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Hebrew University
[Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University, Sociology Departments] Maya Rosenfeld: System of Aid to Palestinian Refugees


Maya Rosenfeld teaches sociology at Tel Aviv University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is a research fellow at the H. S. Truman Research Institute, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel; e-mail: msma@mscc.huji.ac.il.

 

http://lists.mcgill.ca/scripts/wa.exe?A2=ind0902c&L=fofognet&P=806

Date:         Tue, 17 Feb 2009 10:03:21 -0500
              System of Aid to Palestinian Refugees  / Maya Rosenfeld

Rejoinder to James G. Lindsay, Fixing UNRWA: Repairing the UN's
Troubled System of Aid to Palestinian Refugees, The Washington
Institute for Near East Policy, Policy Focus#91, January 2009

By: Maya Rosenfeld[1]

James Lindsay, currently a researcher with the Washington Institute
and until recently a legal counselor for UNRWA, has written a policy
paper on UNRWA that supports the dismantling of this UN agency.
Directed to the US State Department, the paper calls upon the US, in
its position as one of the major donors to UNRWA, to exercise pressure
on the agency and impose upon it a series of structural modifications.
These include: 1) an incremental denial of refugee status to the
overwhelming majority of the Palestinian refugees who are currently
registered with UNRWA, starting with the 1.9 million refugees
currently living in Jordan. 2) The rolling back of UNRWA's primary
welfare services: the replacement of the free education and health
that UNRWA has been providing for six decades with a commoditized
system (a restricted, means-tested entitlement to free services). 3)
The subjection of all of UNRWA's beneficiaries to security "screening"
as precondition for entitlement to employment, services and/or
emergency relief assistance. 4) The enforcement of various
restrictions on the public appearance (speeches, statements, lectures)
of UNRWA's highest ranking officials, first and foremost the
Commissioner General.
If adopted, the implementation of these recommendations would all but
nullify the capacities of UNRWA and bring about its demise.

In this rejoinder we argue that Lindsay's recommendations stem from
the prejudiced political stand of the author with respect to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Palestinian refugee problem
rather than from a research-based evaluation of UNRWA's performance in
the past and present. Specifically, we contend that Lindsay's call for
a systematic weakening of UNRWA is part of a campaign of incitement
and delegitimation against the agency, which has become more
vociferous in recent years in the wake of military and political
developments that affected the occupied Palestinian territories and
the Middle East as a whole. The attack against UNRWA appears to be led
and conducted by ultra-right wing oriented research centers and media
agencies in Israel and by their counterpart pro-Israel foundations and
lobby organizations in the US, and is addressed primarily to the US
administration. Among other commonalities, those who take part in this
campaign share the conviction that the Palestinian refugee problem
should be dissolved through withdrawal of international recognition,
support and protection to the refugees. It invariably follows that
such campaigners do not want the refugee problem to be addressed and
solved in the framework of a comprehensive settlement of the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict and in accordance with the international
law and relevant UN resolutions. UNRWA is targeted because by virtue
of its decades-long mandate as provider of services, assistance and
protection to millions of Palestinian refugees in the Diaspora and in
Palestine this UN agency embodies the persistence of the refugee cause
and therefore constitutes a major hindrance to "dissolution".

The context and timing of the recent campaign against UNRWA, to which
Lindsay has now added his own contribution, deserve special attention.
It converged with the generally hostile and increasingly
non-cooperative and disrespectful reaction of the government of Israel
to the UN- sponsored emergency humanitarian operations in the occupied
Palestinian territories, an intervention that came in response to the
acute socio-economic crisis there. To recall: The breakdown of the
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations in the Camp David Summit was followed
by the outbreak of the second Palestinian Intifada in late September
2000 and the subsequent rekindling of the violent conflict between the
parties. Israel reacted thereafter by escalating the military measures
it employed in the occupied Palestinian territories to an
unprecedented level.  Repeated IDF invasions and incursions, the
subjugation of the Gaza Strip to a protracted, near-hermetic siege,
the reoccupation and fragmentation of the West Bank and the
enforcement there of a closure regime resulted in the destruction of
the Palestinian economy, the near collapse of the PNA institutional
infrastructure and a subsequent unparalleled decline of Palestinian
living conditions. Failure of the international community to halt the
deterioration and to reverse the course of developments led to
emergency intervention on behalf of the affected population by a
number of UN organizations, with UNRWA's operations being the largest
and most comprehensive by far.

