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October 1, 2014 / 7 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘unhcr’

Caring for Israeli Sensitivities

Thursday, July 31st, 2014

One wonders how the other day New Delhi chose to back the decision of the UN Human Rights Council to launch a commission of inquiry into Israel’s military offensive in Gaza . The Palestine-drafted resolution was adopted through a vote at the Council.  It  saw India along with other Brics nations condemn Israel’s disproportionate  use of force and the large-scale killing of civilians in Palestine.  UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay even branded Israeli military actions in Gaza as amounting to war crimes.

 New Delhi’s behaviour at the UNHCR  was in sharp contrast with how,  earlier,  India Minister of External Affairs Sushama Swaraj and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaih Nadu both had rejected  the Opposition’s demand in Parliament to condemn Israel’s ongoing air and artillery bombardment on the Gaza Strip . Minister Swaraj said, “ any discourteous reference to any friendly country would affect relations.”  She announced in India’s Upper House ,  “We fully support the Palestinian cause while maintaining good relations with Israel.”

 Rebutting the Opposition’s call for suspension of all military purchases from Israel and taking the issue of the on-going Israeli action against Haman in the Gaza Strip to the United Nations, she argued that the present conflict in Gaza could have been ended and peace restored by now if Hamas had accepted the ceasefire proposal from Cairo.     

 Pertinently, Minister Swaraj also had a dig at a communist member in the House who called for suspending arms purchases from Israel on the issue of the present conflict . She asked him why his party, which was supporting the UPA-I , had not made such a demand in 2008 when 1,400 Palestinians were killed and then later in 2012 when there was another spurt of violence. 

 

Given this difference in the approaches of the Government in Parliament and at the Rights Council, there appears to be some kind of lack of understanding on the part of New Delhi . New Delhi ought to appreciate the  sensitivities of Jerusalem today.  Ever since Israel was founded , it has stood by India  during all its major crises , including the 1971 Pak-Indo war and the 1999 Kargil conflict  . After New Delhi established full-fledged diplomatic ties with Jerusalem,  relations between the two nations have flourished in different sectors .  Nothing should be done to put them off track.

 New Delhi  would do well to remain aware of the predicament of Israel today. This only developed democracy in the Middle East has suffered a lot at the hands of Hamas , a notorious terrorist organization with a charter based on the fanatic ideology of hatred and violence  against vast sections of humanity, including women .  

Hamas has had no history of faith in peace and development in the region. It is for dismantling the state of Israel completely. It has fired more than 12.000 rockets at Israeli towns since 2005 and indulged in dozens of other terror attacks on civilians in the country. According to a Middle East expert,  since 2007  it has built a maze of underground concrete bunkers and tunnels underneath the residential areas of Gaza . Its sole  purpose has been to enable the Hamas command structure to reside safely underground while their armed forces conduct a mobile defense against Israeli forces. This enables surprise attacks on the IDF units from different directions, allowing the attackers to then disappear again underground to emerge and attack somewhere else. 

 

Given this background, Israel seems to have been left with no option but to retaliate against Hamas in the Gaza Strip  and use all means at its disposal to protect its citizens, Jews, Muslims and others alike,  in the region.  Needless to mention, Hamas has made it amply clear by its recent behavior as well that it has  no genuine intention of returning to the cease-fire of 2012.  Hamas has continued   firing its  rockets after rejecting  the Egyptian cease-fire proposal.  It has cared a fig also for  the humanitarian cease-fire initiated by the United Nations  .  

 New Delhi would do well also to bear in mind that the ideology of  Hamas is for the elimination of whoever does not subscribe to  its fanatical version of a great religion. Its linkages are spread all over the world .  As such it poses a threat to pluralist India too. There are already reports that  the masked supporters of the Hamas (and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ) have of late marched through streets in Srinagar, capital of India’s province of Jammu and Kashmir .   

 

Aid for Palestinians: Breaking Down Walls or Building Them Higher?

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

By Carly West

The UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide. UNHCR defines a refugee as someone who, “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” UNHCR currently works in over 125 countries continues to help some 33.9 million persons seek asylum.

Then, there are the Palestinian refugees, a stateless people. For them, the status of “refugee” is passed down to their children. For them, enduring refugee status perpetuates anguish and discontent. And for them, there is a specialized UN agency to reinforce and sustain this status.

The UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency) is an organization that was established by the General Assembly in 1949. UNRWA’s contemporary mandate is to “provide relief, human development and protection services” to Palestinian refugees. UNRWA defines refugees as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” One is eligible for refugee status if they have lived in areas affected by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war for a minimum of two years, was displaced by the Arab-Israeli conflict of 1967, or can prove lineage from a male Palestinian. UNRWA insists that two million people who have been given full citizenship in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon are nevertheless still classified as refugees, and encourages them to act on a “right of return” to current-day Israel.

UNRWA separates itself from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the political circumstances that have generated these refugees. While the UNHCR highlights the “well-founded fear” and need of “protection” that generates a population of refugees, UNRWA skirts around direct language of victimization. Palestinian refugees are defined by heritage rather than history, as to seem entirely apathetic towards their relations with Israel. Yet despite its humanitarian mandate, UNRWA’s very existence is political. The Palestinian people, according to a recent study by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, have received per capita, adjusted for inflation, 25 times more aid than did Europeans to rebuild war-torn Western Europe under the Marshall plan after the Second World War. Since World War II, over 50 million across the globe have been displaced from their homes, yet only the 700,000 displaced Palestinian people have received this focused service.

UNRWA claims to provide a range of humanitarian, human rights, and development work, with vaguely designated efforts to improve “education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, and microfinance.” UNRWA’s aims are to help Palestinian refugees achieve their so-called “full potential in human development, pending a just solution to their plight.” With all of the broad and diplomatic language, both the real intentions and impact of their work remains questionable and ambiguous. Beyond the focus on immediate humanitarian relief, however, it seems probable that the UNRWA has a political bent­. So the question becomes – whose agenda does aid serve?

The allocation of its funds reflects the political nature in contrast to an emphasis on providing humanitarian goods and services. While refugee “Camp Improvement” receives 2% of donations, “Education” is allocated 57%, perhaps suggesting a more long term vision for rising generations of disgruntled youths rather than improving current refugee conditions. Additionally, UNRWA has set up various infrastructure projects. A current plan for development in Gaza will cost $19.7 million and comprise 600 houses and a school together with water, sewage and electricity systems. Though this may indeed be of service to Palestinians, the gesture is as apolitical as Israel’s settlements in the West Bank.

One aspect that may elucidate political natures and interests is surveying who benefits from supporting the UNRWA. The total 2012 UNRWA budget was $907,907,371. Although the permanent supportive rhetoric for the “Palestinian case” from the Muslim world might lead one to expect that UNWRA is funded mainly by Muslim countries, UNRWA is almost entirely funded by Western nations such as the US, EU, UK, Norway, Sweden, the Netherlands and Japan, who pay $644,701,999, or 71% of the annual UNRWA budget. The United States was the largest single donor in 2011 with a total contribution of over $239 million, followed by the European Commission with over 175 million.

So where do Muslim states rank? The highest donating Muslim country is Saudi Arabia, who gives 15th most in the world; in other terms, this wealthy country provides less than half of the funds flowing in from the Netherlands. Second, at #18, is Turkey, who contributes only $8,100,000, and Qatar, which is now spending millions on the construction of high end soccer stadiums, contributed exactly $0 to UNRWA. Richard Behar, an investigative journalist for Forbes magazine, wrote that “Arab oil-rich nations could have long ago transformed the Palestinian territories (where their brethren live) into a model of what a modern state would look like. Instead, they let Western donor nations foot most of the bills with money that has largely gone down the drain or been squandered corruptly.”

It seems counter-intuitive for the US to work to improve a situation that it has politically and economically sustained. However, funding seems to be an enabler of the current situation. UNRWA’s humanitarian work relieves both Hamas and Israel of the responsibility to provide services and governance for over five million Palestinians. Israel’s presence is becoming less costly by the day thanks to the efforts of international aid organizations such as UNRWA. This dynamic exemplifies the subversive tendencies of humanitarian aid and development programs to indirectly harm the people which they claim to help.

Visit Behind the News in Israel.

Refugees, Hypocrisy and Arab Unity: Just Follow the Money

Sunday, April 21st, 2013

The Arab-on-Arab bloodbath just across Israel’s northern border goes on and on, and with it the incredible and worsening suffering of ordinary Syrians. That is, in significant ways, a function of politically correct but morally repugnant decision making of the “world community.”

