Israel to remove UNRWA Palestinian agency from Jerusalem

JERUSALEM: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees on Friday (Oct 5) expressed concern after Jerusalem’s Israeli mayor said he would remove it from the city.

Mayor Nir Barkat announced in a statement Thursday a “detailed plan to remove UNRWA from Jerusalem and replace its services with municipal services”.

UNRWA said such a move would affect its humanitarian operations and installations in Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

The agency runs schools and health centres particularly in the Shuafat refugee camp where it says 24,000 Palestinians are estimated to live.

UNRWA has come under pressure from Israel and the United States.

The two countries object to the fact that Palestinians can pass refugee status to their children, and want the number of refugees covered by the agency to be sharply reduced.

The US administration ending its funding to UNRWA in August, the latest in a series of controversial moves applauded by the Israeli government but criticised by the Palestinians and the international community.

“The US decision has created a rare opportunity to replace UNRWA’s services with services of the Jerusalem Municipality,” Barkat said.

“We are putting an end to the lie of the ‘Palestinian refugee problem’ and the attempts at creating a false sovereignty within a sovereignty,” he added.

The issue of Palestinian refugees – along with the status of Jerusalem – has long been a major sticking point in peace efforts.

More than 750,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled during the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.

They and their descendants are now classified as refugees who fall under UNRWA’s mandate.

Palestinian leaders continue to call for at least some of them to be allowed to return to their former homes now inside Israel under any peace deal.

Israel says Palestinians must give up the so-called right of return and that allowing descendants of refugees to inherit their status only perpetuates the problem instead of solving it.

Israel also considers all of Jerusalem as its united capital, while the Palestinians see the predominantly Arab eastern area as the capital of their future state.

Some five million registered Palestinians refugees are eligible for UNRWA services in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the blockaded Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Barkat said that under his plan all UNRWA schools in east Jerusalem will be closed by the end of the current school year. Health centres will likewise be shut down.

The municipality will also lobby Israeli political leaders and press them to exercise their “authority to remove UNRWA (headquarters) from Israel’s sovereign territory” in Jerusalem.

“In parallel, the city will work to expropriate the area for public purposes,” he said.

But on Friday UNRWA said it was “determined to continue to carrying out” its services in east Jerusalem and criticised Barkat’s plan.

“Such messaging challenges the core principles of impartial and independent humanitarian action and does not reflect the robust and structured dialogue and interaction that UNRWA and the State of Israel have traditionally maintained,” the agency said.

Source: AFP/na

Barkat said that under his plan the municipality would take over education, welfare and health services. “We provide services for all residents alike – there are no refugees in our city,” he said.

What’s Wrong With UNRWA and Why it Must be Reformed


In the flurry of press about UNRWA in the last weeks, much has been written and said about the U.N. Palestine refugee agency, both positive and negative.


UNRWA Perpetuates The So-Called “Right of Return”

The real problem with the organization is evident from these two media quotes by Palestinians registered by UNRWA as refugees, yet who were born after 1948 and who never lived in British Mandatory Palestine or Israel:

  • “I hold on to UNRWA because I hold on to my right of returning to Palestine,” Mohammad Afifi, 58-year-old shopkeeper born and raised in Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon.
  • “Take everything and return us to our homes. We don’t want any assistance or anything, just return us to our country,” Ramy Mansour, a 34-year-old born and raised in Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus, and who now lives in Lebanon.

As Prime Minister Netanyahu aptly said while arguing for a gradual approach to phasing it out, “UNRWA is an organization that perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem, and perpetuates also the narrative of the so-called right of return, whose goal is the elimination of Israel. For these reasons, UNRWA should be shut down.” This is patently clear from the above quotes.

UNRWA is painted by the media as a humanitarian agency which provides education, health care and social services to needy Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, as reported by Reuters, The Independent, The Los Angeles Times, and others. But as UNRWA expert Einat Wilf explains, what UNRWA is really giving these Palestinians is the false hope that they will one day be able to return to family homes in Israel abandoned in a war years before most of them were even born. Only approximately 20,000 of the original refugees that were actually displaced from their homes in 1948 remain.