Shamefully, however, UNRWA's emergency intervention was met with
systematic obstructions on the part of the Israeli authorities. Israel
imposed a host of restrictions on the movement of UNRWA area staff in
the oPt, including the movement of rescue medical teams;  hampered and
impeded the transportation and distribution of food staples,
medications and other emergency supplies, and hindered rehabilitation
projects of the agency (the reconstruction of demolished homes and
infrastructure).[2] Even graver in terms of consequences was the utter
disrespect that Israel demonstrated towards the immunity of UN
facilities and staff: UNRWA's schools, ambulances, offices, and
additional installations were targeted by IDF fire on repeated
occasions, resulting in the killing and injuring of school children,
ambulance drivers, medical staff, local and international workers[3];
UNRWA schools  were invaded and occupied by the army on numerous
occasions, and at times school compounds were turned into detention
centers[4]; other agency installations were attacked or raided,
including an UNRWA–run hospital in the West Bank[5].

At the same time, Israel repeatedly denied its responsibility for the
creation of a humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian
territories and frequently claimed that UNRWA overstates the gravity
of the situation in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, inflates the number
of Palestinian casualties and magnifies the scope of damage wrought by
the Israeli military[6]. The Israeli authorities further raised the
allegation that UNRWA sides with the Palestinians and endorses an
anti-Israeli line and went as far as accusing the agency of fostering
terrorism and lending its facilities to terrorists.[7] On one
notorious occasion such a fallacious contention was used by the
Israeli Ambassador to the UN as grounds for demanding that UNRWA
Commissioner General, Mr. Peter Hansen, be removed from his office[8].
And, while the charges that Israel raised against UNRWA were all
proved wrong, in the end, the Israeli campaign against the Agency and
its head probably did cost Hansen his position[9].

A full analysis of the Israeli position with respect to UNRWA remains
beyond the scope of this rejoinder. However, it is hard not see that
the above manifestations of animosity and contempt towards the Agency
and its workers concur with Israel's interests as an occupying power
and with the overall Israeli political agenda of the past eight and a
half years:  During the latter time period, the application of
excessive military force against the Palestinian population in the
occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip comprised the predominant, at times
the only component in Israel's policy vis a vis the Palestinians. Yet,
Israel refused to be held accountable for the consequences of its
actions and for the gross violations of International Law and human
rights that the latter entailed. In this respect, UNRWA's emergency
intervention - which continuously brought the worsening situation of
the besieged, impoverished and otherwise adversely affected
Palestinian population to the attention of the international community
- stood in Israel's way.

Against this backdrop we suggest that the attack on UNRWA by Lindsay
and his predecessors is geared to provide a supposedly scholarly
backing to the Israeli efforts to undermine the work of UNRWA and to
discredit this UN agency. A yet broader connection is worth looking
into here. We are referring to the exceptional proliferation, in the
wake of the US-led military intervention in Afghanistan and war on
Iraq, of "policy-research" centers, "think tanks", "forums" and the
like that proclaimed expertise in "counter terrorism" and vied for
recognition and acknowledgement from Near East policy makers in the
Bush Administration.
The affiliation with this institutional milieu whether through formal
membership or by looser association stimulated and inspired those who
lead the campaign against UNRWA. In fact, to a great extent it defined
and shaped the essence of their task: the scheme was to influence the
US administration that the disintegration of UNRWA is in its interest;
the ready made formula for carrying out this plan was to link the
crusade against UNRWA to the US "counter-terror" agenda.

