United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East: Wikis


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United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

Abbreviation UNRWA
Formation 8 December 1949.
Purpose/focus humanitarian
Region served Near East
Commissioner-General Karen Koning AbuZayd
Parent organization United Nations

United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is a relief and human development agency, providing education, health care, social services and emergency aid to over four hundred thousand Palestine refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, as well as in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It is the only agency dedicated to helping refugees from a specific region or conflict. It is separate from UNHCR,[1] the UN Refugee Agency, which is the only other UN agency aiding refugees, dedicated to aiding all refugees in the world.

It was established following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War by the United Nations General Assembly under resolution 302 (IV) of 8 December 1949. This resolution also reaffirmed paragraph 11, concerning refugees, of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 and was passed unopposed, supported by Israel and the Arab states, with only the Soviet bloc and South Africa abstaining.[2] UNRWA has had to develop a working definition of "refugee" to allow it to provide humanitarian assistance. This maintained that beneficiaries had to have lived in the British Mandate of Palestine for at least two years before fleeing and must have lost both their home and livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, or be the descendant of someone who had. UNRWA's definition de facto excludes more than 800,000 Jewish refugees [27] who fled Arab lands during the same war.[3] Most of UNRWA's funding comes from European countries and the United States. In 2000, "all of the Arab countries together have contributed barely two percent" of UNRWA's annual budget.[4]

The UNRWA definition is meant solely to determine eligibility for UNRWA assistance, although some argue it serves to perpetuate the conflict.[5][6][7][8] Under General Assembly Resolution 194 (III), of 11 December 1948, other persons may be eligible for repatriation and/or compensation but are not necessarily eligible for relief under the UNRWA's working definition. Thus a person who is not or who has ceased to be regarded as a refugee by the UN Commissioner for Human Rights definition may still qualify as a refugee by the UNRWA definition.

All Palestine refugees (as defined) who are registered with UNRWA and are in need of assistance are eligible for help from UNRWA. In 2004, there were 4 million qualified Palestine refugees registered with the UNRWA.[9] UNRWA provides facilities in 59 recognized refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It also provided relief to displaced persons inside the state of Israel following the 1948 conflict until the Israeli government took over responsibility for them in 1952.

For a camp to be recognized by UNRWA, there must be an agreement between the host government and UNRWA governing use of the camp. UNRWA does not itself run any camps, has no police powers or administrative role, but simply provides services to the camp. Refugee camps, which developed from tent cities to rows of concrete blockhouses to urban ghettos indistinguishable from their surroundings, house around one third of all registered Palestine refugees. UNRWA also provides facilities in other areas where large numbers of registered Palestine refugees live outside of recognized camps.

UNRWA has been criticized by Israeli officials, who have claimed it supports terrorism and militancy.[10] Other governments, such as those of the United States[11], Bangladesh, Canada, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Norway, South Africa, Turkey, Vietnam, and the Palestinian Authority have praised its work.[12]


Organisation and administration

Palestinian territories 1948 Palestinian exodus
Man see school nakba.jpg

Main articles
1948 Palestinian exodus

1947-48 civil war
1948 Arab-Israeli War
1948 Palestine War
Causes of the exodus
Depopulated areas
Nakba Day
Palestine refugee camps
Palestinian refugee
Palestinian right of return
Present absentee
Transfer Committee
Resolution 194

British Mandate of Palestine
Israel's declaration
of independence

Israeli-Palestinian conflict history
New Historians
Palestine · Plan Dalet
1947 partition plan · UNRWA

Key incidents
Battle of Haifa
Deir Yassin massacre
Exodus from Lydda

Notable writers
Aref al-Aref · Yoav Gelber
Efraim Karsh · Walid Khalidi
Nur Masalha · Benny Morris
Ilan Pappe · Tom Segev
Avraham Sela · Avi Shlaim

Related categories/lists
Villages depopulated
before 1948 Arab-Israeli War

Villages depopulated
during 1948 Arab–Israeli War

Related templates
Arab-Israeli conflict
Israeli-Palestinian conflict

UNRWA is a subsidiary organ of the United Nations General Assembly and its mandate is renewed every three years. It is the largest agency of the United Nations, employing over 25,000 staff, 99% of which are locally-recruited Palestinians.[13] The Agency's headquarters are divided between the Gaza Strip and Amman, Jordan. Its operations are organised into five fields - Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, West Bank and Gaza. UNRWA's Commissioner-General is Karen Koning AbuZayd, a US citizen, who succeeded Peter Hansen, a Danish citizen in 2005. AbuZaid is responsible for managing UNRWA's overall activities.[14] Her subordinate in charge of distributing humanitarian aid and overseeing general UNRWA operations in Gaza is John Ging.