UNRWA officials freely and openly advocate for this “right of return,” as exemplified by statements from various officials, including UNRWA Spokesperson Chris Gunness and UNRWA Lebanon director Claudio Cordone, that the refugee crisis will continue as long as there is no “solution.”

And the “solution” they are talking about is not resettlement, as it would be for the rest of the world’s refugees, who are handled by UNHCR. By contrast, UNRWA is not mandated to find durable solutions for the Palestinians.

Therefore, it is not surprising that the “right of return” is a prominent feature of UNRWA’s educational programming, including UNRWA textbooks that deny any Jewish historical connection to the land of Israel and erase Israel from the map, and teachers who incite anti-Semitism and jihadi terrorism.


Whether or not the UNRWA education provides what Palestinians need is also an open question. The UN’s most recent internal audit for UNRWA questioned UNRWA’s overall effectiveness, and especially criticized UNRWA’s insufficient provision of “economically viable skills” to enable Palestinians to climb out of poverty.

UNRWA is a Partisan Entity with Close Ties to Hamas  

While The New York Times misleadingly portrays UNRWA as a neutral entity which “has never been involved in peace negotiations” and serves a basic role of “providing a safe space for civilians,” the reality is that UNRWA is at the heart of the conflict:

For an ostensibly neutral U.N. agency to have such close ties to a terrorist organization should be shocking, but these facts are in line with the U.N.’s own internal audit of UNRWA which found UNRWA to have deficient oversight for its facilities.


Sadly, although the U.N. was founded on principles of maintaining international peace and security, as reflected in the UN Charter, in the case of UNRWA, it does just the opposite—exacerbates the conflict.

Netanyahu: UNRWA created not to absorb refugees but to perpetuate plight

Jpost – Israel News

By Herb Keinon 2 September 2018

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chose a school in Yad Binyamin, a community that absorbed Israelis uprooted from their homes in Gush Katif 13 years ago, to demonstrate how Israel treats refugees, and to praise the US for cutting its funding to UNRWA.

“This is a very welcome and important change, and we support it,” Netanyahu said of the American decision regarding UNRWA.

Be the first to know – Join our Facebook page.

The UN Relief and Works Agency was created not to absorb refugees, but rather perpetuate their plight, he said. “We have to cancel the refugee institution, we have to take the money and really help to rehabilitate the refugees, whose real number is only a tiny fraction of the number reported by UNRWA.”

Netanyahu contrasted how UNRWA has perpetuated the refugee problem with how he said Israel provided solution to Jews uprooted from their homes.

“The uprooted from Gush Katif were absorbed in this community,” Netanyahu said while visiting the Breuer element school in Yad Binyamin to mark the first day of the new school year.

“The lives of those uprooted from Gush Katif could have been a tragedy, a horrible disaster,” he said. “It started with horrible pain, but the state of Israel and all of its citizens worked together so that the uprooted from Gush Katif would not be refugees in their land. We absorbed them, and they renewed their lives to create wonderful lives. The memory persists, but there is the present and the future which have already changed, and that gives new life and great hope.”

Netanyahu stressed that while he was opposed to the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, once it happened, Israel “dealt with the problem.”

He then talked about other Jewish refugees that Israel has absorbed.

“Didn’t people up-rooted from all different lands come to us?” he asked. “Holocaust survivors who were uprooted from their lands, form communities where they live – like in Lithuania, for 500 years, or in Poland for 1,000 years. They were uprooted , survived and came here.”

The premier said the same thing happened to hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab lands who came to Israel – penniless and without possession – after the War of Independence

“Did we leave them as refugees?” he asked. “We did not leave them as refugees, we turned them into productive, equal citizens in our country.”