Let us now turn to Lindsay's text. Lindsay attempts to disguise the
motivation and the connections that stand behind his recommendations
with the supposedly scientific clothing of a sizeable paper that
boasts an academic format. Nonetheless, closer inspection reveals that
despite the scholarly appearance, the author's core arguments remain
unsubstantiated by researched findings. Only a minor, eight-page long
section, in this paper pertains to UNRWA's defining role as services
provider, and there too, hardly any attempt was made to review the
agency's work, let alone to assess the cumulative impact of its
various programs. Lindsay deliberately refrains, then, from relating
to the nuts and bolts of UNRWA's operations on the ground, namely, the
day to day toil of approximately 30,000 area staff – teachers, nurses,
doctors, social workers, maintenance and sanitation workers and others
- on behalf of 4.6 million refugees in the occupied Palestinian
territories, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

This avoidance of facts on the ground is coupled with a complete
disregard of the contexts within and against which UNRWA functions.
The basic realities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which shaped
the history of both the refugees and UNRWA -  the wars, the mass
uprooting of Palestinians from their homeland and their dispersal in
exile, the politics of the "host" Arab regimes, the  impact of the
Palestinian national movement, and above all, the now forty-one year
old Israeli military occupation over the West Bank and Gaza Strip and
the hitherto failed attempts to bring an end to it -  are all but
missing from Lindsay's account. Perhaps the most disturbing omission
in this regard is that of the background to UNRWA's current emergency
operations in the occupied Palestinian territories, during which time
period Lindsay served as counselor for the agency. Not a single
paragraph in the text is devoted to the critical conditions that
prevail in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, let alone to the factors that
gave rise to the steep deterioration. A reader of Lindsay's paper who
is not acquainted with current affairs in occupied Palestine would not
only remain in her/his ignorance but is liable also to question the
need of an emergency intervention there altogether.

Likewise conspicuous in their absence from Lindsay's paper are UNRWA's
beneficiaries, the Palestinian refugees. They are non-existent as
members of dispossessed communities in exile or under military
occupation, or otherwise, as individuals and members of families,
students, laborers, employees, UNRWA staff, political beings, etc.,
or, god forbid, as a people with internationally-recognized rights.
Neither are they present as an injured party in need of relief
assistance and protection. Indeed, the most salient attributes of the
current refugee condition in the besieged Gaza Strip, including the
pervasive deep poverty, the widespread lack of food security, soaring
unemployment, deteriorating health indicators, and falling educational
attainments, never found their way into his account. Deplorably, if
the refugees surface in Lindsay's paper, it is only as terrorists,
security threats and potential security threats.

What makes Lindsay's avoidance of the subject matter and context of
UNRWA's activities all the more troubling, however, is not only his
personal background as a high official with the agency, a position
that undoubtedly acquainted him with the factual material, but mainly
the abundance of documentation and research that stood at the author's
disposal, and which he chose to ignore. As far as the routine
functioning of UNRWA as provider of key social services to millions of
Palestinian refugees is concerned, one is struck in particular by the
lack of reference to two indispensable sources. The first consists of
the numerous publications by UNRWA, including the Annual Reports of
the Commissioner General, statistical records of the various
departments, and special thematic reviews and assessments. The second
source comprises the exhaustive comparative study on UNRWA services
and living conditions of Palestinian refugee populations in the Arab
host countries and in the occupied Palestinian territories, which was
carried out by the Norwegian Fafo Research Institute for Applied
Research and published in 2003 under the title: "Finding Means:
UNRWA's Financial Crisis and Refugee Living Conditions"[10]

As far as the role of UNRWA as provider of emergency relief assistance
in the occupied Palestinian territories is concerned, the wealth of
available studies and appraisals renders Lindsay's disregard of the
material even more striking.  We are referring first and foremost to
the twelve "Emergency Appeals" and the thirty three follow-up
"Progress Reports" that UNRWA addressed to the donor states since the
inception of the current crisis in October 2000, which provide an all
embracing review of the condition of the targeted refugee populations
and detail the allocation of resources to the various emergency
programs in light of debilitating funding constraints. Detailed
evaluations of the impact of UNRWA's intervention on the refugee aid
recipients are found in recurrent publications by the Palestinian
Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS), in reports and assessments of the
World Bank, in the surveys conducted by the Graduate Institute for
Development Studies (IUED) in Geneva, and elsewhere.

