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Thursday, June 24, 2010

UNRWA's fascinating 1950 report

UNRWA's first report on its progress, A/1451/Rev.1, is a fascinating document on many levels. It describes its progress in the first six months of its existence.

Here are some excerpts:
HISTORY

6. When UNRPR was set up by the General Assembly, it was presumably with the idea that the problem would be resolved in a matter of months. During the summer of 1949 it became obvious that some other approach was needed, and the United Nations Economic Survey Mission for the Middle East was dispatched to study and report on conditions and to make recommendations concerning future activity. After three months of exhaustive study in the field, the Mission's interim report to the General Assembly in November 1949(1) recommended the creation of a new agency, which would not only carry out relief on a diminishing scale, but would inaugurate a works programme in which able-bodied refugees could become self-supporting and at the same time create works of lasting benefit to the refugees and the countries concerned. The recommendations of the report were embodied in resolution 302 (IV) which provided for the setting up of UNRWAPRNE. The final report signed in Paris in December covered the subject comprehensively and has been accepted by the Agency as its guide.2
UNRWA did not intend at first to be a permanent agency. It really tried to provide jobs for the Palestinian Arabs and to work with Arab governments to help integrate them. The Arabs' recalcitrance is the single major reason we still have so many "refugees" today, and after a few years UNRWA gave up and turned into a giant, self-perpetuating welfare system.
NUMBERS OF REFUGEES

16. The Agency has accepted as realistic the figures set forth in appendix B of the first interim report of the United Nations Economic Survey Mission, but recognizes that the numbers have increased in conformity with the extremely high birthrate of the refugees. There is reason to believe that births are always registered for ration purposes, but deaths are often, if not usually, concealed so that the family may continue to collect rations for the deceased.

17...The figures for Lebanon (128,000) are confused due to the fact that many Lebanese nationals along the Palestinian frontier habitually worked most of the year on the farms or in the citrus groves of Palestine. With the advent of war they came back across the border and claimed status as refugees. Only an exhaustive and expensive census, now under way although ardently opposed by those concerned, will divide worthy from false claimants.

18. The former Trans-Jordan and the portion of Palestine remaining in Arab hands and now annexed to the Hashimite Kingdom of the Jordan received the greatest influx of refugees of any of the countries adjacent to Israel -- probably more than half of all the refugees. For various reasons, the largest number of fictitious names on the ration lists pertain to refugees in this area. All earlier attempts at a close census of those entitled to relief have been frustrated, but a comprehensive survey, now under way, is achieving worthwhile results in casting up names of dead people for which rations are still drawn, fraudulent claims regarding numbers of dependents (it is alleged that it is a common practice for refugees to hire children from other families at census time), and in eliminating duplications where families have two or more ration cards. The census, though stubbornly resisted, will eliminate many thousands from the lists of refugees now in receipt of rations.

19. Unauthorized movement between camps, and sometimes across international boundaries, as well as deep-rooted reluctance of refugees to reveal personal information to census-takers, make it very difficult to obtain accurate statistics concerning them.
As far as I know, the census was never completed and the problems of exaggerated numbers of refugees remain, even today. A sense of entitlement will turn many people into lazy opportunists, and if they have no disincentive to act that way this behavior gets passed on to the next generation, and the following ones as well.


MORALE

26. Strangely enough the general morale of the refugees is higher than might be expected after spending more than two years in exile under most trying conditions. Real trouble-makers are confined to a very small proportion of the total number of refugees, and food strikes and work stoppages are generally considered to be the result of organized pressure groups.

27. During August, a campaign of bitter criticism of the Agency, its motives and personnel, was carried on in a large section of the Arab Press. The rather unvaried monotony of the charges gave indication of central inspiration. An organized series of work stoppages occurred in Lebanon in early September wherein small groups threatened the workers in such a manner that they declined to work for a time. The Syrian office of the Agency, located in Damascus, was destroyed by explosives and a bomb was thrown at a truckload of workers in Lebanon. Threats of violence have been made against individual employees of the Agency. It seems likely that the two campaigns--denunciations in certain sections of the Arab Press and violence--are closely related and spring from the same source which fostered the food strikes in the early days of the Agency.
Arab governments in general considered UNRWA the enemy, and they did everything possible to thwart any chance of solving the refugee crisis, instead wanting to use the refugees as pawns to pressure Israel. This attitude has not changed in sixty years.

REFUGEES IN ISRAEL

30. In Israel, the Agency has provided relief to two types of refugees, Jews who fled inside the borders of Israel during the fighting, and Arabs in most instances displaced from one area in Palestine to another. Jewish refugees at first numbered 17,000 but, during the current summer, all but 3,000 of these have been absorbed into the economic life of the new State. Arabs on relief were first numbered at 31,000 but many have been placed in circumstances in which they are self-supporting, so that it was possible to reduce the number to 24,000 at the end of August 1950.

31. Recent discussions with the Israel Government indicate that the idea of relief distribution is repugnant to it, and the Agency was informed that already many of the 24,000 remaining refugees were employed and that all able-bodied refugees desiring employment could be absorbed on works projects if they would register at the government registry offices for that purpose. It was stated that they all have status as citizens of Israel and are entitled to treatment as such. It was claimed that after cessation of relief, aged and infirm refugees would be cared for under the normal social welfare machinery of Israel. The Agency was requested to share financially in a programme of re-establishment of displaced Arabs now within the boundaries of Israel.
How great a contrast is there between how Israel treated its Arab refugees and how the Arab nations did! Within a short time after the war, Israel managed to fully integrate every single Arab refugee as citizens (and they eventually allowed tens of thousands more to come into Israel for family re-unification.) Not only did Israel inform the UNRWA that its services would not be needed for long, but said that the very idea of an outside agency taking responsibility for its Arab citizens is repugnant!

So while the number of Arab claimants for UNRWA services went down from 31,000 to zero in a relatively short time, in every Arab country those numbers only increased.

Fully half of the report deals with specific works projects that were attempted to allow the refugees to find jobs. As we now know, most of these projects went nowhere because of fears by Arab countries that their Palestinian Arab brethren would want to actually stay in their countries as equal citizens.

The appendix of charity organizations and NGOs that contributed to help the Palestinian Arabs does not mention a single Muslim charity.


UNRWA just had a meeting where they described their financial problems in providing services - works programs are now tiny initiatives run by UNRWA itself, and in many ways UNRWA itself is a Palestinian Arab work program as it employs many descendants of refugees. It has become rabidly anti-Israel and intensely political.Even though there are far more "refugees" today than could ever fit in a nascent "Palestine," UNRWA still refuses to request that Arab governments do their part to reduce the number of stateless Arabs.

Jordan hosts some 41% of all "refugees" today. Yet Jordan was the only Arab country to extend citizenship to non-Jewish Palestinians. One must wonder, why there are still refugee camps in Jordan 62 years after 1948? The vast majority of camp residents are full Jordanian citizens! Yet, because UNRWA is now a mere self-perpetuating technocracy, Jordan has no incentive to integrate these citizens into its population even today - 60 years after Israel did exactly that.