Wednesday, January 25, 2012

How the EU should treat UNRWA - if it wants "peace and stability"

The European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, and the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Filippo Grandi, signed today at UNRWA’s Gaza Training Centre a € 55.4 million financing agreement towards the Agency’s General Fund.

The EU High Representative Catherine Ashton said during her visit [to Gaza] that "the continued EU support to UNRWA is an essential element of the EU strategy to bring peace and stability to the region. The € 55.4 million contribution we are signing today represents our ongoing commitment to Palestine refugees.
If the EU wants to bring peace and stability to the region, it would not support UNRWA.

UNWRA was meant to be a temporary agency with the purpose of helping provide short-term relief services to Palestine refugees (both Arabs and Jews) while encouraging resettlement in their new countries via works programs (the W of UNRWA.) Arab countries refused to allow the resettlement of the Palestinian Arabs in their countries - something that the oft-cited UNGA 194 mentions as a goal of the UN Conciliation Committee for Palestine - and as a result the works programs vanished, leaving a sizable population kept miserable as part of six decades of pan-Arab policy on permanent UNRWA welfare.

UNRWA's definition of "refugee," that Ashton sickeningly accepts, includes both people who have citizenship and people who are already resident in British Mandate Palestine, which flies against every normal definition of refugee used anywhere else. Adding them up and you see that 80% of the so-called refugees aren't refugees - even if you allow for the definition to include descendants until the end of time, as UNRWA jarringly does.

If the EU really wanted to bring "peace and stability" to the region, it would insist that the UNRWA definition of "refugee" be changed to be more in alignment with that of the Refugee Convention of 1951, amended in 1967. In a couple of years, most of the "refugees" would disappear. Then, change the mandate of UNRWA back to its original intention.

Rather than enabling a UN agency whose current policies do not even allow for any refugees to lose that status, the EU should pressure the host countries to integrate and naturalize Palestinian Arabs who have lived there for decades, if they so desire. A five year plan should be made to phase out UNRWA altogether, and to move its ever-increasing budget to the host countries to allow them to build permanent communities to replace the camps.

That would represent human rights. That would help the cause of peace. And that is what the EU should be doing.

(h/t Dan)