Annual funding for UNRWA is on the order of several hundred million US dollars, nearly all of which comes from donor countries and the European Commission. A small amount also comes directly from the United Nations.[15] In 2008, the biggest donors in absolute contributions where the European Commission and United States with $190 million and $185 million respectively, together with Sweden ($51,6 million), United Kingdom ($37,5 million) and Norway ($35,1 million).[16].


Services provided by UNRWA include health care, education, relief and social services and micro-credit loan programmes.


Education programme

UNRWA operates one of the largest school systems in the Middle East, with 663 schools employing more than 17,000 teaching and support staff. It has been the main provider of basic education to Palestinian refugee children since 1950. The education programme is UNRWA's largest area of activity, accounting for half of its regular budget and 70 per cent of its staff. Basic education is available to all registered refugee children free of charge up to around the age of 15. By 2004 there were close to 500,000 students enrolled in 663 schools. UNRWA schools follow the curriculum of their host countries. This allows UNRWA pupils to progress to further education or employment holding locally-recognised qualifications and fits with the sovereignty requirements of countries hosting refugees.

In the 1960s UNRWA schools became the first in the region to achieve full gender equality. Overcrowded classrooms containing 40 or even 50 pupils are common. Almost all of UNRWA's schools operate on a double shift - where two separate groups of pupils and teachers share the same buildings. Not all refugee children attend UNRWA schools. In Jordan and Syria children have full access to government schools and many attend those because they are close to where they live. UNRWA also operates eight vocational and technical training centres and three teacher training colleges that have places for around 6,200 students.

Relief and social services programme

In Palestinian refugee society, families without a male bread winner are often very vulnerable. Those headed by a widow, a divorcee or a disabled father often live in dire poverty. UNRWA provides food aid, cash assistance and help with shelter repairs to these families. Fewer than six percent of refugees qualify as hardship cases, with the largest number being in Lebanon where restrictions on Palestinians entering the Lebanese job market cause severe hardship. Children from special hardship case families are given preferential access to the Agency's vocational training centres, while women in such families are encouraged to join UNRWA's women's programme centres. In these centres, training, advice and childcare are available to encourage female refugees’ social development.

Rations are distributed to families in UNRWA's special hardship category every quarter. The yearly value of the food is just over US$ 100 per person and most of it is received by the agency in the form of in-kind donations of basic foodstuff, such as flour, rice and dried milk. Finances permitting, the Agency also provides small cash grants to very poor refugee families to help with the purchase of items such as school uniforms and school books or as crisis grants, for example if they lose all their possessions in a house fire.

Most of the concrete-block shelters in the refugee camps were built by UNRWA in the 1950s to replace the tents in which refugees had lived since the 1948 war. Others were built after the 1967 conflict. Although most refugees have been able to make improvements and additions to their shelters over the years, the very poorest refugees often live in shelters that are now in extremely bad condition. Wet, crumbling walls, leaking zinc roofs and rodent infestation cause additional social and health problems. UNRWA has been able to repair hundreds of shelters in recent years, often simply by supplying materials while the families provide their own labour. UNRWA is unable to keep up with the growing numbers of special hardship case families who each year join its waiting list for shelter rehabilitation.

UNRWA created community-based organizations (CBOs) to target women, refugees with disabilities and to look after the needs of children. The CBOs now have their own management committees staffed by volunteers from the community. UNRWA provides them with technical and small amounts of targeted financial assistance, but many have made links of their own with local and international NGOs.

Health programme

Since 1950, UNRWA has been the main healthcare provider for the Palestinian refugee population. Basic health needs are met through a network of primary care clinics, providing access to secondary treatment in hospitals, food aid to vulnerable groups and environmental health in refugee camps.

The health of Palestine refugees resembles that of many populations in transition from developing world to developed world status. Immunisation programmes have vaccine-preventable diseases under control, but there remains a high prevalence of diseases caused by cramped housing and open sewers in the camps and high poverty levels. At the same time, non-communicable diseases such as hypertension and diabetes are on the increase. Birth rates are among the highest in the world, with short intervals between pregnancies. Diarrhea and intestinal parasites are particularly common among children because of poor environmental health for the one third of refugees who live in camps. However, infant mortality rates are lower among refugees than the World Health Organisation's benchmark for the developing world. In the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the Al-Aqsa Intifada has led to curfews and closures which have caused a growth in malnutrition, especially among children and nursing mothers. The economic hardships in the territory have driven many refugees away from private health care, increasing the number of patient visits to UNRWA doctors in the Gaza Strip by 61 per cent during the first two years of the conflict.