The same, he said, cannot be said of the Palestinians, where UNRWA was created 70 years ago “not to absorb the refugees, but rather to perpetuate the refugees.” For this reason, he said, the US “did something very important” in cutting off funds to the organization.

New UNRWA textbooks for Palestinians demonize Israel and Jews

Jpost Arab-Israeli Conflict

By Danielle Ziri
September 28, 2017

NEW YORK – Schoolbooks used in UNRWA in Gaza and the West Bank display extreme anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments, according to a review.

In the study released on Wednesday by the Center for Near East Policy Research, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Middle East Forum, it also found that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency books showed there was no hope for peace in the region.

Be the first to know – Join our Facebook page.

The research, authored by Arab-textbooks expert Aaron Groiss, in collaboration with leaders of each of the involved organizations, examined 150 textbooks of various school subjects, taught in grades one to 12. Seventy-five of the books checked were published in 2016 and 2017 as part of a project initiated by the Palestinian Authority, which provides its curriculum to UNRWA schools.

The contents of the books were analyzed focusing on the depiction of the Jewish/ Israeli “other,” which revealed three fundamentals: delegitimization, demonization and indoctrination to violent struggle instead of peace.

According to the Palestinian schoolbooks, Jews have no rights whatsoever in Palestine but only “greedy ambitions.” The books also say that Jews have no holy places there either – the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem are all presented as Muslim holy places threatened by Jews.

The study also shows that cities established by Jews in modern times, including Tel Aviv, are sometimes not shown on maps either.

“Israel is not a legitimate state according to the PA schoolbooks studied at UNRWA schools,” the study said. “The name ‘Israel’ does not appear on the map at all.”

In many cases, “Palestine” appears instead and covers Israel’s pre-1967 territories as well.

The almost complete erasure of the name “Israel” from the schoolbooks is “a disturbing development,” the researchers wrote. “Including the numerous demonizing descriptions of the Jewish state and its replacement by the expression ‘Zionist occupation.’ “Even the former expression ‘the Arab-Israeli conflict’ is now spelled ‘the Arab-Zionist conflict,’” they added. “This change signals an intensification of the nonrecognition attitude regarding Israel on the part of the Palestinian educators.”

While demonization of Jews is less evident in the PA schoolbooks compared to books of some other Arab governments, Jews are still demonized as opponents of Islam’s revered prophets, namely, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad.

“The first group of Jewish settlers came to Palestine from Russia in 1882 and the second group was in 1905,” one of the books reads. “The arrival of the Jewish throngs to Palestine continued until 1948 and their goal was taking over the Palestinian lands and then replacing the original inhabitants after their expulsion or extermination.”

Israel is also presented as an enemy who aims its weapon at Palestinian children.

“The Palestinian child stood facing the enemy’s bullets like a brave soldier,” one book included.

When it comes to the Arab-Israeli conflict and possible solutions, peace is not advocated in the schoolbooks used in UNRWA schools. Instead they promote a violent struggle of liberation against the “occupation.”

A book of the 2016 edition emphasizes a poem with the motif of the struggle for the liberation of al-Aksa Mosque and of the whole country, beyond the territories Israel took over in 1967, namely, Haifa and Jaffa.

The study also pointed out that the violent liberation is further intensified in the books published in 2016 as they now include, for the first time in the history of the PA curriculum, a reference to the fate of the 6 million Jews living in the country after its supposed liberation. According to the texts, they will endure expulsion from the land and “extermination of its defeated and scattered remnants.

A 2017 text even reveals a shocking attitude to Israelis by describing a Molotov- cocktail attack on an Israeli civilian bus as a “barbecue party,” and another such text exalts a Palestinian female terrorist responsible for the killing of more than 30 civilians in an attack on another Israeli bus.

