There is one picture of Palestinian children studying around a small table by the dim light of gas lamps in the Beach Camp in Gaza, and another of children peeking over a sandy dune, with rows of small, uniform shacks of a desolate refugee camp in the background. In a third, a family walks across the Allenby Bridge, the father carrying two bulging suitcases, a young son clutching a white ball, heading east over the Jordan River.And how much context is given for these haunting photographs?
These are a few of the black and white images, many of them powerful and haunting, that will eventually constitute a digital archive compiled by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the first part of which was unveiled Thursday at a gallery in the Old City here. Together, they capture the Palestinian refugee experience from the 1948 war onward, giving form to a seminal chapter in Palestinian history, identity and collective memory.
I couldn't find the specific photo of the family crossing the Allenby Bridge mentioned (update) but I found this one with its caption:
Homeless? Were their homes destroyed? Did Israel drive them out? The answer in the vast majority of cases is "no" and "no." Most arabs fled the West Bank because they didn't want to be under Jewish rule, not because Israel forced them out. This was a voluntary exodus, evidenced by the fact that tens of thousands ended up returning and that most of them stayed. These people are not "refugees" by any reasonable definition, even UNRWA's.
But this photo exhibition is not designed to tell the truth or give any context. It is designed to pull the heartstrings and - explicitly or implicitly - to blame Israel for the continuing refusal of Arab nations to take care of their Palestinian Arab population.
UNRWA's quotes in the article do reveal something, though:
“This is an important piece of work,” Filippo Grandi, the agency’s commissioner-general, told reporters at the opening in the Old City. “It is a contribution to building a national heritage for the Palestinians.”It is actually the formative part of Palestinian identity - meaning that UNRWA officials know very well that there was no Palestinian Arab national identity before 1948!
“Everyone has a right to understand, to study and feel a part of their history,” [UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness] said. “Are we supposed to engage in denial of the events of 1948? The refugee experience is an essential part of Palestinian identity.”
Indeed, UNRWA is what has pushed this artificial nationhood, which is now enshrined as fact - helping UNRWA stay in business.
If the Arab world had been pressured to integrate the 1948 refugees as every other nation has integrated refugees over the centuries, there would be no national identity for Palestinian Arabs today. It is an artificial construct that was created deliberately by Arab leader decisions to discriminate against Palestinians - a discrimination that exists today and is almost completely ignored by the world. UNRWA is part of this shocking coverup of the facts, not a force to fix them.
Christopher Gunness, an agency spokesman, said its mandate was to help the refugees and to advocate for their rights until all sides to the conflict negotiated a just and durable solution.This has been a consistent lie that Gunness has given to gullible reporters for years. Here's proof that it is a lie: the UNHCR, which is responsible for all non-Palestinian refugees worldwide, has an entire group dedicated to resettling refugees in other countries. UNRWA doesn't. UNHCR has specific criteria for deciding how refugees can lose their status as refugees (for example, becoming citizens of a state.) UNRWA doesn't.
“What is perpetuating the refugee problem,” he said, “is the failure of the political parties to resolve it.”
Mr. Gunness added that the Palestinian refugees would have the same rights and status under any United Nations agency.
UNRWA perpetuates a bizarre situation where Palestinian Arabs living under Palestinian Arab governments in the West Bank and Gaza are still considered refugees! UNRWA perpetuates a situation where they are still living in camps even though there is no sane reason for a single refugee camp in the West Bank, Gaza or (for the most part) Jordan.
I've given many other reasons why UNRWA should be abolished in the past - like its tacit support of terrorism and jihad. But the NYT isn't going to mention them.