Tuesday, March 30, 2004
The High Commission is mandated to help refugees get on with their lives as quickly as possible, and works to settle them rapidly, most frequently in countries other than those they fled. UNRWA policy, however, states that the Palestinian Arabs who fled from Israel in the course of the 1948 war — and their descendants! — are to be considered refugees until they return to the homes and villages they left more than half a century ago (which actually no longer exist). The principle they apply is called the "right of return."The Palestinian "refugees": victims of Israeli "aggression", or deliberate effect of UN policy? Answer seems pretty obvious.
In truth, there is no such legal principle. According to the UNRWA mandate, U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 provides the basis for this right. There are, however, several problems with this — the primary one being that GA resolutions have no standing in international law. This resolution, which in fact also suggested other alternatives in addition to return, was no more than a non-binding recommendation.Yet, for all of these years, UNRWA has not only been telling the refugees that they have such a right, they have been promoting it actively via a variety of programs. The goal is to ensure that the refugees focus on achieving that return. To that end, UNRWA policy has also been to make certain that the refugees are not too comfortable, as this would diminish their motivation to "return." Thus, for example, when the physician who was head of medical services in Gaza for Israel's civil administration from 1967-1985 wanted to improve medical facilities for the refugees, UNRWA blocked his efforts. And when Israel wanted to move refugees out of camps and into permanent housing in the 1980s, she was prevented from doing so by U.N. resolutions.