Given the improbability that Lindsay was unaware of the large body of
knowledge that pertains to UNRWA's work, why then has he chosen to
disregard it?  An examination of the aforementioned sources leads to
the inescapable conclusion that the findings offered by the literature
simply did not match with the author's objectives, namely, to
discredit the agency and damage its reputation. Thus, for example,
among other things, the Fafo study, which provides a most extensive
evaluation of the impact of UNRWA's services, demonstrates the
indispensability of UNRWA's education and health services to refugee
populations – predominantly camp refugees, women, and the poor – in
all five fields of the agency's operation. The authors of the study
explicitly conclude that "… UNRWA has a democratizing effect by
serving as a safety net for vulnerable groups. Over the long term,
this has meant that vulnerable refugee groups everywhere except
Lebanon had basic outcomes on par with other, less vulnerable
refugees."[11]   Taking another example, we point at the series of
World Bank assessment reports on the Israeli closure policy and the
economic crisis in the oPt, which repeatedly emphasized the crucial
importance of UNRWA's emergency intervention, underscored its
effectiveness, and highlighted the relative satisfaction of the
Agency's beneficiaries.[12]

Only by deliberately misrepresenting the nature of UNRWA's work, only
by dwarfing the significance of both the role of the agency and the
ongoing effort entailed in implementing it, and only by concealing an
entire corpus of research that underscores the indispensability of
UNRWA, then, could Lindsay introduce the fallacious and shameless
contention that the persistence of Palestinian refugeehood is by and
large a fabrication of UNRWA. In the words of Lindsay: "In truth, the
vast majority of the UNRWA's registered refugees have been "resettled"
– or to use the United Nations euphemism, "reintegrated"…and  "…The
only thing that is preventing these citizens [i.e., the now resettled
refugees, MR]   from ceasing to be "refugees" is UNRWA's singular
definition of what constitutes a refugee." ["Future of UNRWA: U.S.
Policy Options: Removing National Citizens"]. The desired corollary,
needless to say, is that UNRWA should be disintegrated. In line with
this message, and in what appears to reflect both his deep seated
contempt towards the agency, let alone the refugees, and an attempt on
his part to set a personal example to his addressees among US policy
makers, Lindsay thereafter places the term (Palestinian) Refugee in
quotation marks.

The heart of Lindsay's crusade lies in the endeavor to identify UNRWA
with a political role and a political line that conflict with the
agenda of the US Administration for the Middle East. To this end he
devotes the most exhaustive sections of the paper, entitled
"Evaluating Recent Criticisms of UNRWA" and "The Future of UNRWA: U.S.
Policy Options", respectively. The discussion in the former draws on
two sources: the first is a series of papers on UNRWA by Arlene
Kushner, an Israel-based (since 2001), ultra nationalist free-lance
writer, who has written four reports (2003-2005) on UNRWA as "an
investigative journalist for the Center for Near East Policy Research"
and under the supervision of the "Israel Resource News Agency".[13]
The second source is a recent (May 2008) publication from the Global
Research of International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, a stronghold of
ultra-hawkish commentary on the Israeli Palestinian conflict and on
Near East affairs at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya.
Entitled "UNRWA: Refuge of Rejectionism", the GLORIA paper is
co-authored by Barry Rubin, Asaf Ramirowsy and Jonathan Spyer. Rubin
is the director of GLORIA, editor of the GLORIA- sponsored journal,
Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA), and member of the
board of directors of the pro-Israel lobby-organization, Scholars For
Peace in the Middle East (SPME); Romirowsky is the manager of Israel &
Middle East Affairs for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia
and an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum, "a think tank that
seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle
East"[14]; Jonathan Spyer is a senior research fellow at the GLORIA
Center.
Neither the Rubin et al paper nor the Kushner series[15], however, are
studies of UNRWA. Written in the style of the cheapest and most
arrogant propaganda, the Rubin et al paper is devoid of any
investigative research whatsoever. Rather, it consists of a
re-assemblage of quotations from eclectic sources that bear direct or
indirect relation to Palestinian politics and or to the Palestinian
refugee issue, which the authors drew out of their original contexts
and mobilized to support the view that UNRWA is no less (and no more)
than an instrument at the service of Palestinian terror[16].
Accordingly, their text is replete with absurd, indeed fanatic and
sickening allegations against UNRWA, as the below selection amply
indicates[17]:

"… the "badge of honor"--indeed the very entry ticket for acceptance
as a proper citizen--associated with UNRWA fosters eternal hatred
towards Israel. Israel very existence is the cause of one being a
refugee; only Israel's extinction can change that status. Nothing else
is important; nothing else is responsible for one's daily fate."

