently sustaining the refugees' deeply sacred and non-negotiable "right of return."

Unlike the U.N. High Commission for Refugees, a separate agency serving all other refugees worldwide, UNRWA has been responsible only for Palestine's unique situation.

UNHCR's mission is to protect refugees and either help them resettle in another country or return home. Because Palestinians reject resettling outside of Israel and Israel rejects allowing them to settle there, UNRWA has been providing temporary assistance for 56 years.

Kushner, who spent four years in Jerusalem writing books and reports, said UNRWA's temporary mandates aren't allowing refugees to live normal lives.

"UNRWA has a whole series of practices that makes people name their hometown villages they left," she said. "The vast majority of villages that they talk about are not there anymore."

Kushner said she's familiar with UNRWA-sanctioned tour buses that take refugees back through their former towns and villages, giving them more reason to feel like they've been displaced. Saahir Lone Sr., UNRWA liaison officer, said the agency neither promotes the right of return nor carries out refugees' wishes. The agency supports Palestinians' temporary status until they reach an accord with Israel.

"We're there to make sure they're not hungry and that their human development needs are taken care of," he said.One major difference between the two refugee agencies is the employee structure. UNRWA hires almost all of its 25,000 employees from the Palestinian refugee population. UNHCR has 6,000 employees to serve roughly 19 million refugees worldwide, in such places as Sudan, Afghanistan, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Most work is performed through contracts with third parties. Without requiring background checks, UNRWA relies on the refugee employees to truthfully sign off on the agency's rules and regulations that prohibit terrorist affiliations, Lone said.

But according to Kushner, Hamas has a strong influence in Gaza in the employee unions, especially among teachers. Hamas, a radical terrorist group, favors an end to Israel and Palestinian return to Israeli lands.

"We have a very serious problem here. UNRWA hires from a client base," she said. "There have been instances of Hamas rallies on the school grounds of UNRWA schools."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen R-Fla., has sought changes in U.N. policies through the United Nations Reform Act of 2005, which would require eliminating duplicative entities like UNRWA.

"It is time for UNRWA's separate status to be rescinded, and for UNRWA to be integrated into UNHCR ­ Gaza first," she said in an October 9 op-ed in the Israel Resource Review.

The UNHCR would not comment on the possibility of any changes. State Department official, who asked not to be named because he was providing policy information, said that because UNHCR was created two years after UNRWA, its mandates state that refugees already receiving aid, which applies only to Palestinians, are not eligible to receive from any other U.N. agency.

The official said that, since 2002, UNRWA has hired inspectors to see that the standards of conduct are obeyed. UNRWA dismissed two employees last year after they were convicted by the Israeli government.

"UNRWA's been able to demonstrate its ability to be effective and cost efficient," Lone said. "Without the agency there would be a void."

Kushner said the refugees have been brainwashed for a long time to think returning to Palestine - an area that ran from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea ­ is their unalienable right. Kushner said most refugees would like to get out of Gaza, where the settlements are generally poor and overpopulated.

"There are some with no plumbing and others living in wealth, importing Italian marble for their countertops," Kushner said.

Some, she said, have taken on permanent roles in society, working full-time jobs and making the best life they can.

"I think it's a split," she said. "Some know they're where they are and they're OK with that. . . . No countries want to receive them, and that could mean trouble for Israel."

Lone said he didn't think refugees would agree to permanent residency in Gaza and the West Bank.

Musa al-Hindi, of Omaha, Neb., and a member of the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, said UNWRA has unintentionally become a symbol for the Palestinian refugees.

"I think in some ways UNRWA has unintentionally encouraged their right of return," al-Hindi, said.

Al-Hindi, 40, who spent his first 18 years as a refugee in Beirut before attending Creighton University in Omaha, said most refugees blame Israel.

"Resettlement [outside Israel] will be rejected," he said. "I think they can wait for a long time."

After several trips to Lebanon, al-Hindi said he observed that most refugees want civil rights and a return to a secular democratic state.

"It has been shown that there is enough land and resources there for everyone," he said of Israel. "I don't understand this need to have an ethnically or religiously pure state."