“This list of items taught in UNRWA schools is incriminating,” the researchers concluded. “UNRWA, in fact, not only does propagate a non-peaceful line contrary to UN resolutions on the Middle East, and not only does allow the presentation of Israel and its Jewish citizens as illegitimate with heavy layers of demonization. UNRWA also betrays its moral obligation toward the Palestinian children and youths’ human rights and well-being, by letting the PA preparing them for a future war with Israel.” Using these textbooks, they added, is the UN agency’s contribution to perpetuating the conflict.

“It is now high time that UNRWA change its policy of nonintervention in the contents of local curricula taught in its schools,” they added. “An international organization of this caliber committed to the ideal of peace and relying in its funding on democratic countries mostly, should have a say in this matter, especially in view of its relatively large share of Palestinian educational activity.”

The authors of the study made clear they strongly believe that a meaningful peace must start with education and that “there are things that UNRWA must not teach.”

About half of UNRWA’s total regular budget is dedicated to education. The agency offers also health and social services. UNRWA provides free-of-charge basic education to children of Palestinian refugees in the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank, the Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, and in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

Collective Naturalization


All Arabs of “Palestinian extraction” have Jordanian Citizenship based on Jordanian collective naturalization in December 1949.

Collective Naturalization by Annexation

“When territory is transferred to a new sovereign by conquest or cession the inhabitants become nationals of the new government only by their own consent, express or implicit. …. If the inhabitants remain within the territory their allegiance is transferred to the new sovereign.” American Insurance Co. v. 356 Bales of Cotton, I Pet. 511, 542, 7 L. Ed. 242.

The subject of collective naturalization is discussed at length in Boyd v. Thayer, 143 U. S. 135, (1892) and many cases cited and illustrations given.

Collective Naturalization can occur by legislation or by treaty.
In the case of Jordan –

On December 13, 1949, King Abdullah of Jordan passed a law amending the Law of Nationality of 1928. Accordingly, Jordanian citizenship was granted to all persons who were holding Palestinian citizenship and were habitually residing in Transjordan or in the “western area that [was] administered by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan” (i.e., Jerusalem and the West Bank ¬U.H.).
On April 11, 1950, parliamentary elections took place in Jordan, covering both the East Bank and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Following these elections, the Jordanian House of Commons approved the amended law and parliament’s decision concerning the “unification of the two Banks.” Thus, Palestinians who were living in East Jerusalem and the West Bank became Jordanian citizens.

In essence, because Arabs of Palestinian extraction were “collectively naturalized” and “parliamentary elections took place” in Jordan, covering both the East Bank and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; Jordan is Eastern Palestine (as contemplated by the “Mandate for Palestine”)!

“Ending Palestinian refugee status is good for Israel, good for the Palestinians and good for the refugees.”

This time Kushner is right

Ending Palestinian refugee status is good for Israel, good for the Palestinians and good for the refugees.

August 6, 2018 21:41

Recent reports quoting Palestinian officials indicate that US peace envoys seek to eliminate the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. UNRWA is a UN refugee agency exclusively responsible for Palestinian “refugees” worldwide. A few months after the Trump administration recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in order to “take it off the negotiation table,” it seems that US peace envoys led by Jared Kushner are moving toward taking another core issue off the negotiation table: Palestinian refugees.

This time US President Donald Trump’s son-in-law is right: ending Palestinian refugee status will take a seemingly insurmountable issue off the negotiation table, allow for better treatment of the Palestinian refugees and promote the creation and stability of a future Palestinian state.

Be the first to know – Join our Facebook page.

There are two refugee agencies in the United Nations. The first, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), established in 1950, is responsible for all the refugees in the world, which are estimated at 70 million. The second, UNRWA, established in 1949, is dedicated exclusively to supporting Palestinian refugees, which are estimated at seven million. UNRWA provides, among other things, “education, health care, relief and social services” to residents of Palestinian refugee camps spread across the Middle East. An additional responsibility of UNRWA is to keep track of the number of Palestinian refugees as well as their whereabouts.

