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TIP CEO: Until It Reforms, UNRWA Remains an Obstacle to Peace

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) must undergo significant reform to advance the chances of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, Joshua S. Block, CEO and President of The Israel Project, wrote in an op-ed published by The Algemeiner on Tuesday.

“This issue is not a matter of left or right. Advancing peace, reconciliation, and coexistence is a moral imperative, not a political matter. Those who want to see a lasting settlement between Israelis and Palestinians — particularly my fellow Democrats and progressives — should embrace those efforts,” Block argued.

With the ‘Right to Return’ UNRWA “has created a mentality of perpetual victimhood” among the Palestinian population, which “is a major impediment to peace,” Block charged. UNRWA is the only UN refugee agency dedicated to a single group of people and the number of registered refugees has been inflated by the organization “to the point of absurdity.”

Based on UNRWA’s criteria, every Palestinian born since the Arab-Israeli war of 1947-1949 is a refugee, including Palestinians with other nationalities and those who never left Arab-Palestinian territory, but relocated to the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. This number has now reached 5 million.

“In UNRWA’s 70 years of existence, the agency has made no notable political advancements towards a better future for the peoples of the region, Arab or Jewish, despite adopting an inherently political agenda,” Block said.

Instead, Block argued, UNRWA is teaching hundreds of thousands of children in its schools that “they are victims of Israeli expulsion and have inherited “the right of return” — a right which, if necessary, must be achieved by force.”

Block also referenced UNRWA’s links to Hamas, the terrorist group in complete political and military control of Gaza. “The fact that Hamas members are embedded in UNRWA’s ranks is neither an unfortunate coincidence nor a simple oversight, but the logical consequence of an aid agency that has morphed into a thinly-masked political organization with a radical agenda,” he said.

UNRWA, in its current form, “is actively working against two states for two peoples — the dominant paradigm of US foreign policy from Clinton to Bush and Obama,” Block observed. “This is not the pathway to peace. It’s a recipe for perpetual failure and conflict. It’s time to acknowledge that reality and introduce real reform at UNRWA,” he concluded.

His recommendations were echoed by U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, when she said on Wednesday, “I absolutely think we have to look at right of return.”

“We will be a donor if it [UNRWA] reforms what it does … if they actually change the number of refugees to an accurate account, we will look back at partnering [with] them,” she added.

[Photo: rusticus80 / Flickr ]