"Over time, it has become apparent that UNRWA does not only embrace
Hamas, it actually teaches the violent Hamas platform. Since UNRWA
teachers are typically alumni of the UNRWA school system, they
perpetuate the vitriolic curriculum they were taught which vilifies
Israel and the West."

"Not surprisingly, UNRWA institutions have produced terrorist
ideologues. They have also produced terrorist masterminds. As Dore
Gold, former Israeli ambassador to the UN, writes, UNWRA has produced
graduates like Ibrahim Maqadama, who "helped create the military
structure of Hamas." Gold notes that, "at least 46 terrorist
operatives were students in the UNRWA schools.""

"On the surface, UNRWA seems a humanitarian group helping Palestinian
refugees. In reality, it actually helps destroy the chance of
Arab-Israeli peace, promotes terrorism, and holds Palestinians back
from rebuilding their lives."

"UNRWA's job is to keep Palestinian refugees in suspended animation -
and low living standards – until they achieve the goal set for them by
the PLO and Hamas: Israel's extinction."

The Kushner series compares favorably with the Rubin et al text, as it
is at least based on a considerable investigative effort on the part
of the author, the main thrust of which is to trace "evidence" that
would ultimately link UNRWA to terrorism. Her failure to establish the
connection she set out to prove probably accounts for the somewhat
less arrogant tone that Kushner adopts. The message, however, remains
equally inciting[18]:
"Thus, what is in evidence here, at best, is an agency mandated to
serve a humanitarian purpose that is being held hostage by terrorist
elements—so that it is literally afraid to interfere with recipients
who are terrorists. At worst, the terrorist population and the refugee
population (from which the UNRWA staff is drawn) are so enmeshed that
it becomes impossible to separate them".

She concludes:
"That status quo [of UNRWA policies and practices] fosters terrorism,
is antagonistic to the establishment of peace in the Middle East, and
works to the detriment of the refugees themselves."
Yet Lindsay refers to sheer defamation of this kind as perfectly
legitimate, academic "critique". What is more relevant for our
concern, while he raises several reservations regarding some
allegations against UNRWA, it appears that, by and large, Lindsay
accepts the conclusions and recommendations and shares the general
approach of Kushner and of Rubin et al, especially that of Kushner. In
fact, closer examination reveals that major items in Lindsay's "What
Is To Be Done" are adaptations from Kushner. Specifically, the call
for the US and other donors to withhold contributions to UNRWA as a
means of pressuring the agency to introduce policy changes, the call
for the vetting of all UNRWA employees and for subjecting refugee
beneficiaries to "security" tests, and above all, the call for
promoting Palestinian refugee resettlement outside Palestine through
the curtailing of UNRWA's mandate and authority, were all raised by
Kushner. Lindsay elaborated further on each of these recommendations
and added an operative or practical dimension that builds on his
inside knowledge of UNRWA and the donor community and on his
familiarity with the US State Department. Thus, for example, he argues
that the weakening of UNRWA is in the interest of the US despite
considerations that might suggest otherwise, proposes how UNRWA's
vulnerability, in particular its dependence on voluntary
contributions, can be used to exert exceeding pressure on the agency,
argues that the transfer of UNRWA's authorities to Arab states would
be more effective than extending UNHCR mandate to include Palestine
refugees, etc. To be sure, a number of Lindsay's recommendations are
solely the fruit of his own creative mind; e.g., the idea of
restraining UNRWA's Commissioner General, so as to prevent her from
delivering speeches that convey identification with the refugee
plight, and the advice to stop UNRWA's ambulance service.

