Defund UNRWA and Terminate it Over Fraud

The Best Way to Fix UNRWA’s Budget Crisis

Algemeiner: Out of UNRWA’s $100 million deficit that threatens to delay the school year, $28 million comes from Jordan.

That covers the costs for 120,000 students in 175 schools taught by 5,500 teachers throughout Jordan for four months.

This means that the annual budget for educating Jordan’s students of Palestinian origin is $70 million.

Nearly every one of these students is already a Jordanian citizen.

Jordan says that it cannot afford to educate these students, relying instead on UNRWA, even though this means that the kingdom has two separate school systems with two separate bureaucracies, two separate transportation systems, two separate administrations.

So why not just redirect the money earmarked for UNRWA to Jordanian schools directly?

Western nations should be happy to get rid of Jordanian apartheid where Palestinians are treated as second-class citizens. They can and should be mainstreamed into Jordanian society, something that should have happened decades ago.

By no definition can they be considered “refugees.” So why continue to treat them that way?

A five or seven year program to fund Jordan’s existing education (and medical) system to accommodate Palestinians, and phase out the current apartheid system for to million so-called “refugees,” is something that everyone who cares about equal rights should support.

And Canada could be in the forefront to kickstart such a program.

In 2007, Canada gave $32 million to UNRWA. As it soon realized that UNRWA is not aligned with Canadian values, the nation dropped its support to zero, redirecting some of it to various specific PA projects.

UNRWA is at a crossroads. It cannot continue to fund fund its ever-growing “refugee” population without a plan to reduce the number of people on its rolls, as it was originally intended to do. There is no rational reason for Jordanian citizens who happen to have Palestinian ancestry to be considered “refugees.” The only reason UNRWA exists in Jordan is as a crutch to help Jordan’s budget (besides the political reason of inflating the number of “refugees” to pressure Israel forever.)

It is past time to force UNRWA to change its working definition of “refugee” to be more aligned with that of the UNHCR and to phase out aid to the fake “refugees’ who are citizens of Jordan. This budget crisis gives the world a chance to do exactly that, by using limited aid funds smartly and at the same time to eliminate two million “refugees.”

The same can be done in the West Bank and Gaza, two other places that Palestinians cannot possibly be called “refugees” by any sane definition. Since most countries recognize “Palestine” as a state, pay the PA to take responsibility for their own people – with a deadline.

The money saved can help the stateless Arabs of Palestinian origin wasting away in Lebanon and Syria, where UNRWA aid is most urgently needed until a more permanent solution is found.

Enlightened nations like Canada and Australia and the U.S. would also be happy to replace the current UNRWA dinosaur with a real plan to reduce its budget while directing funds at those who need them most.

Now is the chance to accomplish something useful before UNRWA implodes and its current welfare recipients are left with nothing but anger.

Deeper Dive on UNRWA

The U.S. Senate received lately a precedent decision regarding refugees UNRWA and the Palestinian Arabs. To understand the change one should have mentioned that UNRWA’s beginning was appropriate.  A UN relief organization for the British Mandate Arabs, most of whom fled and some were deported, due to Arab aggression seeking to destroy Israel just as it has been established. But the treatment of refugees changed direction, and instead of a caretaker, UNRWA became a reproduction, exacerbation and perpetuation plant of tremendous size.

There are two UN bodies dealing with refugees. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that handles all the world’s refugees, and UNRWA, which deals only with the ones that became the Palestinian Arabs (at first they did not know that they are so. They were Arabs. Separate identity developed later). The Commissioner dealt with fifty million people. They won the first aid, and they are no longer refugees. UNRWA, however, started the way with 711 thousand, and miraculously has made them into more than five million. The Commissioner rehabilitates refugees. UNRWA fosters, multiplies and perpetuates the refugee problem.

This paradox is known to anyone who has eyes in his head. It comes from many reasons. One is the strange definition of UNRWA refugee: “They were in the territory of Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948 and lost both their homes and livelihoods as a result of the Arab – Israeli conflict.” But over time their descendants also came into the frame, and strangely enough, and contrary to the definition, also those who were not needed in the first place, and even those who became wealthy later – were still considered a refugee. Thus the number of “refugees” is rising over the years in somewhat vertiginous and strange manner.