UNRWA's network of 122 clinics provides free primary healthcare to all registered refugees who ask for it. The clinics are based inside refugee camps or near concentrations of refugees. In 2003 the clinics handled 10 million patient visits - averaging more than 110 visits per doctor per day. Medical services include outpatient care, dental treatment and rehabilitation for the physically disabled. Maternal and child healthcare (MCH) is a priority for UNRWA's health programme. School health teams and camp medical officers visit UNRWA schools to examine new pupils to aid early detection of childhood diseases. All UNRWA clinics offer family planning services with counselling that emphasises the importance of birth spacing as a factor in maternal and child health. Agency clinics also supervise the provision of food aid to nursing and pregnant mothers who need it and six clinics in the Gaza Strip have their own maternity units.

UNRWA provides refugees with assistance in meeting the costs of hospitalisation either by partially reimbursing them, or by negotiating contracts with government, NGO and private hospitals.

The 1.3 million refugees who still live in refugee camps - one third of the total – receive environmental health services from UNRWA. These include such essentials as sewage disposal, the provision of safe drinking water and disposal of refuse. Large scale projects have been carried out in camps since 1989, but many still have inadequate infrastructure, including open sewers. A great many refugee shelters suffer flooding by waste water in winter.

Microenterprise and microfinance programme

UNRWA's microfinance and microenterprise programme (MMP) aims to alleviate poverty and support economic development in the refugee community by providing capital investment and working capital loans at commercial rates. The programme seeks to be as close to self-supporting as possible. It has a strong record of creating employment, generating income and empowering refugees.

The MMP was launched in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in June 1991 in response to the high unemployment and spreading poverty that followed the outbreak of the First Intifada in 1987 and the Gulf War. In 2003 the MMP expanded into Jordan and Syria to allow UNRWA to help entrepreneurs and the poorest refugees in those fields. Since its inception it has disbursed over 67,000 loans valued at over US$77 million.

Emergency operations

Since the outbreak of the Al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000, UNRWA has been working to alleviate the impact of resulting curfews and closures on the refugee population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The effect of closures on the Palestinian economy has caused thousands to lose their livelihoods. It is estimated that more than 50 per cent of the population is out of work -putting over 60 per cent of the population under the poverty line with an income of below US$2 a day. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that close to two million Palestinians, 62 per cent of the population, are considered "vulnerable" because they have inadequate access to food, shelter or health services. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) reported a sharp growth in malnutrition and anemia among Palestinian children - marked by stunted growth or low body weights.[28]

As part of its emergency relief activities, UNRWA provides temporary jobs for unemployed breadwinners - a programme that has allowed the Agency to indirectly support 160,000 women and children in Gaza alone. UNRWA has also increased its provision of food aid. Before the conflict UNRWA distributed food to around 20,000 refugee families, it now targets 230,000 families across the West Bank and Gaza. UNRWA food parcels typically contain 50 kilograms of flour, five kilograms of rice, five kilograms of sugar, two liters of cooking oil, one kilogram of powdered milk and five kilograms of lentils.

The Agency assists the almost 30,000 refugees whose homes have been destroyed during military operations. UNRWA has provided tents, blankets, kitchen kits, medicines and drinking water, as well as cash assistance to help with renting a new home to those families made homeless. The Agency is also rebuilding and repairing shelters. The focus of the Agency's rebuilding work has been Rafah and Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip and in Jenin camp in the West Bank. In Jenin a donation of US$27 million from the United Arab Emirates Red Crescent Society allowed UNRWA to rebuild the homes, infrastructure and communal facilities of the camp that were destroyed by the fighting in April 2002.

UNRWA's health programme faces increased demands in the territories because of the injuries, stress and psychological trauma caused by the conflict. The economic impact of closures is also increasing the demands made on the Agency as refugees seek care from the Agency rather than from private providers. UNRWA ambulances and mobile medical teams bring healthcare to communities isolated by closures for long periods.

The crisis has had a particularly marked effect on the refugee children served by UNRWA's schools. Teachers and pupils are often unable to reach their schools and thousands of teaching days have been lost. Schools have come under fire on many occasions and have been used as military outposts and detention centres. The violent events witnessed by the children have caused emotional and psychological trauma and many have suffered the loss of classmates or family members. Examination pass rates have collapsed because of the conflict and UNRWA is running remedial classes in each school to try to compensate for the time lost to education. The Agency has also hired teams of trauma counsellors to work with those children who have been emotionally scarred by their experiences.

To fund its emergency activities in the West Bank and Gaza UNRWA has launched a series of appeals for funds. The first of these was a flash appeal in October 2000 for US$4.83 million. In November 2004 UNRWA launched an appeal for US$186 million to cover emergency operations during 2005.


