Frontpge Interview's guest today is Asaf Romirowsky, a Senior Fellow at the Endowment for Middle East Truth and an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum.
FP: Asaf Romirowsky, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Canada has become the first country to defund from UNRWA. It is the first Western government to do so. Tell us about UNRWA and this Canadian move.
Romirowsky: Thank you for having me
To an outsider, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) seems to be a UN humanitarian group aiding Palestinian refugees. In reality however, it helps destroy the chances of Arab-Israeli peace, promotes terrorism, and holds back Palestinian society from ever achieving statehood.
There has been much evidence to show how UNRWA schools have become hotbeds of anti-Western, anti-American, and anti-Semitic indoctrination, as well as recruiting offices for Islamist terror groups. UNRWA is the largest employer of Palestinians as such the local offices are dominated by radicals who staff and subsidize Islamist groups while potentially intimidating anyone from voicing a different line. UNRWA facilities and vehicles are used to store and transport weapons, and have actually served as military bases.
In this process, UNRWA has broken all the rules that are presumed to govern humanitarian enterprises, encouraging their resettlement, avoiding political stances, and putting refugees in danger. But by design, UNRWA is the exact opposite of other refugee relief operations, such as those orchestrated by the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR).
UNRWA defines a "refugee" in the broadest terms by including not only those Arabs who fled from territories held by Israel, but also those who stayed in their homes and lost their source of livelihood as a result of war. Today, this would include all third- and fourth-generation children of refugees, even those of just one Palestinian refugee parent.
UNRWA in its current make up is a liability for many reasons. For one, it affords its employees U.N. diplomatic immunity, it undercuts the organization's accountability. UNRWA workers have abused their diplomatic privilege to engage in or encourage terrorism. Television crews have filmed UNRWA employees escorting armed Palestinian fighters in U.N. vehicles. Agency-operated – and, by extension, America-funded – schools decorate their classrooms with flags and banners celebrating terrorist groups.
Currently, all UNRWA has to do when it goes to request monies from the United States is to say that they take care of the betterment of the Palestinian refugees without any kind of actual transparency and accountability of what they actual do to further that agenda. The United States which funds a third of UNRWA's annual budget deserves checks and balances from any agency it finances especially, UNRWA.
As a result of the above, Canada has become the first Western country to demand the type of accountability and responsibility that a donor country deserves by saying NO to UNRWA and only allocating monies to certain Palestinian projects within the Palestinian Authority that can show how they evaluate their work and prove their effectiveness.
Given that one of the chief policy issues for the United States is how to aid in mobilizing donors, both public and private, for a financial infusion of aid resources to finance refugee compensation (and resettlement, immigration, and rehabilitation) as well as the permanent status agreement in general. It would behoove us to follow the Canadian example which would allow our tax dollars to be spent on promoting independent Palestinian organizations and private-sector growth.
FP: How did it come to pass that UNRWA became as you describe it and that this was allowed to actually take place?
Romirowsky: UNRWA was created as a temporary organization that has no end in sight. As such, UNRWA is here 60 plus years later still maintaining and sustaining the Palestinian refugee status.
While the refugees benefit from UNRWA, the organization benefits more from the refugees. These refugees are the organization's raison d'etre. Accordingly, UNRWA has zero incentive to resolve the Palestinian refugee problem; ending the refugee problem would render the agency obsolete.
The interests of the refugees and UNRWA are so intertwined that UNRWA is staffed in situ mainly by local Palestinians—more than 23,000 of them—with only about 100 international United Nations professionals. While the U.N. High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) and UNICEF (United Nations International Children's Fund) avoid employing locals who are also recipients of agency services, UNRWA does not make this distinction.
Thus, in the interest of self-perpetuation, UNRWA seeks to maintain the violent status quo in the Middle East, even if it means turning a blind eye to terror.
FP: What more can be done about stopping this kind of abuse represented by UNRWA? What form of action do you advocate? What Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, has done is clearly a step in the right direction.
Romirowsky: Indeed – Canada's actions regarding UNRWA under Stephen Harper's leadership are without a doubt a step in the right direction and more donor countries should be adopting this very policy. As I see it, there are four basic steps that can be taken which are highly reasonable as it concerns UNRWA.
First, UNRWA should ultimately be dissolved.
Second, all the services UNRWA currently provides should be transferred to other agencies within the UN, notably the UNHCR, which have a long experience in such programs. In addition, these activities must be subject to normal transparency and accountability.
Third, to the greatest possible extent, responsibility for normal social services should be turned over to the Palestinian Authority. A large portion of the UNRWA staff should be transferred to that governmental authority. Donors should use the maximum amount of oversight to ensure this be done effectively.
Fourth, the text books used by UNRWA should be subject to oversight to ensure that the teach co-existence and peace between Arabs and Jews.
People often wonder why it is that violence and instability persists after so many years regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict and especially the Palestinian element therein. Why is this issue so seemingly impossible to resolve?
A part of the answer is that UNRWA does not work towards a resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem. In fact, the opposite is true. UNRWA perpetuates the problem. All those seeking real progress toward peace between Israelis and Palestinians need to take a close look at this unacceptable situation.
FP: Asaf Romirowsky, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview.
Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev's Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz's Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror.