The former chief attorney for UNRWA has issued a report full of facts the “international community” needs to face up to. The Jerusalem Post’s Tovah Lazaroff reports here. The main point is the agency’s terrorism links, but there’s another important point within the article that I didn’t know, which I will go into later in this post. The article begins:
The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees does little to check whether its staff or clients are terrorists, its former chief attorney, James Lindsay, says in a newly published report.
Allegations linking terrorists to UNRWA are not new. Israel has said many times its troops were fired on by gunmen using UNRWA facilities, that UNRWA vehicles transported weapons and that some of its staff members were terrorists.
UNRWA has denied those charges and Israel has often retracted them or found them hard to prove.
This latest claim against UNRWA, contained in a 67-page critique of the organization published at the end of January by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, has more authority behind it, because Lindsay was a senior lawyer for UNRWA from 2000 to 2007.
We’ve posted on UNRWA’s terror links previously, here, here and here, and several more linked to in the last link.
Lindsay seems to be soft-pedaling UNRWA’s connections to terrorism.
“These failings have occurred not because UNRWA consciously supports terrorism but rather because it is not particularly concerned about the issue. Its main focus [is] the provision of services and protection of Palestinian refugees,” he wrote.
“Even if terrorism constituted a greater concern, the agency is not equipped to undertake the extensive security investigations that a thoroughgoing anti-terrorism effort would require,” he said.
Lindsay cited examples of past charges against UNRWA staff, including a 2002 UNRWA driver who was accused – but never charged – with carrying weapons in an ambulance and a Gaza headmaster employed by UNRWA who was also an explosives experts for Islamic Jihad. The headmaster was killed by Israel last year.
UNRWA has no preemployment security checks and does not monitor off-time behavior to ensure compliance with the organization’s anti-terrorist rules, Lindsay wrote.
“Evidence of area staff members who have had second jobs with Hamas or with other terrorist groups does occasionally come to light,” he wrote.
Even so, Lindsay noted, of the 5,000 UNRWA staff who worked in the West Bank and the 10,000 in the Gaza Strip, most of whom were Palestinians, few had been convicted of terrorism-related charges.
And who would convict them? The Hamas government? The article also includes some good background information about UNRWA.
Now here’s the part I didn’t know.
But not all those serviced by UNRWA need the organization, Lindsay wrote in his study, particularly given that a majority of them have been resettled.
In Jordan, where 2 million Palestinian refugees live, all but 167,000 have citizenship, and are fully eligible for government services including education and health care.
To continue to call citizens of recognized states refugees is suspect and suggests “that the agency’s continued existence is due at least in part to political purposes” even though UNRWA was not designed as a political organization, Lindsay said.
Eliminating UNRWA services in Jordan to all but the 167,000 noncitizens could reduce its refugee list by 40%, Lindsay said.
In deciding to whom UNRWA provides services, it assesses “refugee status,” not need, he wrote.
Some recipients of aid could afford to pay for the services they now received for free, he wrote.
I knew there were a lot of Palestinians in Jordan, but I didn’t know that almost all of them were citizens. Yet they continue to receive aid as if they were refugees! That’s outrageous. It’s natural that UNRWA would try to serve all the people it could, increasing the number of Arab refugees by giving children refugee status in perpetuity, and discouraging resettlement to keep the numbers high. That’s what bureaucracies do — try to perpetuate themselves and increase their turf.
But UNRWA isn’t an independent entity. It’s an agency of the United Nations. There must be general agreement within the UN that the Arab refugees should be treated like dirt, that UNRWA deserves ever-growing funding, and that these refugees should never be resettled until Israel is wiped off the face of the earth, which is the fate it deserves. If those who control the UN thought otherwise, they would at least take the step of taking away UNRWA’s responsibility for those Palestinian Arabs who are citizens of real countries.
Not that there was any doubt about the UN’s attitude toward Israel. But this Jordanian citizenship business does make a nice point on which some western country could raise a fuss. I’m sure if it were brought to President Obama’s attention he would immediately insist on CHANGE. (No HOPE of that!)
I’m tacking on another link here, which isn’t directly about refugees, but makes a terrific and related point about Israel and its enemies. It’s a piece in on Commentary Magazine’s website called The Addicted Palestinians.