Asaf Romirowsky and Alexande H. Joffe, the authors of “A Tale of Two Galloways: Notes on the Early History of UNRWA and Zionist Historiography” (2010) have discussed the way how an international organization can in a long run actually slow down development and the formation of a civil society (WSJ 1.-3.4. 2011). The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) has been working to help the Palestinians in Lebanon since the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict. The Palestinians are discriminated on Lebanese soil in many different ways: they are kept out from various professions, not allowed to own property, and are banned from accessing services, such as private health insurance.
In early March 2011, a handicapped 11-year-old boy Mohammed Nabih Taha died in front of a Lebanese hospital after being denied treatment. The Lebanese officials had told the boy’s family that the UNRWA had to pay for his care. The organization covered the care during the first 10 days, and as the parents could not afford further treatment, he died at the hospital door. A grieving relative told a media agency that “We now longer want UNRWA. We want an insurance company to insure our children, families and women”. This event lead to manifestations by the Palestinian people, who were protesting against the cuts that have occurred in health and education services.
The authors argue that the 60-year-old United Nations aid agency is keeping Palestinians from living a normal life: they see it as a barrier against the development of Palestinian civil society: an obstacle to people’s well-being and peace with Israel. They claim that the organization hosts ant-Israeli, anti-Western and anti-Semitic attitudes, refusing to screen its employees against known members of terror groups, hosting sports events dedicated to suicide bombers and terrorists, and possibly storing weapons in tunnels dug beneath UNRWA schools.
Canada has already pulled back from financing the UNRWA and diverted taxpayer money to specific development projects. Money is still flowing from the United States and Europe. The authors argue that Americans and Europeans should follow Canada’s example and use this money to promote independent Palestinian organizations and private-sector growth instead. They feel that the UNRWA has become an opposite to the actual purpose of refugee-relief operations by stirring grievances and perpetuating indefinite states of dependence. They plea for a better functioning United Nations agency to take over the necessary functions of UNRWA and for the possibility for the Palestinians to build their own society.
“Defund the UNRWA” The Wall Street Journal (01.-03.04. 2011)
Palestinians protest at UN agency in Lebanon” Ahram Online (11.03. 2011)