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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

UNRWA distances itself from the truth

A couple of days ago, an outgoing UNRWA official said something that was actually useful, for once:
Andrew Whitley, due to soon leave his post as director of the United Nations Refugee and Works Agency’s New York office, told the National Council for US-Arab Relations’ annual conference that...Palestinians must start acknowledging that the refugees will almost certainly not be returning to Israel, so that they can improve their situation.

Palestinians have long maintained a “right of return” to Israel and the homes they – or their ancestors – fled during Israel’s 1948/49 War of Independence. The issue has been one of the most difficult to resolve in peace negotiations.

If one doesn’t start a discussion soon with the refugees for them to consider what their own future might be – for them to start debating their own role in the societies where they are rather than being left in a state of limbo where they are helpless but preserve rather the cruel illusions that perhaps they will return one day to their homes – then we are storing up trouble for ourselves,” he declared.

Whitley acknowledged that few Palestinians or even officials in his own organization have been willing to publicly discuss the issue.

“We recognize, as I think most do, although it’s not a position that we publicly articulate, that the right of return is unlikely to be exercised to the territory of Israel to any significant or meaningful extent,” he said.

“It’s not a politically palatable issue, it’s not one that UNRWA publicly advocates, but nevertheless it’s a known contour to the issue.”
So how predictable was this? From UNRWA:
UNRWA unequivocally distances itself from the statements made by the Director of its office in New York, Andrew Whitley, at the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations in Washington on 22 October 2010. These statements in no way reflect the policies or positions of the Agency and are the personal views of Mr Whitley.
Because it is better to pretend a problem doesn't exist than to tackle it.