UN perpetuates the refugees squalor

Dear Editor,

Amos Oz, writing in the Globe and Mail on May 12th, 2007, writes that Israel, for “for moral reasons”, must help solve the problem of Palestinian refugees. However, the UN has placed hurdles that prevent Israel from acting on that moral imperative.

While the UN invokes the moral mandate of UNHCR, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, for refugees all over the world to resettle displaced people in new conditions, the UN applies the mandate of the “right of return” to only one refugee group ¬ to Palestinian refugees and to their descendents, through the aegis of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. While UNHCR helps refugees under its jurisdiction to find solutions so they might get on with their lives with permanency, UNRWA operates under the premise that the Palestinian Arab refugees, and even their descendants, are also refugees — even if they acquire a new citizenship, as many have in Jordan — until they return to villages in Israel from which they or their grandparents fled, even if those villages no longer exist.

In 1985, after Israel, with the help of the Catholic Relief Agency,
Attempted to move refugees into 1,300 permanent houses built for them near Nablus, a U.N. resolution was passed calling on Israel to desist in this process and claiming that the improvement in living conditions would violate refugees’ “right of return.”

In 1993, at the outset of the Oslo process, Israeli Deputy Foreign
Minister Yossi Beilin declared that the newly formed Palestinian Authority would remove U.N. refugee camps and absorb refugees. Yet the first decision of the new Palestinian Authority was that the UNRWA refugee camps would remain where they are.

Today, with Gaza completely under Palestinian control since September
2005, what has escaped media attention is the fact that 70 percent of the Palestinian Arab residents of Gaza wallow in UNRWA refugee camps, with UNRWA continuing to encourage repatriation under the “right of return” to their villages inside Israel.

The UNRWA-promoted idea of the “right of return” is far from a nostalgic exercise.

The Internet program, Palestine Remembered, developed in the UNRWA camps prepares a new generation of UNRWA residents to reclaim their homes and villages from 1948. UNRWA residents, some of whom now spearhead missile attacks against Israeli towns in the western Negev, have been educated for more than 55 years to believe that these are their villages.

Canada, which chairs the RWG, the Refugee Working Group established under the multilateral framework of the Middle East Peace Process, could help address the moral imperative of removing Palestinian refugees from the transient squalor of refugee camps by transferring responsibility of Palestinian refugees to UNHCR, so that Palestinian lives can be improved rather than maintain their delusions about the “right of return.” A moral blemish can be removed by moving forward,
not by leaving people to languish in refugee camps. Canada can play a role in that process.

David Bedein, Bureau Chief, Israel Resource News
Agency/ President, Center for Near East Policy Research, Beit Agron International Press Center,
Jerusalem, Israel

May 13, 2007 | 1 Comment »

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1 Comment / 1 Comment

  1. Amos Oz is an Israeli novelist and a founder of Peace Now. It appears from his His article

    No right of return, but Israel must offer a solution

    that he is eminently qualified to be a Palestinian/Arab useful idiot. His article can be found at the following site:


    David Bedein’s letter to the editor is nice, balanced, seeks to put blame on UNWRA for the ongoing Palestinian refugee problems, but fails to address head on, Amos Oz’s contention that Israel bears part of the blame for the Palestinian refugee problem and a moral responsibility to correct it.

    Even if Israel is in part responsible for the Palestinian refugee problem and has moral responsiblity to help find a solution, which is highly debatable, it is sheer lunacy for Israel to acknowledge any responsibility or assist in finding a solution to the Palestinian refugee situation.

    Just what does Amos Oz think will be accomplished if Israel was to admit it has such moral obligation to the Palestinians? Does he think the Palestinians will be impressed and then begin to accept responsiblity for their own predicament? Does he really think that the majority of Palestinians according to poll after poll, who have only hatred in their hearts for Jews and Israelis, want Israel’s destruction and support all manner of evil terrorist atrocities to be inflicted by Palestinians upon Israel will suddenly say they are now prepared to meet Israel half way.

    Amos Oz is a self delusional idiot and unfortunately a far more useful idiot to the agenda of the Palestinians/Arabs then he is to the group he helped found, being Peace Now.

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