PHILADELPHIA - Released today by Palgrave Macmillan, Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief documents the history of Palestinian refugee relief from its inception. The refugee problem is what fuels the Arab-Israeli conflict and the leading obstacle to peace. Romirowsky and Joffe illustrate how the problem began, the international community's first responses, the successes and failures, and offer concrete recommendations on how to deal with the issue going forward.
Efraim Karsh, Professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies, King's College London, UK, author of Palestine Betrayed endorsed the book and states,
"Drawing on a wealth of recently declassified documents, this groundbreaking book tells the little-known story of the creation of the United Nations Relief and Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). A must read for anyone seeking to understand how the international community helped transform a secondary post-World War II humanitarian predicament into the world's most enduring refugee problem and the foremost obstacle to Arab-Israeli peace."
About the book
This book examines the leading role of the Quaker American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in the United Nations relief program for Palestine Arab refugees in 1948-1950 in the Gaza Strip. It situates the operation within the context of the AFSC's attempts to exercise new influence on the separate issues of pacifism and disarmament at a time marked by US efforts to construct a Cold War security regime in the Middle East and British efforts to retain influence and bases in Arab countries.
Using archival data, oral histories, diplomatic documents, and biographical and autobiographical accounts, the authors provide a detailed look at internal decision-making in an early non-governmental organization where beliefs regarding the requirement to provide refugees with skills for self-reliance clashed with intractable political and cultural realities and the realization that only full repatriation or resettlement elsewhere would solve the problem (a lesson that UNRWA and the international community learned only decades later). Faced with impossible solutions, the Quakers withdrew. The story of AFSC involvement in Gaza shows that refugee relief is always political and that humanitarianism can prolong the problems it seeks to solve.
About the Authors
Asaf Romirowsky is a Middle East historian. He holds a PhD in Middle East and Mediterranean Studies from King's College London, UK and has published widely on various aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict and American foreign policy in the Middle East, as well as on Israeli and Zionist history. He lives in Philadelphia.
Alexander H. Joffe is an archaeologist and historian. He holds a PhD in Near Eastern Studies from the University of Arizona, USA and has published widely on topics in archaeology, ancient and modern history, and contemporary politics. He lives in New York.