To wrap things up, then: the policy recommendations on UNRWA that a
former legal adviser for this agency and a current affiliate of the
Washington Institute addresses to the US State Department are based,
by and large, on incitement and defamation campaigns against UNRWA by
the Israel-based, extreme right wing "Israel Resource News Agency"
(better known as Arlene Kushner) and GLORIA Center.

As we have shown, Lindsay mobilized a host of lamentable means in
attempt to advance the false and absurd allegation that it is the
prolongation of UNRWA's mandate that perpetuates Palestinian
refugeehood and hence the Palestinian refugee problem rather than the
other way round. Any attempt on our part to encompass and assess the
nearly sixty years of UNRWA's intervention on behalf of Palestine
refugees within the confines of this rejoinder would do injustice to
the Agency.  Suffice it to recall then that UNRWA's lengthened
existence, including both the extended duration of the Agency's
regular operations and the recurring activation of its emergency
intervention programs is a direct result of the persistence of the
Israeli- Palestinian conflict and of the highly negative, often
destructive, consequences that the conflict bears for the most
vulnerable amongst its victims, i.e. the Palestinian refugees. Above
all, the perpetuation of UNRWA is indicative of the ongoing failure of
the international community to use the power necessary to bring about
a comprehensive solution to the Israeli –Palestinian conflict in
accordance with the premises of international law and with the
relevant UN resolutions. In fact, in light of that failure and with
more than a grain of irony it may be argued that the continuation of
UNRWA does a great service to the international community. After all,
if not for the "cushioning" presence of UNRWA, the adoption of
measures that the main international players have so far been
reluctant to employ, like sanctions against Israel and the deployment
of a UN force throughout the oPt, would have become unavoidable.







