On June 23, 2022, the US and other western states gathered in Geneva, Switzerland, UN headquarters along with United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, to collect voluntary contributions for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). UN Watch, a UN watchdog organization also based in Geneva, chaired by Alfred H. Moses and run by Executive Director Hillel Neuer, urged western democracies to stop funding hundreds of UNRWA teachers and other employees who call to murder Jews.
In a new 42-page report, the independent non-governmental organization (NGO) UN Watch, “Exposed antisemitism and incitement to terrorism propagated recently by 10 UNRWA teachers and other employees. This is in addition to more than 100 UNRWA educators and staff previously.” UN Watch provided examples of what these teachers imparted to their students and communities. Here are a few: Nihaya Awad, Computer Teacher at UNRWA West Bank, “Praising Hamas’ terror.” Elham Mansour, Teacher at UNRWA Lebanon,” incites to kill Israelis and Jews.” Hana’a Daoud, a teacher at UNRWA Jordan, “advocates killing Jews.” Adel Torbani, a Math Teacher at UNRWA Jordan, “rejects Israel’s right to exist, and posts antisemitic messages on the internet.” Qusai Mansi, an employee at UNRWA Jordan, “equates Israel with Nazis.” Muneera Abu Hadeel, Midwife at UNRWA West Bank, portrays Israel as “Thieving Dogs.” These UNRWA teachers and staffers are in violation of UNRWA’s own rules and stated values of zero tolerance for racism, discrimination, or antisemitism.
To cite just one offender, Elham Mansour, who posted on Facebook on May 11, 2022, “By Allah, anyone who can kill and slaughter any Zionist and Israeli criminal and doesn’t do so, doesn’t deserve to live. Kill them and pursue them everywhere, they are the greatest enemy … All Israel deserves death.”
In the past UNRWA failed to fire teachers who incited antisemitism and terrorism. Hillel Neuer described UNRWA’s conduct as “A mere slap on the wrist to teachers of hate, which only sends a message that it is business as usual.”
UNRWA is special but not necessarily in a positive sense. Unlike the more global UN refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), UNRWA is focused strictly on providing education and health services to Palestinians only. In its 73 years of existence, (established in 1949) it has not rehabilitated a single Palestinian refugee. On the contrary, it has perpetuated the Palestinian refugee problem by adding millions of third and fourth generation descendants of refugees to their recipient list, hence demanding ever greater budgets. The latest such requested budget stands at $1.6 billion. By way of contrast, the UNHCR has a budget amounting to $8.6 billion, and 17,878 personnel spread around 132 countries. In its 72 years of existence (founded in 1950) it has helped over 50 million refugees worldwide to resettle.
UNRWA’s mandate is to provide education to Arab-Palestinians in refugee camps. Yet, neither the Arab states nor the Palestinian Authority were willing to provide refugees with permanent housing and legal employment (in Arab states). Frankly, it should have been the responsibility of the Arab states to take care of fellow Arab refugees who share their language (Arabic), religion (mostly Sunni-Islam) and culture. Instead, it is mostly guilt-ridden western European and US governments who provide most of the funding for UNRWA.
UNRWA, however, is not just guilty of swelling the rolls of the refugees, and failing to rehabilitate them into normalcy whether in Gaza, West Bank, Jordan, or Lebanon, but also of inciting those they educate into violence against Israel and Jews. UNRWA is inimical to the prospect of peace and progress between Israelis and Palestinians.
There was also a Jewish refugee problem that emanated from the Holocaust. A third of European Jewry was murdered by German Nazis and their helpers throughout Eastern Europe, as well as by the Vichy French administration, the Croat Ustasha in Yugoslavia, etc. Not much less dramatic was the expulsion of the Jews from throughout the Middle East by the Arab regimes. The Jews of the Middle East predated the arrival of Islam, and in Egypt, Iraq, Syria and the Maghreb (North Africa), Jewish communities existed for millenniums. The 850,000 Jews expelled from the Arab lands exceeded the number of Palestinian refugees who fled Mandatory Palestine during the 1948 War of Independence. A war that was initiated by the Arab States at the request of the Arab Higher Committee, led by Haj Amin Al-Husseini – the Mufti of Jerusalem, and Hitler’s ally in the murder of the Jews. The Arabs (not yet Palestinians in those years) rejected the 1947 UN Partition Plan that would have provided them with a sovereign state, and would have prevented the creation of a Palestinian refugee problem.
So, while the State of Israel admitted and resettled the Jewish refugees from the Arab world, as well as the European Jewish refugees without UN assistance, the Arab-Palestinian leadership demanded that the Arab states not provide citizenship to the Arab-Palestinian refugees. Jordan became the lone exception in the Arab world. Still, UNRWA continues to serve so-called Arab-Palestinian “refugees” in Jordan.
One of the most disturbing aspects of UNRWA’s operations is its promotion of the Palestinian “right of return” to Israel, which is a clear code phrase for the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel. The influx of millions of Arab-Palestinians would totally alter the demographic balance within Israel. This is another scenario for the destruction of the one Jewish state. Moreover, it contradicts the notion of a Two-State Solution, and it is therefore inimical to the hopes of an Israeli-Palestinian peace.
A recent announcement by UNRWA’s Director, Philippe Lazzarini, that due to financial difficulties, UNRWA may have to out-resource some of its services to other UN agencies, instigated violent reactions from the Palestinian Authority (PA), the terrorist groups Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and Hamas. Hamas castigated the idea, charging that it would be “undercutting the core issue of Palestinian refugees and the role of the agency.” It is not, however, UNRWA’s economic situation that bothered Hamas, PIJ, and the PA, but rather the potential of it undermining the “right of return.”
Actually, there is a common sense solution to the Arab-Palestinian refugee problem. Let the Arab states grant citizenship to the Palestinians in their midst. There is no reason Lebanon or Libya, Syria, or the Gulf States, for not enfranchising their Palestinians after 73 years of living and being born in these lands. Arab-Palestinians in the Diaspora should be absorbed by the future State of Palestine, just as Israel absorbed Jewish refugees from the Arab lands. Whatever costs are involved in resettling Palestinians should be assumed by the wealthy Arab states. It is inconceivable that UNRWA is still operating on Palestinian “refugees” after 73-years, when most refugees from the late 1940’s have been settled. Germany absorbed millions of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe, India took in many millions of Hindus from Pakistan, and Pakistan took millions of Muslims from India. There can no longer be an excuse for Palestinian refugees.