UNRWA is Jew-exclusive

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) was created to address “the problem of the relief of Palestine refugees of all communities.” So why has the organization excluded Jews displaced from Arab hostilities prior to Israel’s 1948 War of Independence?

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip, July 26, 2018. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) building in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip, July 26, 2018. Photo by Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90.
Yisrael Medad
Yisrael Medad is a researcher, analyst and opinion commentator on political, cultural and media issues.

During the official announcement that the U.S. was cutting off funds for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert explained:

“The Administration has carefully reviewed the issue and determined that the United States will not make additional contributions to UNRWA…the United States [is] no longer willing to shoulder the very disproportionate share of the burden of UNRWA…the fundamental business model and fiscal practices that have marked UNRWA for years … is simply unsustainable and … [is an] irredeemably flawed operation … ”

But there is another, more fundamental, aspect to the crisis at UNRWA, even more than what David Bedein has been researching over many years. That problem is the kidnapping of the essence of UNRWA and its exclusion of Jews from its relief program.

First, to properly grasp what happened, there’s a need to trace the origins of this U.N. agency.

As General Assembly Resolution 212 (III) of Nov. 19, 1948 phrased it, there developed, as a result of the war of aggression the Arabs launched against Israel in violation of several Security Council resolutions, like S/801 of May 29, 1948, for example, demanding a cessation of hostilities and seeking to solve:

“the problem of the relief of Palestine refugees of all communities.”

Note: not “Palestinian refugees” but refugees of Palestine. Palestine, of course, included all the territory west of the Jordan River. And the terms “Judea” and “Samaria” were used at that time (“The boundary of the hill country of Samaria and Judea”) to describe portions of all that territory of Palestine, as in Part Two of the 1947 Partition Plan. A later U.N. resolution included in its list of Jewish holy places some sites that today too many would refer to as some never-never-land called the “West Bank”, a term created in April 1950 when one bank of the Jordan River was called “Western” and extended for dozens of kilometers, up and down mountains, too.

There were thousands of Jews who were expelled or forced to flee hostilities as a result of the 1948 Arab aggression. The Old City of Jerusalem, neighborhoods like Nahalat Shimon and Shimon HaTzadik, moshavim (towns) in its environs like Atarot and Neveh Yaakov, kibbutzim in Gush Etzion and one at the Dead Sea, and other communities.

They, too, became Palestine refugees and for some three years, UNRWA actually did provide elements of humanitarian care but halted its work when Israel indicated that it would take care of its own. Of course, UNRWA could have ignored that move by Israel. Or, it could declare today that Jews wishing to move back to Hebron will receive funds and assistance for their Jewish “right of return.” On the other hand, did UNRWA press the host Arab countries of Arab refugees from Mandatory Palestine to follow Israel’s example? Did it say something like “see what the Jews do? Why not you?” Or did it exclude Jews from influencing their treatment of Arabs?

There is yet another element.

The next resolution, General Assembly Resolution 302 (IV) of December 8, 1949 directed that “assistance to Palestine refugees” be provided. However, that was but one part of a whole framework that UNRWA ignores. Paragraph 5 dictated that the assistance was in part, “to further conditions of peace and stability.” UNRWA simply does not do that. It does the opposite. It promotes and facilitates terror.

UNRWA was actually part of a Conciliation Commission concept, as per the General Assembly’s Resolution 194 (III) of December 11, 1948:

“The 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 … ”

While UNRWA’s current declared mission is to:

“provide assistance and protection for some 5 million registered Palestine refugees to help them achieve their full potential in human development,”

The agency ignores Arab claims of a “right of return,” rather than there being not a “right” but an “option.” Arabs displaced can either opt to try to return or to receive compensation.

UNRWA is simply Jew-exclusive.

Jews cannot receive equal humanitarian assistance from UNRWA, Jews have no UNRWA-recognized “right of return,” and UNRWA does not further what Jews accomplished in absorbing the Jewish refugees within its borders. Nor does it press Arab countries to follow suit.

The American Administration should know that it isn’t only a matter of good economic management, whether or not there are 5 million refugees or several tens of thousands only—those who actually were in Palestine, that is the Mandate of Palestine physically on and before May 15, 1948, as UNRWA informs us:

Palestine refugees are defined as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.”

UNRWA is anti-Jewish and excludes Jews as “refugees,” as a state and as an element of peace. UNRWA permits its institutions and programs to serve terror and promotes an ideology of violence and ignores its original purposes.

Its revamping is required for the peace and security of the region and for the betterment of those Arabs it currently ill serves.

Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israeli journalist and author.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
You have read 3 articles this month.
Register to receive full access to JNS.

Just before you scroll on...

Israel is at war.

JNS is combating the stream of misinformation on Israel with real, honest and factual reporting. In order to deliver this in-depth, unbiased coverage of Israel and the Jewish world, we rely on readers like you.

The support you provide allows our journalists to deliver the truth, free from bias and hidden agendas. Can we count on your support?

Every contribution, big or small, helps JNS.org remain a trusted source of news you can rely on.

Become a part of our mission by donating today
Thank you. You are a loyal JNS Reader.
You have read more than 10 articles this month.
Please register for full access to continue reading and post comments.
Never miss a thing
Get the best stories faster with JNS breaking news updates