[1]Dr. Maya Rosenfeld is an Israeli sociologist and anthropologist.
Her main field of research is the modern (post- 1948) social and
political history of the Palestinians in Palestine and the Diaspora,
with a major focus on refugee communities. Her book, Confronting the
Occupation: Work, Education and Political Activism of Palestinian
Families in a Refugee Camp was published in 2004 by Stanford
University Press. Dr. Rosenfeld is a research fellow at the Harry S.
Truman Research Institute at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She
teaches at Sapir Academic College and at Beit Berl Academic College.
[2] On Israeli hindrances of UNRWA's emergency operations, the
restrictions imposed on the movement of UNRWA staff, and the
detrimental consequences of these measures see for example: Press
Release No J/04/2002 of 25 September 2002, entitled: Donors Request
Report on Humanitarian Aid Funds Diverted to Israeli Security
Procedures; Press Release dated 23 April 2002 (Jerusalem/09/2002),
entitled: Israeli Military Prevents 75 Tons of Humanitarian Aid
Reaching Qalqilya; Press Release No HQG/06/2004, dated 1 April 2004,
entitled: UNRWA Suspends Emergency Food Aid in Gaza; Press Release No.
HQ/J/3/2004, dated 23 May 2004, entitled: UNRWA Protests Israeli
Incursion into Jenin Camp Reconstruction Project Office and Detention
of Senior Project Manager.
[3] On IDF shooting on UNRWA schools and the resulting casualties, see
for example: Press Release No. HQ/G/33/2004, dated 12 October 2004,
entitled: Israeli Gunfire Hits 11Year Old Girl Sitting at her Desk in
an UNRWA School; Press Release No. HQ/G/34/2004, dated 13 October
2004, entitled: Child Shot in UNRWA School Dies; Press Release No.
HQ/G/01/2005, dated 31 January 2005, entitled: 10 Year Old Child
Killed in UNRWA School in Gaza. On IDF shooting on UNRWA ambulances
and the resulting casualties, see for example: Press Release
HQ/G/07/2001, dated 5 December 2001, entitled: The Humanitarian
Situation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank; Press Statement dated
March 8 2002, entitled: UNRWA commissioner General Expresses Deep
Concern at the Worsening of the Humanitarian Situation in the Occupied
Palestinian Territory. On the IDF shooting and killing of the director
of UNRWA's reconstruction project in Jenin refugee camp, Mr. Iain
Hook, see press statement dated 22 November 2002, entitled: Death of a
UN Worker. See also, UN Staff in the Occupied Territories, press
release, 5 December 2002, entitled: Iain Hook: UN staff call for
justice.
[4]  On IDF invasion and occupation of UNRWA schools, see for example:
Press Release dated 8 March 2002, entitled: Director of UNRWA
Operations in the West Bank Expresses Deep Concern at the Use of the
United Nations School in Tulkarem to Detain Palestinians; Press
Release No. Hq/J/2004, dated 25 August 2004, entitled: Israeli
Military forcefully Occupied UNRWA School.
[5] On IDF invasion of a West Bank Palestinian hospital and offense
against UNRWA medical team, see Press Release HQ/G/17/2003, dated 24
September 2003, entitled: UNRWA Protests Israeli Action in Qalqilya
Hospital.
[6]  Since the inception of the current conflict in October 2000,
Israel continuously and repeatedly denied connection between its
military actions and measures in the occupied Palestinian territories
and the creation of a humanitarian crisis there. As a matter of fact,
Israel frequently denied that such a crisis existed.  See for example
the response of the State (Ministry of Defense and Coordinator of IDF
Activities in the Territories) to the July 2006 appeal by six Israeli
human rights organizations to the Israeli Supreme Court against the
IDF closure of the border crossings to Gaza. The appealing
organizations claimed that the closure of the crossings, which was
part and parcel of IDF "Operation Summer Rains" in the summer of 2006,
inflicted collective punishment on the population of the Gaza Strip
and bore disastrous impacts on the humanitarian situation there. These
assessments were based on reports by UNRWA and other UN organizations,
which came out with an urgent call. The State denied these
allegations, claiming that recurring closure of crossings was
necessitated by security considerations and that humanitarian supplies
nonetheless reached their destination in the Strip. The Court accepted
the stand of the State and dismissed the appeal. See, Supreme Court
decision on case number 5841/06, given on 25 February 2007.
[7] A well known incident in which such allegations were raised took
place in May 2004, in the course of a large scale armored Israeli
incursion in the Gaza Strip ("Operation Rainbow"). The Israeli Defense
Minister at the time, Shaul Mofaz, alleged that a UN ambulance had
transported body parts of Israeli soldiers who were killed during the
operation. Major General Yossef Mishlev, then Israel's Coordinator of
Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), further claimed that
a video tape showed Palestinian use on 11 May " …of ambulances
belonging to UNRWA, apparently for the purpose of transporting body
parts ….". However, Israel had no evidence whatsoever to support its
allegation. In a particularly furious response, UNRWA Commissioner
General demanded an apology. See, Press Release No. Hq/G/15/2004, of
25 May 2004, entitled UNRWA Demands Apology and Retraction for
"Baseless Charges" against UNRWA Ambulance Drivers".
[8] On October 1 2004, in the course of another large scale incursion
into the south of the Gaza Strip,   Israel again lodged accusations
