Saturday, November 30, 2002

Weekend Papers I Mathew Gutman in the Jpost print edition describes the day-to-day relationship between Israel/the IDF and UNRWA (which is the UN agency that began supplying education, health, and social services to Palestinian refugees in 1948 and now services their descendents).

While the UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) has the mandate of solving refugee problems (via local integration, resettlement, or repatriation), UNRWA is only to supply humanitarian services. This is why it does not provide "permanent" housing for residents of refugee camps despites its huge annual budget ($100 million for Gaza alone in 2002). Essentially UNRWA exists to perpetuate the refugee problem and ensure that it causes problems for Israel. In 1952 UNRWA director John Blandford Jr. said that UNRWA should be shut down because "sustained relief operations inevitably contain the germ of human deterioration".

UNRWA schools teach the "Palestinian narrative"/ mythology about how the Jews massacred/expelled them but that they will eventually return home to what is now Israel; it also permits the culture and recruitment of martyrs to flourish in its camps. However no UNRWA employees have ever been known to actually collaborate with a terrorist organization, and the IDF finds UNRWA provision of education and social services to be preferred over the alternatives: the now-barely-functioning PA (which channels as much money as it can into the intifada), or a new Israeli civil administration (as in the pre-Oslo era). On an hourly basis there is a lot of coordination between the IDF and UNRWA on issues like ambulance passage and electrical repair.

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