The decades-long handling of the Palestinian Arabs as a uniquely deserving cause is revealed for the scam it always was. People are paying with their lives for the double-talk about the “refugees.” Those people are not only Arabs, but in many cases they are also the close kin of the undeserving beneficiaries of the Palestinian Arab Victimhood industry.

Evelyn Gordon writes (“How UNRWA Steals Money from Those Who Need It Most“) about the current threat by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees to halt all relief operations in Syria and for the benefit of Syrian refugees. 1.3 million of them are being looked after until now; the number – given the ongoing unchecked savagery throughout Syria – is certain to grow.

$1.5 billion was pledged to the U.N. agency by donors earlier this year; only $400 million has turned up. That’s a shortfall of more than 70%. What can we learn from this?

For anyone familiar with the way Arab national giving works, this is a constant: fancy rhetoric and high flying speeches about Arab solidarity and Arab unity and Arab generosity, followed by… not much. Is there a shortage of available cash in the oil-soaked Arab world? Not really. (We wrote about the phenomenon of $600 million recreational yachts a few days ago. See 10-Apr-13: “I cannot help but cry out long live the descendants of apes and pigs”).

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says that unless more money arrives (read: unless the promises of funding are honored, which so far has not happened), UNHCR is going to stop distributing food to refugees in Lebanon from May. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, with the largest population of Syrian refugees, has said it will close its borders to more of them; it cannot cope without aid.

Now pause.

Evelyn Gordon writes about a different (a very different) U.N. agency that deals with refugees, one that

enjoys comfortable funding of about $1 billion a year to help a very different group of refugees–refugees who generally live in permanent homes rather than flimsy tents in makeshift camps; who have never faced the trauma of flight and dislocation, having lived all their lives in the place where they were born; who often have jobs that provide an income on top of their refugee benefits; and who enjoy regular access to schooling, healthcare and all the other benefits of non-refugee life… Their generous funding continues undisturbed even as Syrian refugees are facing the imminent loss of such basics as food and fresh water. I am talking, of course, about UNRWA.

People who have never heard this before think we’re making this up, so please read carefully and verify:

It has long been clear that UNRWA–which deals solely with Palestinian refugees, while UNHCR bears responsibility for all other refugees on the planet–is a major obstacle to Israeli-Palestinian peace. Since, unlike UNHCR, it grants refugee status to the original refugees’ descendants in perpetuity, the number of Palestinian refugees has ballooned from under 700,000 in 1949 to over five million today, even as the world’s non-Palestinian refugee population has shrunk from over 100 million to under 30 million. Moreover, while UNHCR’s primary goal is to resettle refugees, UNRWA hasn’t resettled a single refugee in its history… It has thereby perpetuated and exacerbated the Palestinian refugee problem to the point where it has become the single greatest obstacle to an Israeli-Palestinian agreement… Unfortunately for the Syrians, it seems that many of the world’s self-proclaimed humanitarians prefer harming Israel to helping those who need it most. [Evelyn Gordon]

Last year, we asked [in a post called "5-Jun-12: If there's one single thing about UNRWA that we wish people understood, it's this"] a question that, if it were to get an honest answer, might point to a genuine breakthrough in resolving our neighborhood’s problems:

If (to borrow the laughable claims made by its many supporters) UNRWA’s work is so important, if it brings us closer to peace, if it restores dignity to the lives of dispossessed and destitute Arabs, then why, when you look at the top twenty list of donors to this agency that exists entirely from donations, do you see that only one is Arab (the Islamic Development Bank). What is it about UNRWA that the Arab states understand better than the nations and tax-payers of the West?

Allow us to restate this in a simpler way:

Arab leaders, many of whom preside over phenomenal cash resources, (a) simply don’t give to the strange U.N. agency that exists specifically to support the most beloved cause that exists in the Arab world – the Palestinians. And (b) they fail to honor their pledges (as we noted above) to fund the one organization that can do something to relieve the genuine suffering of the Syrians, tens of thousands of whom have been killed in the past two years’ Arab-on-Arab fighting and millions of whom are now desperate to find shelter.

The role of rampant hypocrisy in explaining what happens in global politics is under-appreciated.
Visit This Ongoing War.

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