Source: Scripps Howard Foundation

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UJC (UNITED JEWISH COMMUNITIES) Brochure on Situation of the Evacuees

Facts About Israel's Disengagement from the Gaza Strip and Northern Samaria

NUMBER OF SETTLEMENTS EVACUATED: Gaza Strip: 21 Northern Samaria: 4 NUMBER PERSONS EVACUATED: Gaza Strip: 8470 individuals from 1812 families Northern Samaria: 670 individuals from 170 families DATES OF SETTLEMENT: 1972-1992

THE SELA AUTHORITY: In June 2004 the Government of Israel established the Sela Authority within the Office of the Prime Minister. The Authority, commonly known as the Bassi Committee (after its Chair Yonatan Bassi), is responsible for planning and coordinating the services being provided to evacuees.

TEMPORARY HOUSING: 1. At the request of the Government of Israel, Amigour, the Jewish Agency for Israel's public housing subsidiary, arranged for the following interim housing solutions: 850 apartments at rent-controlled rates, ranging from $350-$650 per month, for a period of one year.

2. 300-350 temporary caravillas (a Hebrew term referring to upscale mobile homes) are being constructed around the coastal community of Nitzan, located between Ashdod and Ashkelon. Many of the caravillas were already occupied when the evacuation began. Others are being constructed in additional locations such as Kibbutz Ein Tsurim in the southern Shafir Region.

3. Caravans and other temporary structures are being constructed and made available to all evacuees in kibbutzim and moshavim throughout the Negev.

4. For those without immediate shelter after the evacuation, the Authority provided hotel rooms in approximately 30 hotels, soldiers' welfare hostels and holiday cabins in locations all over the country.


1. The Government of Israel has allocated close to $1 billion USD for compensation of disengagement evacuees.

2. Compensation is awarded according to the following criteria:

A. those who have left the evacuated areas within 48 hours after commencement of the disengagement

B. type of housing and size of land in the evacuated areas

C. length of occupancy of evacuees

D. length of employment

E. type of business enterprise

F. age of the residents

3. Compensation includes:

A. Financial compensation for special investments in homes or land for individuals who requested a special evaluation of their property in advance.

B. Refunds for initial cost of housing and a loan for purchase replacement housing, as well as a loan which becomes a grant after five years of residence for those settling in "preferred" regions designated by the government (primarily in the Negev and Galilee regions).

C. Financial compensation for the loss of a business and the possibility of an extra grant if a new business is opened in the Negev or Galilee regions.

D. Worker's compensation for working adults who lost their employment as a result of the disengagement and are thereby legally entitled.

4. Calculation of compensation:

A. Families who have rented in the evacuated areas for less than eight years are not entitled to compensation.

B. The maximum compensation could reach 1,838,160 NIS or $409,000 USD. As would be the case for example, for a family of six (two adults and four children) who have lived in the Gaza Strip or Northern Samaria for more than 20 years and are planning to resettle in either the Negev or Galilee; the two parents are between 55-57 years of age; they are leaving a home which was built in accordance with the "Build Your Own Home" campaign; and due to their evacuation, they have both lost their livelihood.

C. Note however, that only 20% of the evacuees have been in residence 15 years or longer. A family of six living in the Gaza Strip for 14 years in a basic pre-cast home of 90 sq.m. would only be entitled to 1,003,425 NIS or $230,000 USD including compensation for loss of employment, moving costs, etc.

D. To help evacuees cope with the trauma of dislocation, the Government of Israel has allocated 10 million NIS or $ 2.2 million USD for psychological assistance. The Trauma Coalition is working to determine how and when this might be provided and what additional needs there may be, if any.


1. 3,500 school-aged evacuated children have experienced a traumatic relocation. Services will have to be created to provide extra-curricular activities that will help them to integrate into their new environment and offer healthy outlets for social interaction with their new peers.

2. In order to reduce the overwhelming sense of displacement, families will need new, permanent homes as quickly as possible. The evacuees can make an important contribution to the Negev, Galilee and Jerusalem. With development and rebuilding of these regions as one of its central strategic goals, the Jewish Agency for Israel has a special interest in encouraging as many of the evacuees as possible to consider resettling in the Negev, Galilee and Jerusalem.

Note: This document was prepared by United Jewish Communities and The Jewish Agency for Israel

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