against UNRWA. The IDF released UAV footage and video documenting what
they initially claimed was a group of Palestinian militants loading a
rocket into UN-marked vehicle. Israel announced its intention to file
a harsh complaint against UNRWA and demand that Danish diplomat Peter
Hansen, UNRWA's head, be removed from office. In a special press
release (HQ/G/30/2004, 2 October 2000) entitled: Response by
Commissioner-General Peter Hansen to Allegations Regarding Misuse of a
UN Vehicle, Hansen stated that: "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… In my mind and in that of those whom I have consulted, it is
clearly a folded stretcher, a logical and indispensable accessory in
any ambulance."  Hansen further commented that "such false allegations
can lead to increased aggressive behavior by Israelis towards the
United Nations in general and UN humanitarian staff in particular, and
therefore seriously increase the risks which UN personnel face in this
zone of violent conflict."
Israeli UN ambassador, Dan Gillerman dismissed UNRWA's reaction and
blamed Hansen has "for years has expressed anti-Israeli, biased,
unrestrained positions and statements".  However, On October 6, 2004,
Israel retracted the accusations , but did not offer an apology. (See
article in NationMaster.com, under Encyclopedia/UNRWA/UNRWA and
Israel/October 1 incident).
[9] See for example: The Guardian, January 20, 2005, article by Chris
McGreal entitled:" Bush forces UN refugee chief to go: Israeli
pressure backed by conservative and Jewish groups in US stops
reappointment of controversial head of relief agency".
[10] See, Fafo report 427. 2003. UNRWA's Financial Crisis and Refugee
Living Conditions, Volume I: Socio-economic Conditions among
Palestinian Refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and
Gaza; Volume II: The Persistence of Poverty in the Palestinian Nation;
Volume III: UNRWA Service Delivery, Budget and Donor Environment;
Summary Report: Blome-Jacobsen, Laurie (ed.): UNRWA's Financial Crisis
and Refugee Living Conditions .  In the years that followed the
publication of this comprehensive study, Fafo conducted a series of
researches on the situation of Palestinian refugees in all countries
of their dispersal, none of which was consulted by Lindsay.
[11]Blome-Jacobsen, Laurie (ed.). 2003. Summary Report: UNRWA's
Financial Crisis and Refugee Living Conditions, Fafo Report 427, page
59.
[12] See, for example: The World Bank. May 2003. Twenty Seven Months
of Intifada, Closures and Palestinian Economic Crisis: An Assessment,
pp. 48-50. I am quoting from page 48, paragraphs 3.26 -3.27: "UNRWA's
emergency programs were described in "fifteen months" and continue to
be held in high regard by the population. The January 2003 SDC survey
found that 64 percent of those supported by the agency were satisfied
with the services provided to them. … As the crisis deepens, UNRWA has
become more important than ever in helping the Palestinian population
cope. With the current intensification of the closure regime, however,
UNRWA is facing serious operational difficulties (all but some 86 of
its WBG-based staff are Palestinian), despite adapting flexibly to
curfew and closure by redeploying staff so they work closer to their
homes and can minimize the need to cross checkpoints…"
[13] Kushner's affiliation with the "Center for Near East Policy
Research" and "Israel Resource News Agency" is stated on each of her
papers and is also mentioned in her personal website. A search of the
"Israel Resource" website suggests that the latter agency is more or
less a "one man and one woman project": the director of the agency
David Bedein, and Kushner, both ultra right-wing extremists. What is
further suggested by the website search is that, in reality, the
Jerusalem based "Israel Resource News Agency" and the US based "Center
for Near East Policy Research" are one and the same enterprise.
[14] According to its website, "The Middle East Forum is a think tank
that seeks to define and promote American interests in the Middle
East. It defines U.S. interests to include fighting radical Islam,
whether terroristic or lawful; working for Palestinian acceptance of
Israel; improving the management of U.S. democracy efforts; reducing
energy dependence on the Middle East; more robustly asserting U.S.
interests vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia; and countering the Iranian threat.
The Forum also works to improve Middle East studies in North America."
[15] The Kushner series consists of four papers, all under the
auspices of the Center for Near East Policy Research. These include:
"UNRWA: A Report" (March 2003); "UNRWA: A Supplementary Report: A
Rigorous Review of Agency Practices" (May 2004); "UNRWA: Links to
Terrorism" (October 2004); "UNRWA: A Hard Look at an Agency in
Trouble" (September 2005). All four are available at Kushner's
website.  The Rubin et al paper, "UNRWA: Refuge of Rejectionism", by
Barry Rubin, Asaf Ramirowsy and Jonathan Spyer (May 2008), can be
obtained through the GLORIA Center website.
[16] Although it is quite evident that Rubin et al made use of the
Kushner reports, it is noteworthy that they do not acknowledge any
debt to Kushner in neither the text nor the references.
[17]All the quotations are from Rubin, Romirowsky, Spyer, "UNRWA: A
Refuge of Rejectionism" (May 2008 (
[18]  The two below quotations are from Kushner's 4th report "UNRWA:
A Hard Look at an Agency in Trouble" (September 2005).

 

 
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