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Opinion: How the UNRWA is Blocking Peace and a ‘Marshall Plan for Gaza’

July 31, 2014 5:16 am 2 comments
Students at a UNRWA School in Gaza, in 2011. Photo: UN / Shareef Sarhan.

Students at a UNRWA School in Gaza, in 2011. Photo: UN / Shareef Sarhan.

Recently, the Israeli Minister of Science, Mr. Yaakov Peri, a member of the Israeli security cabinet and former Israeli intelligence official, offered a refreshing solution to the current Israel-Gaza war.

Peri suggested a “Marshall Plan for Gaza” to revitalize the lives of the Gaza population.

After all, 75% percent of Gazans wallow in “temporary” UN refugee camps that were founded in the wake of the 1948 war.

Peri’s Marshall Plan for Gaza sounds great – except for one hurdle: UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which has operated the Arab refugee camps since 1948.

As a matter of policy, UNRWA will not allow any discussion of any permanent resettlement of Arab refugees from 1948 – not even for their descendants. Instead, UNRWA insists that Arab refugees from 1948 remain refugees until there is a political resolution to the Arab-Israeli war – a development that is not at all imminent.

The UN policy is not new.

In 1983, at the initiative of Israeli government minister Mordecai Ben Porat, Israel embarked on a program to relocate Arab refugees to camps in the vicinity of their “temporary” Arab refugee camps – an initiative overruled by a 1985 UN resolution that declared that the resettlement of Arab refugees from 1948 would violate their “inalienable” right of return to villages that they left in 1948.

Only recently, UNRWA introduced a new school curriculum created by the Palestinian Authority. My news agency bought the new PA school books and translated them, and filmed UNRWA classrooms and UNRWA summer camps. This new UNRWA curriculum instructs half a million UNRWA students that their future lies only in the villages that they left in 1948, even if their homes were replaced by the Israeli cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheva, Sderot, and more.

Furthermore, all new UNRWA school books rename Israeli cities with Arabic names. Hence, the UNRWA inspiration for Gazans to fire on Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheva, Sderot, and more.

The donors to this “refugees for perpetuity” policy are the U.S. government and other Western nations who fund UNRWA policies to the tune of $1.2 billion dollars each year.

Perhaps the time has come for UNRWA donors to reconsider their funding unless its policies change. Why should any nation fund a war education curriculum? After all, the UNRWA slogan is Peace Starts Here.

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