From Israel and pro-Israel groups there has been extensive criticism of the statistics, data collection techniques, and definitions concerning Palestinian refugees by the UNRWA. It has been accused of hiring known militants, perpetuating Palestinian dependency, demonizing Israel, and funneling money from Western governments to line the pockets of the Palestinian Authority and purchasing arms for terrorists.[17][18][19]

In 2003, Israel released to newspapers what the New York Times called a "damning intelligence report" claiming to document UNRWA operations being used as cover for Palestinian terrorists, including smuggling arms in UN ambulances and hosting meetings of Tanzim in UN buildings.[10].

In 2006, the UNRWA drew criticism from the US Congressmen Mark Kirk and Steven Rothman. Their letter, sent to the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, stated in part: "After an exhaustive review of the UN's own audit, it is clear UNRWA is wrought by mismanagement, ineffective policies, and failure to secure its finances. We must upgrade UNRWA's financial controls, management and enforcement of US law that bars any taxpayer dollars from supporting terrorists." [20] UNRWA responded by showing the results of its school students in Syria and Jordan, who outperform their peers in host-government schools. UNRWA also mentioned the difficult conditions in which it operates: its refugee load increased much faster than its budget, while the tightening of the closure regime since the Second Intifada deeply affected the humanitarian situation in the former Israeli-occupied territories.[21]

It has been claimed by some that UNRWA is an example of a United Nations anti-Israel bias, and that the Palestine refugees should be treated equally to all others with refugee status around the world.[22] Defenders of the UNRWA put forward the specific legal status of the Palestinians in 1948 who, because they were living under the British Mandate of Palestine, were stateless and therefore not eligible as refugees under the common definition.[23]

In 2000, UNRWA spent more than $72 per Palestinian refugee (on average) while UNHCR spent roughly $53 per refugee on the refugees from the rest of the world indicating that Palestinian refugees are treated better by the United Nations than other refugees.[4]

Critics of UNRWA say that the present definition give Palestine refugees a favored status when compared with other refugee groups, which the UNHCR defines in terms of nationality as opposed to a relatively short number of years of residency.[24] Critics of Israel say it should allow the refugees to return, which some say is stipulated in United Nations General Assembly Resolution 302 which Israel supported, which would make UNRWA redundant. Defenders of UNRWA respond that it is precisely the stateless status of the Palestinians under British mandate in 1948 that made it necessary to create a definition of refugee based on other criteria than nationality. Historians, such as Martha Gellhorn and Dr. Walter Pinner, have also blamed UNRWA for distortion of statistics and even of sheer fraud. Pinner wrote in 1959 that the actual number of refugees then was only 367,000.[25]

James G. Lindsay

In a published report, former UNRWA general-counsel James G. Lindsay[26] stated, "UNRWA has taken very few steps to detect and eliminate terrorists from the ranks of its staff or its beneficiaries, and no steps at all to prevent members of organizations such as Hamas from joining its staff. UNRWA has no preemployment security checks and does not monitor off-time behavior to ensure compliance with the organization's anti-terrorist rules. No justification exists for millions of dollars in humanitarian aid going to those who can afford to pay for UNRWA services."[27][28] Linday's also expresses concern regarding United States endorsement: "The United States, despite funding nearly 75 percent of UNRWA’s initial budget and remaining its largest single country donor, has mostly failed to make UNRWA reflect U.S. foreign policy objectives."

Lindsay also offers suggestions for improvement: "UNRWA should make the following operational changes: halt its one-sided political statements and limit itself to comments on humanitarian issues; take additional steps to ensure the agency is not employing or providing benefits to terrorists and criminals; and allow the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), or some other neutral entity, to provide balanced and discrimination-free textbooks for UNRWA schools."[28]


UNRWA received public expressions of praise and appreciation by the Nobel Peace Laureates Mairéad Corrigan Maguire[29] and Kofi Annan[30], by the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations[31], by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon[29], and by representatives from the European Union[32], the United States[11], the Netherlands[33], Japan[34], Bangladesh[35], Cyprus [36], Jordan [37], Ghana, and Norway, among others. In 2007, the Permanent Representative of Norway to the United Nations described his country as a "strong supporter" of UNRWA, which acts as "a safety net" for the Palestine refugees, providing them with "immediate relief, basic services and the possibility of a life in dignity."[38] The same day, the Representative of Iceland praised the fact that

"despite times of exceptional hardship and suffering in the region, UNRWA has been able to deliver substantial results. On the humanitarian front, UNRWA played a central role in easing the suffering of both refugees and Lebanese civilians during its emergency operations in Lebanon and on the Gaza Strip. Under often life-threatening conditions, UNRWA's staff showed relentless dedication to the Agency's responsibilities."


