UNRWA: 64 Years Later
"A great evil has been loosed upon the world," said former United States Ambassador to the United Nations Daniel Patrick Moynihan, following a 1975 United Nations Resolution declaring Zionism as a "form of racism and racial discrimination."
The same United Nations (U.N.) that was once engaged in trying to find a peaceful accord between the Jews and Arabs of Israel has declared in clear-cut language and implicit actions its hostility to the ideal of a homeland for the Jewish people.
Following Israel's decisive victory in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, the Jewish population still living in Muslim countries was treated with contempt and turned out by the local Arab governments. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were forced to leave their home countries, in which they had been living for generations. Their property was immediately confiscated, they were stripped of rights, and they were subject to brutal discrimination solely because of their religion. These refugees, scattered throughout the Middle East, had no U.N. agency to turn to in times of great despair. However, many of the displaced families found a home in Israel where they could finally live in peace.
The Jewish population forced out of Arab countries was nearly double that of the number of Arabs who left after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War of Independence.
Since World War II, over 50 million people worldwide have been displaced as a result of armed conflict, yet the only group of refugees anointed by the United Nations for specific attention is the one composed of Palestinians. On their behalf, the U.N. created an exclusive agency, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
This week marks the 64th year since its creation. On December 8, 1949, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 302 was approved, creating the UNRWA; its goals were to provide public relief and public works programs for displaced Arab refugees who were formerly inhabitants of the British territory of Palestine.
UNRWA is currently the largest agency-subdivision of the United Nations, employing a staff of 30,000, most of whom are Palestinians. From its creation in 1949 to the present day, the number of refugees recognized by the UNRWA has grown from roughly 750,000 to 5,000,000.
The agency now considers "refugees" to include not only the first generation of Palestinians who were displaced in the 1948 Israeli-Arab War, but also their progeny, the children and grandchildren of the initially displaced population. Given the U.N.'s liberality in designating refugees, it would not defy expectations if the next generation of Palestinians were similarly designated as such, or even if the policy continued in perpetuity.
Despite its purported mission, UNRWA has drawn attention for its ties to radical Islam, rather than its humanitarian relief efforts. Credible information has surfaced linking UNRWA-funded sites to keeping suspected terrorists on payroll and unreported surrendering of ambulances and supplies to Hamas.
Videos such as Camp Jihad have exposed the true nature of UNRWA camps. These preach jihadist ideology to an audience of uncritical grade school-aged children. The UNRWA's dean of education was recently exposed as having an affinity for former Nazi leader Adolf Hitler, proudly quoting him on his Facebook page -- the quote accompanying a photo of Hitler engaging in his infamous Nazi salute.
The United States is the UNRWA's largest donor, having contributed 233 million dollars in 2012. Many suggest that, by sponsoring this organization, the United States is unwittingly playing a role in perpetuating the Arab-Israeli conflict and stirring tensions in the Middle East.
The United Nations did not stop its partisan exercise with just the UNRWA. It has created other exclusive platforms for the Palestinian people, including:
1. The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People
2. The United Nations Division for Palestinian Rights
3. The Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People
4. The United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine
5. The Palestinian International Day of Solidarity
Many argue that the United Nations' role as a "big tent" organization was established from the Liberal Internationalist ideal that a world without conflict was truly attainable. Others argue that UNRWA is one of many examples that should more properly categorize the U.N. as a case study in failure.
Jordan Schachtel serves as a foreign policy analyst at the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET).