The Middle East Forum last week announces a $1 million donation to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
After the US Government partially withheld funding, UNRWA’s chief called on “people of good will in every corner of the globe where solidarity and partnerships exist for Palestine Refugees” to “join us in responding to this crisis and #FundUNRWA.”
The Middle East Forum took the opportunity to respond: “We are prepared to help UNRWA, conditioned on it making some reforms.”
Daniel Pipes, President of the Middle East Forum, said: “We are delighted to contribute in solidarity if UNRWA takes steps to end the Palestine refugee problem.
“The Forum’s contribution requires UNRWA to end the automatic registering in perpetuity to the descendants of refugees, those who hold a nationality, and those who live in their purported homeland, the West Bank and Gaza. Making these technical changes puts it in line with all other refugee agencies and reduces the number of Palestine refugees from 5.3 million to around 20,000. Our $1 million donation will go a long way to meet the humanitarian considerations of this small and diminishing number.”
The Middle East Forum has long pressed for a tightening of requirements for the “Palestine refugee” status, seeing this as both improving Palestinian lives and diminishing the threat to Israel.
“The current UNRWA definition breeds a victimhood mentality that perpetuates Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” notes Gregg Roman, Director of the Middle East Forum. “We hope our funding can inspire improvements in the lives of those in need while bringing the conflict closer to resolution.”
According to Pipes, UNRWA has the authority to adjust the definition of a refugee and has done so. In 1950, UNRWA defined a refugee as “a needy person, who, as a result of the war in Palestine, has lost his home, and his means of livelihood.” There was no reference to descendants. In 1965, the UNRWA commissioner-general unilaterally decided to extend refugee status to all descendants, which meant the number of “Palestine refugees” now expands without limit.
“The Middle East Forum is ready to help UNRWA out of this predicament. The offer is valid until June 30, 2018. MEF’s management alone will decide when the conditions for payment have been fulfilled,” Pipes announced.