Gershon Kedar, Israel's delegate to the fourth committee, confirmed Israel's support for the UNRWA: "My delegation wishes to inform the Committee that despite our concerns regarding the politicization of UNRWA, Israel supports its humanitarian mission, and will continue to work in a spirit of dialogue and cooperation with the agency under the leadership of its Commissioner-General, Karen Honing AbuZayd." [40][41]

UNRWA relations with Israel

After Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza in the June 1967 Six-Day War, Israel requested that the UNRWA continue its operations there, and agreed to facilitate them. In the years since, relations between Israel and UNRWA have found themselves subject to the varying intensities of conflict that have continued to rock the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. During the Al-Aqsa Intifada, which started in late 2000, UNRWA often complained that Israeli road closures, curfews and checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza have interfered with its ability to carry out its humanitarian mandate. The Agency has also complained that large scale house demolitions in the Gaza Strip have left over 30,000 people homeless. Israel justifies the demolitions as anti-terrorism measures.[42]

Relations between UNRWA and Israel have often been strained. UNRWA has been under routine attack from the Israeli government and politicians for alleged involvement with Palestinian militant groups, such as Hamas. For example, the Israel Defence Force released a video from May 2004, in which armed Palestinian militants carry an injured colleague into an UNRWA ambulance, before boarding with him. The ambulance driver requested that the armed men leave, but was threatened and told to drive to a hospital. UNRWA issued a plea [30] to all parties to respect the neutrality of its ambulances.

On other occasions, UNRWA buildings have been caught in battles between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants resulting the deaths of several employees.

In November 2002 Iain Hook, a British employee of UNRWA, was shot and killed by an Israeli military sniper while working in the Jenin refugee camp, during an operation to locate a Palestinian militant suspected of masterminding a suicide bombing which had killed 14 people earlier in 2002. Peter Hansen, the head of UNRWA at the time criticized the killing: "Israeli snipers had sights. They would have known who the two internationals (non-Palestinians) were. They did not dress like Palestinians."[43]

January 6, 2009 incident

On January 7, 2009, UNRWA officials alleged that the prior day, in the course of the Gaza War, the Israeli army shelled an UNWRA school in Jabalya, Gaza, killing more than forty people. The IDF initially claimed it was responding to an attack by Hamas gunman hiding in the compound, but upon reexamination, said that an "errant shell had hit the school." This accusation caused harsh criticism of Israel from all over the world.[44] In a clarified report, an United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs official stated: "The shelling, and all of the fatalities, took place outside rather than inside the school."[45]

IDF officials have disputed the accuracy of the UN fatality assessment: "It was not certain that the number of casualties reported by the UN, 43, was accurate and that Military Intelligence noticed Hamas attempts to cover up the identity of those killed in the strike."[44] On February 5, the United Nations retracted its claim that an Israeli strike which killed more than 40 people in northern Gaza city of Jabaliya hit a school run by a UN agency.[46]

October 1, 2004 incident

On October 1, 2004, Israel again lodged accusations against UNRWA. The Israeli Defence Forces released UAV [47] and video[48] documenting what they initially claimed was a group of Palestinian militants load a rocket into UN-marked vehicle.[49][50] Israel announced its intention to file a strong complaint against UNRWA and demand that Danish diplomat Peter Hansen, UNRWA's head, be removed from office.[51]

Hansen responded that the footage was of UNRWA crew members carrying a stretcher into the UN ambulance, stating "While the quality of the video clip is poor, its analysis shows beyond the shadow of a doubt that the object carried and thrown into the vehicle is not / cannot be a Qassam rocket". Moreover, Hansen accused Israel of making "baseless accusations" which put UNRWA's ambulance crews in "grave danger".[52][53]

The Israeli authorities initially dismissed UNRWA's reaction, blaming Hansen for being "anti-Israeli".. Later on, however, Israeli General Yisrael Ziv recognized having doubts over whether the object was a rocket launcher or a stretcher.[54][55] Eventually, the Israeli military changed some of its earlier statements and conceded the possibility that the object could have indeed been a stretcher, but did not offer the apology Hansen had demanded.[56][57]

Congress Investigation

The United States government financed a programme of "Operations Support Officers", part of whose job is to make random and unannounced inspections of UNRWA facilities to ensure their sanctity from militant operations. In 2004 the US Congress asked the General Accounting Office to investigate media claims that taxpayer's dollars given to UNRWA had been used to support individuals involved in militant activities. During its investigation, the GAO discovered several irregularities in its processing and employment history.[58]

Peter Hansen

Israel has stated that Peter Hansen, UNRWA's former Commissioner-General (1996–2005) "consistently adopted a trenchant anti-Israel line" which resulted in biased and exaggerated reports against Israel.

