Initial reflection on the UNRWA Policy Conference which the Bedein Center For Near East Policy held on zoom in the German language on November 29, 2020 in German language to discuss the German financial aid to UNRWA and ways to oversee that aid.
“Germany is responsible at least to do no further harm to the Jews” –
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center:
Written by Bedein Center for Near East Policy Research staff person Talya Goldstein.
The title of the conference: UN Resolution 181 in its current discourse – with presentations by Alex Feuerherdt and Dr. Arnon Groiss. What responsibility will Germany assume as the leading UNRWA donor?
This conference was held on the anniversary of UN Resolution 181 of November 29th 1947, which…
*Conferred UN recognition of Jewish and Arab national rights in the former British mandate of Palestine.
*Led to establishment of Israel on May 14, 1948,
*Inspired UN resolution 194 of December 11, 1948 – encouraging Arab refugees from the 1948 War of Independence to return to their villages – if they would live at peace with Israel. That condition of living at peace with the Jews has been forgotten in the discussions of 194.
*Spawned the creation of UNRWA in December 1949, as a temporary agency to care for Arab refugees from 1948 until their resettlement in decent conditions.
More than 70 years later, UNRWA still runs 59 “temporary” refugee camps for more than five million people who claim to be descendants of Arab refugees from the 1948 war, funded by $1.2 billion donated from 67 nations.
58% of UNRWA budget is allocated to education, which operates under the premise and promise of ”right of return” to Arab villages from before 1948, whether or not they currently exist.
Studies of UNRWA by the Bedein Center for Near East Policy Research show that teachers and texts sanctify violence to achieve that goal of return to Palestine
Germany has now become the lead UNRWA donor nation, with a contribution of $177 million.
The US had been the lead UNRWA donor until 2018, when it pulled all funds from UNRWA because of UNRWA indiscretions.
The aim of the November 29th conference was to raise awareness of UNRWA reality to donor countries- especially Germany- and to discuss the influence of financial grants to UNRWA.
German journalists, academics and policy makers took part.
David Bedein, head of the center, opened the conference with a call to cooperate with Germany to reorganize UNRWA in line with UN values of peace.
Researcher Alex Feuerherdt made a presentation as an expert on the United Nations, UNRWA and Anti-Semitism.
Mr. Feuerherdt gave a comprehensive historical overview of UNRWA, stressing recent scandals of corruption, while noting the differences between UNHCR and UNRWA
Mr. Feuerherdt presented the UNRWA Reform Initiative as the way to improve the situation.
Until today the Federal Government in Germany appears untouched by last year’s internal UN report about the UNRWA scandal of abuse of power and corruption.
Mr. Feuerherdt noted that Germany, top donor to UNRWA, must be held responsible.
After Feuerherdt’s talk, the Bedein Center screened a new version – in German – of the film “The Legacy of UNRWA” shown right after Alex’ introduction.
After the film, Dr. Arnon Groiss presented a power point on PA textbooks, which are used by UNRWA.
Many participants expressed reaction of shock, outrage, and the urgent desire to “do something” to spread the message until it can be brought again to the Bundestag.
There was a widespread demand to share the film and the research as widely
Here are some of the first reactions, comments and questions during
and after the conference:
(The “chat”, additional comments and reactions followed the conference and addressed to the German team of the Bedein Center is currently being downloaded and will be published soon)
Following the initiative of the FDP, the Swiss Government (Bundesrat) just released a 30-page report about funds to UNRWA, zoom participants wanted to know why no concrete suggestions made?
Swiss funds for UNRWA were frozen yet Swiss payments to UNRWA continued – this time for two years, instead of four.
People asked about reported reform of the schoolbooks.
Dr. Groiss answered that the EU, under pressure regarding the PA schoolbooks, is indeed, sensitive to criticism, but has only begun to blur and dilute such expressions in the textbooks.
One question was asked about the definition of who a refugee is.
What followed was a detailed explanation and the case of UNRWA: which acts in contradiction to the International Law.
Arab states perpetuate their refugee status by not allowing the refugees to resettle into their respective countries.
Arab states often exclude them from their society and job market.
UNRWA is in line with a policy does not allow for any resettlement.
Instead, UNRWA keeps the refugees in their refugee camps for perpetuity.
Palestinians are deprived of their fundamental right to a decent place to live.
In other words, an Apartheid policy, too often referring to Israel, is happening right here: In UNRWA refugee camps.
Meanwhile, UNRWA will not take the initiative to resettle descendants of refugees because of the UNRWA adherence to the principle of the “Right of Return” now used as a clear weapon against the State of Israel.
It all boils down to the fact that donor nations, led by Germany, continue to send funds with a condition that these descendants of Arab refugees from 1948 not be resettled.
Conference participants requested an answer as why UNRWA residents should be defined today under the status of refugee status
Mr. Alex Feuerherdt reported that he requested exactly that information from UNRWA and did not get any answer.
He estimates that approximately 30,000 to 50, 000 of the 700 000 refugees from 1948 are still alive today.
Yet UNRWA identifies 5.6 Million as Arab refugees.
How many of these refugees reside in other countries? How many of them are citizens?
No one has an answer in this regard.
Mr. Feuerherdt requested transparency from UNRWA and received no answer.
Mr. Feuerherdt posits that the number of refugees is held high to ensure that the “fabricated UNRWA refugee industry” will continue.
Behind this is lies a policy of self-interest to perpetuate the institution.
The question was asked as to how to reach UN bodies in order to open up this serious matter for discussion.
Another question raised was why not to send money to UNHCR instead and to demand from them to take care of the resettlement of Arab refugees from 1948?
And why does UNRWA not emulate the UNHCR model to enable resettlement – since many of these Arab refugees have lived in Germany for more than 10 years.
While the UNRWA and its schools cannot be abolished, the question was asked about how education can be improved and turned into an education of peace and tolerance?
Mr. Feuerherdt is currently working on analysis of the Swiss investigative UNRWA report and intends to devote himself to further inquiry on the matter.
Alex is determined to find out how the Federal Government reacts to the policy of UNRWA child abuse and how Germany allows for the financing and training of child soldiers
The audience was absolutely in line with the Bedein Center demand to end the paramilitary training immediately.
The anti-Semitic history of the Federal Foreign Office was mentioned and is reflected here once again.
Federal Foreign Office and the German Government know UNRWA school policies.
Why do they not react?
One participant remarked that the UNRWA military training reminds her of the Hitlerjugend.
The political pressure should be stronger here. The Federal Government should be forced to take stand.
Sadly, there is little pressure.
A demand was made to communicate a clear message in Germany to challenge Germanys automatic transfer of funds with no conditions.
“Together we can accomplish something” were the final words of the zoom seminar on UNRWA policy, as a new way to bring this message to the Bundestag.
The participants want to receive advice and to stay in touch with the Bedein center.