Facing what its commissioner-general Pierre Krähenbühl called its “most serious financial crisis ever,” this week the UN agency for Palestinian refugees announced it would let go around 100 foreign employees on short-term contracts, roughly half of all its international employees.The obvious solution, which I have mentioned a number of times, is to align UNRWA's definition of "refugee" with that of the rest of the world. At the very least, no Jordanian citizen should be considered a refugee, since being a refugee and a citizen of a state is an oxymoron.No citizen of the Palestinian Authority - someone living in their own supposed homeland - should be considered a "refugee." (For now, I'm not going to talk about defining descendants of refugees as refugees themselves.)
Dealing with emergencies in Syria and Gaza and having lost $25 million to currency exchange fluctuations overnight, UNRWA is $101 million in debt and faces a $330 million shortfall in its $680 million annual budget.
Financial woes have plagued the agency, which is responsible for the medical care, education, and welfare of registered Palestinian refugees, since it was formed in 1950 as a temporary measure, but this crisis is the worst to date.
What, if anything, can be done to fix the frequently broke agency?
The most straightforward approach might appear to be to search for additional sources of funding.
...But, barring a major Gulf splurge, any new funding is unlikely to be sufficient.
[T]he next target for cuts is one of the agency’s core services: education.
UNRWA runs more than 700 schools in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon. They are the only option for many Palestinians, but take up 60 percent of UNRWA’s regular budget.
But that idea is not tenable, according to UNRWA's apologists:
There are even more radical solutions, which would likely involve a renegotiation of UNRWA’s mandate.Of course, Jordan could have integrated its Palestinian population many years before it accepted Iraqi and Syrian refugees.
Among them has been phasing out services to the nearly two million Palestinian refugees who have become citizens of Jordan since 1948. This proposal was floated by James G. Lindsay, UNRWA general counsel from 2002-2007, in his 2009 report for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy - “Fixing UNRWA.”
Already hosting refugees from Iraq and Syria, it would place a heavy burden on Jordananian hospitals and schools. Lindsay, however, proposes this could be balanced with targeted foreign aid.
There are reasons to doubt such a solution is viable. For many Palestinians, the option is politically untenable. Many consider registration and affiliation with UNRWA as symbolic placeholder for the “right to return.” Likewise, while donor countries and Israel may have their disagreements with UNRWA, many see it as a stabilizing force and would probably object to a withdrawal from Jordan. As an important ally of Israel and the west that is facing its own battle with Islamic radicalisation, Jordan’s objections would likely be heard. For his part, [UNRWA apologist Rex] Brynen calls the Jordan option “politically impossible.”
The implication is that Jordanian citizens with Palestinian ancestry are less deserving of services from their own country than real refugees from neighboring countries. This proves how endemic Jordan's discrimination against Palestinians is, and how accepted this discrimination is to the rest of the world. No one is insisting that Jordan treat its Palestinian citizens equally.
Isn't that apartheid?
Jordanian citizens aren't clamoring to become citizens of "Palestine." But the Arab world's bigotry against Palestinians, and UNRWA's own core education curriculum that discourages Palestinian integration into the countries that they have lived for over 60 years and instead insists on the destruction of Israel via this false "right of return," is what is ultimately killing UNRWA. The numbers of fake "refugees" continues to grow and keeping them in that artificial status is what is killing UNRWA.
The signs have been there for years. The refusal to deal with the core problem of UNRWA's mandate that is designed to exacerbate the "refugee" issue is the very issue that will destroy UNRWA, and they have no one to blame but themselves.