Hansen caused controversy in Canada in October 2004 when he said in an interview with CBC TV

"Oh I am sure that there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll and I don't see that as a crime. Hamas as a political organization does not mean that every member is a militant and we do not do political vetting and exclude people from one persuasion as against another." "We demand of our staff, whatever their political persuasion is, that they behave in accordance with UN standards and norms for neutrality".

Hansen later specified that he had been referring not to active Hamas members, but to Hamas sympathizers within UNRWA. In a letter to the Agency's major donors, he said he was attempting to be honest because UNRWA has over 8,200 employees in the Gaza Strip. Given the 30 to 40 percent support to Hamas in Gaza at the time, and UNRWA's workforce of 11,000 Palestinians, at least some Hamas sympathizers were likely to be among UNRWA's employees. The important thing, he wrote, was that UNRWA's strict rules and regulations ensured that its staff remained impartial UN servants.

UNRWA and the Palestinian curriculum

In 1998, two years before the Al-Aqsa intifada, US Congressman Peter Deutsch (D-FL) and other Congressmembers pressured the State Department to ask UNRWA to investigate evidence that Palestinian Authority school books used in UNRWA-run schools contained anti-Semitic statements. The allegations surfaced in reports compiled by the Centre for Monitoring the Impact of Peace, an Israeli-American NGO.

For historical reasons UNRWA schools followed the Jordanian curriculum in the West Bank and the Egyptian curriculum in the Gaza Strip and this practice continued under the Israeli control of those areas between 1967 and 1994. Since 1994 the Palestinian Authority has progressively been replacing the old Jordanian and Egyptian textbooks as new PA-produced textbooks become available. The last of the older books was phased out of UNRWA schools in the autumn of 2004.

In 1999 and 2000, Nathan Brown, Professor of Political Science at George Washington University, published a study on this subject.[59] Regarding the Palestinian Authority's new textbooks, he states: "The new books have removed the anti-Semitism present in the older books while they tell history from a Palestinian point of view, they do not seek to erase Israel, delegitimize it or replace it with the "State of Palestine"; each book contains a foreword describing the West Bank and Gaza as "the two parts of the homeland"; the maps show some awkwardness but do sometimes indicate the 1967 line and take some other measures to avoid indicating borders; in this respect they are actually more forthcoming than Israeli maps; the books avoid treating Israel at length but do indeed mention it by name; the new books must be seen as a tremendous improvement from a Jewish, Israeli, and humanitarian view; they do not compare unfavorably to the material my son was given as a fourth grade student in a school in Tel Aviv". Brown also described the research into Palestinian textbooks conducted by the Centre for Monitoring the Impact of Peace as "tendentious and highly misleading". However, in an exchange with CMIP Brown notes "my criticism that CMIP's work is 'tendentious and highly misleading' was made before CMIP issued its 2001 report and could hardly have referred specifically to it."[60]

In 2002, the United States Congress requested the United States Department of State to commission a reputable NGO to conduct a review of the new Palestinian curriculum. The Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI) was thereby commissioned by the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv and the US Consul General in Jerusalem to review the Palestinian Authority's textbooks. Its report was completed in March 2003 and delivered to the State Department for submission to Congress. Its executive summary states: "The overall orientation of the curriculum is peaceful despite the harsh and violent realities on the ground. It does not openly incite against Israel and the Jews. It does not openly incite hatred and violence. Religious and political tolerance is emphasized in a good number of textbooks and in multiple contexts." Its June 2004 follow-up report notes that "except for calls for resisting occupation and oppression, no signs were detected of outright promotion of hatred towards Israel, Judaism, or Zionism" and that "tolerance, as a concept, runs across the new textbooks". The report also stated that "textbooks revealed numerous instances that introduce and promote the universal and religious values and concepts of respect of other cultures, religions, and ethnic groups, peace, human rights, freedom of speech, justice, compassion, diversity, plurality, tolerance, respect of law, and environmental awareness". However, the IPCRI noted a number of deficiencies in the curriculum, stating "The practice of 'appropriating' sites, areas, localities, geographic regions, etc. inside the territory of the State of Israel as Palestine/Palestinian observed in our previous review, remains a feature of the newly published textbooks (4th and 9th Grade) laying substantive grounds to the contention that the Palestinian Authority did not in fact recognize Israel as the State of the Jewish people. [...] A good number [of maps ...] show Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as one geographic entity (without demarcation lines or differentiated colorings). Historically Palestinian cities (e.g., Akka, Yafa, Haifa, Safad, al-Lid, Ar-Ramla, Beer As-sabe’) are included in some maps that lump together the areas controlled by the PA with those inside the State of Israel. No map of the region bears the name of 'Israel' in its pre-1967 borders. In addition, Israeli towns with a predominantly Jewish population are not represented on these maps." The Summary also states that the curriculum asserts a historical Arab presence in the region, while ignoring any Jewish connection: "The Jewish connection to the region, in general, and the Holy Land, in particular, is virtually missing. This lack of reference is perceived as tantamount to a denial of such a connection, although no direct evidence is found for such a denial." It also notes that "terms and passages used to describe some historical events are sometimes offensive in nature and could be construed as reflecting hatred of and discrimination against Jews and Judaism."[61]

