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Special Reports

NEW DIPLOMATIC INITIATIVE: Time For An UNRWA Reform Initiative: Solve the Palestinian Refugee Dilemma and Impasse in the Pursuit of Middle East Peace

A mantra is repeated almost every day in Middle East parlance: The need for a policy initiative that would extract the Middle East from a simmering status quo which can only lead to a violent outcome.

Indeed, Israel, the Western nations and reality-based Palestinians can embark on a new diplomatic initiative that would douse the flames of the most burning in the Palestinian realm: Five million descendants of Arab refugees from 1948, who continue to wallow in UNRWA refugee facilities, under the promise of the “right of return” to Arab villages that existed before 1948 to what is now Israel, for which they must live and die – a re-occurring theme found in the new Palestinian Authority textbooks now used in UNRWA schools, which represents an ongoing recipe for disaster and a lingering human rights tragedy of the 21st century.

UNRWA now perpetuates the stateless status of refugees and their descendants, reinforcing a life of limbo, poverty, anguish and despair.

No, UNRWA cannot be phased out: It operates under the  mandate of the UN General Assembly. However, since 90% of UNRWA’s 1.2 billion budget emanates from Western nations, – these countries could be asked to join an effort to revamp UNRWA policies, which hardly conform to the UN credo that “peace starts here.”

For decades, I have run agencies which have researched and filmed UNRWA education in Jerusalem and throughout the region. We we have listened to UNRWA students who openly speak about

UNRWA “education” now inspires them to kill Jews.

Our most recent film will be shown at legislative bodies of donor nations: ‘The UNRWA Road to Terror:Palestinian Classroom Incitement, portrays a war education curriculum that has no place in a UN facility. However, that does not have to be.

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Instead of just throwing money at UNRWA, donors could advance policies that could improve UNRWA living conditions of UNRWA refugee residents and offer an alternative to the current “refugee status in perpetuity”, which fosters a ; mantra that UNRWA drums into the minds of half a million UNRWA students. A new UNRWA REFORM INITIATIVE could galvanize donor nations to address six UNRWA challenges:

  1. Ask for an audit of donor funds that flow to UNRWA. This would address widespread documented reports of wasted resources, duplicity of services and the undesired flow

of cash to Gaza-based terror groups, which gained control over UNRWA operations in Gaza over the past 18 years. terrorist-organizations-cooperative- relationship/11632/

  1. Introduce UNHCR standards to UNRWA, to advance the resettlement of Arab refugees, after 67 years. Current UNRWA policy is that refugee resettlement would interfere with the “right of return” to Arab villages that existed before 1948. UNRWAchartcomparison.pdf

  1. Cancel the new UNRWA curriculum, which incorporate principles of Jihad, martyrdom and he right of return by force of arms, in UN schools which are supposed to promote the UNRWA slogan of “Peace Starts Here” textbook-incitement- for-yourself-funded-by- the-us- taxpayer/14375/

  1. Cease paramilitary training in all UNRWA schools. Should UNRWA, as a UN agency, not demonstrate a renewed commitment to UN principles to “peace education”?


  1. Insist that UNRWA dismiss employees affiliated with Hamas, in accordance with laws on the books in western nations, and even in the UN, which forbid aid to an agency that employs members of a terrorist organization.

  1. Since UNRWA has hired a “youth ambassador”, Mohammad Assaf, to travel the world and encourage insurrection and violence, would this not be the appropriate time for donors to ask that UNRWA cancel a contract with a harbinger of war?

At a time when Israel is pressed to launch a new initiative, this is an

opportunity to remove the stain of “Arab refugees in perpetuity” as a source of intergenerational distress.

Remove “Arab refugees” from Middle East parlance-remove a cause of Middle East violence.

The writer is author of Roadblock to Peace – How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict: UNRWA Policies Reconsidered and has been active in efforts to reform UNRWA for the past 28 years. He runs the Israel Resource News Agency and the Center for Near East Policy Research, which has produced books, monographs and movies filmed on location in UNRWA.

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