The case of the Palestinian refugees is the only case in modern history where the status of refugee is automatically inherited, regardless of whether the Palestinians are still living in refugee camps or were granted national citizenship by another country.
Therefore, while the number of post-WWII refugees plummeted from 60 million to less than five million by 2018, the number of Palestinian refugees grew tenfold, from 700,000 in the 1950s to more than seven million in 2018.

While the great majority of the non-Palestinian refugees from the post-WWII period died from natural causes, were granted citizenship or both, Palestinian refugees transferred the refugee status to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, who as of now, are poised to pass it on as well.

With no foreseeable ending to the automatically inherited refugee status, the number of Palestinian refugees will continue to rise, and is expected to exceed 10 million by 2030. As the issue of Palestinian refugees constitutes a main reason that past negotiations failed, forcing it off the negotiation table could possibly contribute to the success of future negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. More importantly, it will benefit all parties involved.

Israel, for security reasons, cannot allow the “return” of seven million Palestinian refugees into the Palestinian Territories, nor into a future Palestinian state. Under no circumstances will Israel welcome a hostile and at times belligerent people into strategic areas that determine the overall security of the country and its society. In addition, in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, Israel had to absorb approximately 700,000 Jewish refugees who fled or were expelled from Arab countries. These refugees were granted citizenship immediately upon their arrival and today they are an integral part of the Israeli society.

The Jewish refugees and their descendants, as well as large parts of Israeli society, are not likely to support any Israeli government, much less an international organization, which recognizes the suffering of the Palestinian refugees while ignoring theirs.

Surprisingly enough, the Palestinian leadership would secretly prefer for Kushner’s efforts to succeed, but they cannot express this, as they will lose the little legitimacy they still have. The emotional connection between the Palestinians living in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and the Palestinians living in refugee camps across the Middle East has long been dissolved.

The precarious response of the Palestinian leadership when Syrian President Bashar Assad besieged, starved and butchered the residents of the Palestinian refugee camp Yarmouk reveals how little the Palestinian leadership cares for other Palestinians in the Middle East. Practically speaking, the Palestinian leadership knows that a newborn state with a population of four million people cannot possibly absorb seven million others from all across the Middle East. Forcing the topic off the negotiation table will finally allow the Palestinian negotiating team to abandon that demand and focus on more practical matters.

Palestinian refugees have long been neglected, abused and discriminated against by Arab countries. Other than Jordan, no other country in the Middle East, including Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, has granted citizenship to the Palestinian refugees in their territories. In Lebanon, Palestinians are still denied access to major social and occupational institutions and are prohibited from working as doctors, lawyers or engineers. In Syria, Palestinians are attacked by both Shi’ite and Sunni militias, with no one to protect them. In Egypt, Palestinians suffer from travel restrictions and they are denied basic government services.

The source of the discrimination against Palestinians living in Arab countries is the misconception that they are living there only temporarily and will soon move to Israel or Palestine. Ending the refugee status will force the host countries to recognize that these residents living in their territories are not going anywhere and should be treated as if they were equal citizens.
The biggest misconception about a negotiable solution for the issue of the Palestinian refugees is that the solution would involve either compensation or a return of the refugees to Israel or a future Palestine. In fact, the real options are either to agree upon compensation or keep futilely negotiating a Palestinian state for another 50 years. Under no circumstances will Israel allow the flow of millions of Palestinian refugees to a future Palestine, much less to Israel, and under no circumstances will the Palestinian negotiating teams waive the right of the refugees to return (even though they secretly despise the idea).

Since the Israelis and Palestinians have already agreed on the other two core issues that come up in every negotiation – security arrangements and borders – ending Palestinian refugee status will dramatically increase the likelihood of successful negotiations in the future. As all parties will benefit from ending Palestinian refugee status, it seems that this time, the son-in-law got it right, and Kushner’s initiative should be taken seriously.

The writer is a PhD candidate at the War Studies Department of King’s College London and the program manager of the Argov Fellows program in leadership and diplomacy at IDC Herzliya.