Against this background, in recent months MK Dr. Einat Wilf worked, in cooperation with AIPAC, to influence the primary source of funding for UNRWA – the United States. The result is the “Kirk Amendment,” named after the Republican senator Mark Kirk. His amendment would require the State Department to report what is the actual number of original refugees, answering to the definition that appears in the original mandate of UNRWA. It is estimated at only 30,000.

There is something sophisticated in Kirk’s amendment, because the Amendment does not demand a cut in aid or a change in the criteria. These are reporting requirements only – A report on the number of original refugees, and a report on the number of descendants. But reports on the amendment made it clear that this entails a first step towards a more fundamental change. As following the report the question will rise – why should taxpayers pay for those who are not really refugees?

In fact, these questions have been popping up. U.S. Undersecretary of State, Thomas Nides, sent a letter to the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is urging them to vote against the amendment. He claims that the issue is particularly sensitive, the U.S. should not intervene in determining the number of refugees, and that this matter should be resolved in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. Embassy of Jordan in Washington has put pressure against the adoption of the amendment, and Nides notes in his letter that the amendment might create “a negative reaction, especially in Jordan.”

Nides’s request was denied. The amendment passed. Meanwhile there are no strong blast waves. And it’s a shame. It’s time to blow up the bloated balloon, of ever-swelling Palestinian refugees numbers. On the day the Palestinian “refugees” will be treated similarly to the tens of millions of other refugees in the world – will be the day when the situation will begin to improve, along with prospects for peace. Because the “refugee problem,” as the Arab side stated over and over again, “is perpetuated in order to achieve the solution of the elimination of Israel.”

The treatment so far of the problem of refugees has become the biggest obstacle to peace. It’s time for a change. The U.S. Senate took a preliminary step, limited and uncertain – A step in the right direction. Hopefully, the next steps will follow.

International norms

And more points to the attention of the Congress: By official count of UNRWA, the number of refugees in Lebanon reached early last year to 425,000. However, according to a study published by the American University of Beirut, which UNRWA itself has helped finance; it is only 260 to 280 thousands. They are immigrating and fleeing from Arab countries, because they suffer from severe apartheid in the Arab world (also according to the report). So there is no connection between the number registered and funded and the number of those still there. So the United States, which is the primary contributor, should pose the obvious question: where exactly does the money go, when there is a 57% exaggeration in the number of refugees?

And yet another fraud: under the UN Refugee Convention, Article 1 (A) 2, those who received citizenship in any country, cannot be considered a refugee. And here, according to UNRWA’s official publication, Jordan has more than two million refugees, the vast majority of whom have Jordanian nationality. So you can decrease two millions in Jordan, and another 150 thousand in Lebanon and Syria is likely in a similar situation. There the number is also an inflated. Recommendation to this effect is also found in the report filed by James Lindsey. For seven years, Lindsey served as a senior UNRWA official. After his retirement, he was a research fellow in the “Washington Institute”, where he published a comprehensive study with deep reform proposals.

And the parade goes on. UNRWA has a staff of more than 29,000 people, only two hundred of whom are not Palestinians – a great mechanism that also deals with incitement through the education system held by the organization. This is the largest agency of the United Nations. Just for comparison, UNHCR, the Commission that handles all other refugees of the world, holds a much smaller team of 7,685 employees, and handles 34 million refugees.

UNRWA – has one employee per 172 patients. In UNHCR – one employee per 4,424 patients.

UNRWA per capita budget is also more than double than the UNHCR. Considering that many of those listed are already citizens of other countries, or that the lists are inflated, as in Lebanon, then it means that a Palestinian Arab “refugee” costs the international community, particularly the U.S., far more than any other refugee in the world.

The chain of absurdities and frauds must be stopped. Uniformity in definitions and norms is necessary. The anti-Israel side argues again and again that Israel should abide by international norms – Great and just demand. This is exactly what should happen, even with the refugees – the same definitions for “who is a refugee”, and the same treatment of rescuing the really needing rather than perpetuating them as “refugees.” This will be the greatest contribution of the international community to promote peace. Senator Kirk began. Hopefully he will continue.

Ben-Dror Yemini is a journalist, a researcher and a lecturer



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