UNRWA loses support of Canada

In January 2010, the Government of Canada announced that it was redirecting aid previously earmarked to UNRWA to projects strengthening the Palestinian judicial system instead, in order to "ensure accountability and foster democracy in the PA." [62]

UNRWA relations with Hamas

On 4 February 2009, UNRWA halted aid shipments into the Gaza Strip after it accused Hamas of breaking into a UN warehouse and stealing tonnes of blankets and food which had been earmarked for needy families. [63][64] A few days later, the UN resumed aid after the missing supplies had been returned. [65]

On 5 August 2009, the IDF accused Hamas of stealing three ambulances that had just been transferred through Israel to the UNRWA. The UNRWA spokesmand denied the claim.[66] A week later, Hamas confirmed it confiscated the ambulances due to bureaucratic reasons. A UNRWA spokesman also confirmed this but soon retracted this admission and denied the incident, even publicizing a photo it claimed was of one of the ambulances.[67]

See also


  1. ^ http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/home
  2. ^ Khouri, Fred (1985). The Arab-Israeli Dilemma (3rd edition). Syracuse University Press. pp. 129–130. ISBN 0815623402.  
  3. ^ http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/E0701DA101B82F4385256DDC006FD17C
  4. ^ a b Efrat, Moshe. "UNRWA." The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East. Ed. Avraham Sela. New York: Continuum, 2002. p.887.
  5. ^ Lefkovitz, Etgar. "US congressmen demand UNRWA reform." Jerusalem Post. 27 May 2008. 3 March 2009.
  6. ^ "Perpetuating refugees." ProQuest Archiver. 12 February 2007. 3 March 2009.
  7. ^ Spyer, Jonathan. "UNRWA: Barrier to Peace." Bar-Ilan University. 27 May 2008. 1 March 2009.
  8. ^ Romirowsky, Asaf and Jonathan Spyer. "How UNRWA creates dependency." Middle East Forum. 3 December 2007. 27 February 2009.
  9. ^ http://www.un.org/unrwa/genevaconference/press/comgen_speech.html
  10. ^ a b Wines, Michael (January 4, 2003). "Killing of U.N. Aide by Israel Bares Rift With Relief Agency". New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C05EFDB1F3FF937A35752C0A9659C8B63&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all. Retrieved 2009-03-10.  
  12. ^ For criticism, see the references in the "Criticism" and "Relations with Israel" sections below.
    For praise, see United Nations document A/C.4/59/SR.21 (4 February 2005) Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee) Summary record of the 21st meeting (online) and [2] for Jordan.
  13. ^ [3]
  14. ^ UNRWA delivers huminatarian aid in Gaza
  15. ^ UNRWA: Finances
  16. ^ UNRWA: Top 20 Overall Donors for UNRWA in Absolute Contributions (pdf)
  17. ^ Romirowsky, Asaf and Jonathan Spyer. "How UNRWA creates dependency." Middle East Forum 3 December 2007. Originally printed in Washington Times.
  18. ^ [4] Media Objectivity
  19. ^ "Aussie lawmaker: UNRWA 'notoriously corrupt.'" Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 26 February 2009. 26 February 2009.
  20. ^ UNRWA fails to comply with US anti-terrorism law (Jerusalem Post) September 29, 2006
  21. ^ [5] UNRWA General Fund Appeal, 2008-2009
  22. ^ [6] Senator Bond's Senate Statement on Anti-Semitism
  23. ^ [7] UNRWA's Commissioner-General's statement, 12 February 2008
  24. ^ "Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees" (PDF). UNHCR. 1951 and 1967. http://www.unhcr.org/protect/PROTECTION/3b66c2aa10.pdf. Retrieved 2007-11-20.  
  25. ^ Pinner, Dr. Walter (1959 and 1967). How many refugees? and The Legend of the Arab Refugees. McGibbon & Kee. pp. ?.  
  26. ^ http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC10.php?CID=55 James Lindsay Washington Institute Biography
  27. ^ http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1233304645372&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FPrinter 'UNRWA staff not tested for terror ties'
  28. ^ a b [8] Fixing UNRWA: Repairing the UN’s Troubled System of Aid to Palestinian Refugees
  29. ^ [9]Statement from Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire in support of UNRWA's Stand Up! Activities
