Monday, October 11, 2010

The Emerging Story of UNRWA

Anyone who deals thoughtfully with matters of Israel and Palestine knows that UNRWA, the UN agency whose sole task it is to preserve Palestinian refugee-hood by conferring it on children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of the original refugees of 1947-49, is a very strange organization. It's a UN organization whose mission in life is to foil peace between Israel and Palestine by ensuring the growing millions of descendants of Palestinians insist they must return to the homes of their ancestors or there can be no peace.

Asaf Romirowsky is now writing a doctoral thesis on the organization. He has just published an article, along with Alexander H. Joffe, about one small segment of the story, when a British General who was hired to help in 1951 was fired for saying out loud that the Arab countries had no interest in doing what other host countries worldwide were doing, namely figure out how to give the refugees new lives. This was in 1952.

I look forward to reading the whole doctoral thesis when it's finished.


Anonymous said...

a commenter at Elder of Ziyon has remembered this rather "juicy" tidbit from the well-known Martha Gelhorn travel piece
(UNRWA has 30.000 employees i.e. 30.000 dependent families - that's the same as a good-sized corporation - one can only get rid of them by giving them something more alluring in both money and prestige to do - something like Darfur is in all likelihood long long beneath them)

Speaking French to the UNRWA official, because no one else there knew the language, I said, "She can easily have five or six more children like this. It is terrible for her. The visiting nurse ought to explain about birth control."
"You don't know what you're saying. UNRWA could not touch such a thing, not even mention it. Here are these people, and the name of their country does not exist on the map any more. If we start teaching them birth control, we will be accused of trying to wipe out the people too. Besides, the men would never allow it. They want to have a lot of sons; it is a matter of pride with them. And politics enters too, as into everything; I've heard them say it. We need to have many children and grow and increase so that the world will never forget us."

Anonymous said...

Jeffrey Goldberg has a post up where he says:

Palestinian Media Watch reports that a group of settler rabbis visited a mosque that had been the target of an arson attack by other settlers

Were the arsonists really settlers?
I haven't read anything that they have been found - are "settlers" guilty until proven innocent?


NormanF said...

The point is UNRWA has a vested interest in its own existence.

And it is never going to go away. The loss of eternal victimhood is too important for the Palestinian Arabs to ever give up.

Anonymous said...

There's a few issues with UNRWA:
1) Arab gov'ts want the money
2) The Palestinian leadership wants the leverage because everyone has been fooled into thinking that it is Israel which is keeping the people in refugee camps
3) Bureaucrats with no Palestinian roots still want to keep their bailiwacks going. There's a speech somewhere by the current (ethnic-European) head that sounds like a parody of "Yes, Prime Minister's" Sir Humphrey Appleby.

a)Link to the dual Israeli/ Pal narrative textbook that the PA adopted and Israel banned
Only the PA didn't adopt it...
more info at Elder of Ziyon if you really want to follow the fuss Haaretz kicked up

b)Can anyone comment this book?
Shapira, Anita: Israeli Historical Revisionsim

Lee Ratner said...

Unrelated to this post but relevant. Yaakov, Matthew Yglesias linked to an essay you wrote about Gaza in this post of his.

He referred to as an Israel. I corrected him on that is an accurate understatement.

Anonymous said...

if I come in a piece across a remark like this

" that many if not most Palestinians are committed to a worldview that, IT TAKEN LITERALLY,"

my brain signals RACISM and I stop reading.

But since Lee takes the man seriously I read to the end. He is a nutter, in love with his ability to type hyperbole (a level of instinctive, physical moral revulsion that I’ve never really experienced before) and one of those who will at other times willingly spend heaps of money to see something as "quaint" as a horse (it looks more like a mule to me?) in urban surroundings.

As to his remarks on Yaacov's report, he either can't read or he is one of the "we are the better Jews/humans/ethicists" - Yaacov cover your head and do penance or whatever the correct recommendation for Jews is.

Any village feast organizing party works their off to be able to them show up (and they are not the only ones):

PS: my advice to Lee - read some Orwell Essays, they are really helpful in getting one's ability to judge in shape.

Morey Altman said...

Fascinating. And an important reminder of the importance of seeking out original sources.

Last January, btw, Canada became the first western country to withdraw support for UNRWA. Canada, it should be remembered, was present at UNRWA’s birth in December 1949; indeed, the agency’s first director was a Canadian*. That Canada should be the first major donor to pull out of UNRWA funding is significant at many levels, and the move will undoubtedly affect G8 support of the organization.

I wrote (of course) a blog piece on this a few months ago, including some links to articles on UNRWA if anyone is interested.

Gavin said...

Lee. You've read Yaacocs essay and now Yglesias, both about the same subject (a daytrip to Hebron) Rather than just leaving a link to Yglesias how about you tell us which one you you think has the most merit... and why?

Cheers, Gavin

Anonymous said...

Except Canada didn't withdraw funding for UNRWA--it simply shifted the form of its contributions. Rather than funding going into the General Fund, it is now allocated on a project basis.

Anonymous said...

project basis sounds like an improvement over Kindergeld to me