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Saturday, October 09, 2010

Sir Alexander Galloway's opinion on the refugees, 1952

A couple of months ago I found a 1958 article about the Arab refugee problem that quoted "Ralph Galloway", a UNRWA official, as saying "The Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem. they want to keep it an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations, and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don't give a damn whether the refugees live or die."

It turns out that the the speaker was not named Ralph Galloway, but Sir Alexander Galloway.

Alexander H. Joffe and Asaf Romirowsky have a fascinating, scholarly article in Middle Eastern Studies about this man, as well as how his name ended up getting changed to "Ralph" in the quotes.

Alexander Galloway was the head of UNRWA in Jordan in July, 1951. At the time, Jordan's economy was a mess, especially after the assassination of King Abdullah, and UNRWA represented a lucrative source of income:

At the time of Galloway's appointment UNRWA was one of the major sources of income for the Hashemite Kingdom as a whole, along with the annual remittance from the British Government. In 1951 UNRWA imports and local expenses accounted for 25% of Jordan's total balance of payments, a figure that rose to 33% in 1952 and 35% in 1953. In September 1951 the Jordan Development Bank was founded with 80% of the capital coming from UNRWA and with Galloway as a Managing Director.

UNRWA also contributed 8.7% of public sector wages in Jordan. This figure rose to 9.8% in 1953 and 12.4% in 1954 when the organization employed some 2500 persons....The sense that international staffers were being paid disproportionately high salaries was present before Galloway's arrival. Hugh Dow of the British Consulate in Jerusalem wrote to T.W. Evans in the Middle East Secretariat of the Foreign Office on 13 March 1951 and noted that the high administration costs of UNRWA were based on 'Lake Success allowances' saying 'shorthand typists employed by UNRWA are receiving salaries almost equal to my own basic pay'.[44] Similar concerns regarding the larger salaries paid to UNRWA's international staffers were reportedly expressed by Lebanese officials and were of sufficient gravity to be mentioned in confidential briefings by UNRWA officials to Canadian Foreign Ministry representatives.[45]

Proposed budgets for 1952 saw UNRWA's overall costs increasing to almost $80 million, representing a potentially lucrative source of income for the Jordanian government.[46]
Jordan's resentment over international UNRWA employees continued to grow, and Galloway was replaced because of this dispute in April 1952.

Afterwards, he wrote an article for the Daily Express describing the problems of the Arab refugees and the political issues. Here are some excerpts:

The Jordanian population fear the settlement of large numbers of refugees in their country. But they are aware that it means the spending of large sums of money in Jordan. They want the cash. They want to spend it on schemes for the development of Jordan. If the refugees benefit from this arrangement, so much the better.

In Syria the Government is a dictatorship by which a number of much-needed and healthy measures are being inaugurated.

There is plenty of room for development. Half a million refugee families could settle on agricultural schemes with benefit to themselves and to the country.

Like other Arab countries, Syria may not be anxious to take the first step in a programme which indicates acceptance of the fact that the refugees will not return to Palestine. In Syria the activities of the Agency are controlled to a high degree by Government. Local Agency employees are dismissed at will. Internationals are scrutinized and followed about by Security Police. The prestige of United Nations does not stand high.

Occasionally the United Nations country representatives are summoned to Beirut or discussions. During the past year I attended several discussions. They achieved little. Decisions were seldom taken, except to postpone decision, although much was often said about unity of effort, sense of high purpose, avoidance of the "Colonial approach."

In Beirut and elsewhere to a lesser degree, some useless work goes on. Staff begets more staff. Plan follows plan. Typewriters click. Brochures and statistics pour out. The refugees remain and eat, and complain and breed; while a game of political "last touch" goes on between the local Governments and the Director, UNRWA.

What is the solution? Of course the problem is difficult. Refugee settlement, except under dictatorship, is a long, expensive business. Somehow or other the Arab Governments, the United Nations, UNRWA and some of the refugees have got to face facts.

There is a need of a change of heart and a better atmosphere. There is need to distinguish between a tempting political maneuvre and the hard, unpalatable fact that the refugees cannot in the foreseeable future return to their homes in Palestine. To get this acceptance is a matter of politics: it is beyond the function of UNRWA.

Second, a determined effort should be made to get the "host" countries to take over relief from the Agency, thus freeing it to get on with the much more important task of resettlement.

It must be kept quite clear in all discussion that the refugee retains his absolute political right to return to his former home whenever he can. Without this condition being implicit in any arrangement there can be no progress.
The authors note that the last paragraph seems to have been written almost by habit, probably based on the fact that Arab governments were so hell-bent against naturalizing the refugees - as they remain today.

Later, Galloway was quoted by Reverend Karl Baehr, Executive Secretary of the American Christian Palestine Committee, in front of a Senate committee:

In April of 1952, Sir Alexander Galloway, then head of the UNRWA for Jordan, said to our study group, and this is really a direct quote from what he said, "It is perfectly clear than the Arab nations do not want to solve the Arab refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront against the United Nations, and as a weapon against Israel."

Then, by way of emphasis he said, "Arab leaders don't give a damn whether the refugees live or die."

When asked what he felt the solution to the problem was, Sir Alexander Galloway in essence said: Give each of the Arab nations where the refugees are to be found an agreed-upon sum of money for their care and resettlement and then let them handle it. If, he continued, the United Nations had done this immediately after the conflict – explaining to the Arab states "We are sorry it happened, but here is a sum of money for you to take care of the refugees" – the problem might have been solved long ago. The Arab states would have had to do something constructive about the problem, or lose status in the eyes of the world. This way, said, Sir Alexander, the burden is on the United Nations and the governments that support the United Nations, and we are powerless to solve it.
There's much more to the paper. One tiny detail that I thought was important was this one:

Galloway's own archives do not include any documents pertaining to UNRWA. Copies of his monthly reports from Amman are found in British records but only through October 1951. In the absence of other contemporary documents, including UNRWA archives which remain closed to researchers, clues to the situation Galloway faced in Amman are found in the confidential reports of Sir Henry F. Knight to the Foreign Office, and telegrams from Geoffrey Furlonge, British ambassador to Jordan.
Why is UNRWA, a publicly funded organization, allowed to keep its archives from some 60 years ago closed?

(h/t Andrea)