  30. ^ [10]Secretary-General's address at the UNRWA West Bank Field Office 14 March 2005
  31. ^ [11]United Nations press release - DONOR COUNTRIES PLEDGE $38.5 MILLION TO UNRWA'S REGULAR BUDGET, $22 MILLION TO EMERGENCY APPEAL, December 2000
  32. ^ [12]Statement by Ms. Katri Silfverberg, Representative of Finland on behalf of the European Union, New York, 2 November 1999, 54th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, Fourth Committee
  33. ^ [13]Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations, Pledging Conference UNRWA, 4 December 2006
  34. ^ [14]Special Political and Decolonization Committee (Fourth Committee)- Summary record of the 21st meeting held at Headquarters, New York, on Tuesday, 2 November 2004, at 2 :30 p.m.
  35. ^ [15]Statement by Mr. M. Shameem Ahsan, Representative of Bangladesh to the Fourth Committee on Agenda item 76 : Report of the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, 5 November 2002
  36. ^ [16]Statement by the Deputy Representative of Cyprus to the Fourth Committee Mr. James Droushiotis United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, November 1998
  37. ^ [17]Remarks by Foreign Minister Abdelelah Al-Khatib at the opening of a two-day meeting of UNRWA's donor countries and host authorities, December 11, 2006
  38. ^ [18]
  39. ^ [19]
  40. ^ [20]
  41. ^ [21]
  42. ^ The Counter-terrorism Puzzle, Boaz Ganor, p. 212, Transaction Publishers, 2005
  43. ^ "UN relief worker 'refused flak jacket'". BBC (13 December). 13 December 2005. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/suffolk/4524962.stm. Retrieved 2008-12-13.  
  44. ^ a b http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1233304687916&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
  45. ^ http://www.ochaopt.org/gazacrisis/admin/output/files/ocha_opt_gaza_humanitarian_situation_report_2009_02_02_english.pdf
  46. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/02/05/2482698.htm
  47. ^ http://www1.idf.il/DOVER/site/mainpage.asp?sl=EN&id=7&docid=34160.EN footage UAV footage
  48. ^ http://www1.idf.il/SIP_STORAGE/DOVER/files/7/34147.wmv video
  49. ^ http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/483950.html
  50. ^ http://switch3.castup.net/cunet/gm.asp?ClipMediaID=40850&ak=6177920 video (wait to the end)
  51. ^ http://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-2984103,00.html Ynet
  52. ^ http://www.un.org/unrwa/news/releases/pr-2004/hqg30-04.pdf UN
  53. ^ http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/484003.html
  54. ^ [22]
  55. ^ [23]
  56. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3716930.stm BBC
  57. ^ http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/10/13/world/main648935.shtml
  58. ^ http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d04276r.pdf
  59. ^ [24]
  60. ^ [25]
  61. ^ [26]
  62. ^ "Canada redirecting Palestinian aid from UNRWA". JTA. 14 January 2010. http://jta.org/news/article/2010/01/14/1010179/canada-redirecting-palestinian-aid-from-unrwa. Retrieved 14 January 2010.  
  63. ^ "UN accuses Hamas of stealing aid in Gaza". TimesOnline. 4 February 2009. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/middle_east/article5661823.ece. Retrieved 6 August 2009.  
  64. ^ "UN halts aid into Gaza after 'Hamas theft'". Guardian. 6 February 2009. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/feb/06/gaza-un-aid-hamas. Retrieved 6 August 2009.  
  65. ^ "Hamas returns UNRWA's supplies". Ynetnews. 9 February 2009. http://www.ynetnews.com/Ext/Comp/ArticleLayout/CdaArticlePrintPreview/1,2506,L-3669218,00.html. Retrieved 6 August 2009.  
  66. ^ "UN denies claims Hamas captured ambulances". Jerusalem Post. 5 August 2009. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1249418530852&pagename=JPArticle/ShowFull. Retrieved 6 August 2009.  
  67. ^ Katz, Yaakov (11 August 2009). "Hamas: We've got UNRWA's ambulances". The Jerusalem Post. http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1249418573127&pagename=JPArticle%2FShowFull. Retrieved 11 August 2009.  

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