Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Does UNRWA hire terrorists?
In sharply worded report, former legal advisor to UN agency says group must redefine oxymoronic labeling of Palestinians with Jordanian, Lebanese citizenship as refugees
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees employs and provides benefits for terrorists and criminals, asserts a former legal adviser to UNRWA who left the organization in 2007. James Lindsay, now a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served as an attorney with the US Justice Department for two decades before leaving to work for UNRWA in 2000. Titled 'Fixing UNRWA: Repairing the UN's Troubled System of Aid to Palestinian Refugees,' Lindsay's report puts forward suggestions intended to improve the agency. Established by the US and Britain after the 1948 war, UNRWA's objective was to aid displaced Palestinians.
Lindsay writes that although the US remains UNRWA's main contributor, the agency's positions contrast with Washington's.
During the recent fighting in Gaza a number of UNRWA institutions were bombed by the IDF, which claimed that terrorists had fired at forces from within or near the UN compounds. The agency's employees took a clear-cut stance against Israel during the war.
Lindsay's report warns that the agency has deteriorated increasingly over the years since its establishment, and that it was currently offering services to those who were not actually in need of them. "No justification exists for millions of dollars in humanitarian aid going to those who can afford to pay for UNRWA services," the report says.
He suggests UNRWA make operational changes and "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 initiatives."
Lindsay concludes his report by saying that only these changes would allow the agency to complete its task in the Middle East. "For the Palestinians it serves, this means ending their refugee status and returning, after nearly sixty years, to what most of them so desperately seek: normal lives," he writes.
The report will be handed over to US President Barack Obama's administration, which is keen to help fix the ailing agency.
"The United States, despite funding nearly 75 percent of UNRWA’s initial budget and remaining its largest single country donor, has largely failed to make UNRWA reflect US foreign policy objectives. UNRWA initially served US humanitarian purposes, but in later years often clashed with US policies," the report says.
Lindsay claims the most important change that should be made in the agency is "the removal of citizens from recognized states – persons who have the oxymoronic status of “citizen refugees” – from UNRWA’s jurisdiction. This would apply to the vast majority of Palestinian “refugees” in Jordan, as well as to some in Lebanon and Syria."c