The State Department furiously opposed it, but yesterday the legislation championed by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to provide some measure of accountability and transparency to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) passed in the Senate Appropriations Committee. A senior Senate staffer told me: “Despite enormous opposition by the State Department, UNRWA and the Jordanian Government, the Kirk amendment passed with its core reporting requirement intact, now forcing the State Department to quantify exactly how many people served by this UN agency actually lived in Palestine from 1946-1948 and were displaced by the 1948 conflict. This will have major implications for future negotiations over final status issues with regard to refugees.”
The language is so simple and reasonable that it’s hard at first blush to figure out what the fuss is all about:
The Committee directs the Secretary of State to submit a report to the Committee not later than one year after enactment of this act, indicating —
(a) the approximate number of people who, in the past year, have received UNRWA services —
(1) whose place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948 and who were displaced as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict; and
(2) who are descendants of persons described in subparagraph (1);
(b) the extent to which the provision of such services to such persons furthers the security interests of the United States and of other United States allies in the Middle East; and
(c) the methodology and challenges in preparing each report.
That is it. There is no funding cut or shift in official U.S. policy. It is a straightforward measure to determine just who among UNRWA’s “refugees” fled in 1946-1948 and who is being lumped in as a “refugee.”
This simple language provoked a hissy fit from the State Department, which, in a letter signed by deputy secretary of State Thomas Nides, declared that the Kirk language would be viewed in the world as a U.S. attempt to “prejudge and determine the outcome” of the “sensitive” issue of Palestinian refugees. (Forking over money and declaring generations of Palestinians who never lived in and never fled from Israel is apparently not “prejudging.”) Then, to prove the point of the legislation, Nides goes on to declare that there are “5 million refugees” (well, if you call the great-grandkids of original refugees who now live in the West Bank “refugees”). Nides also decries any decrease in funding for UNRWA, which has nothing to do with Kirk’s call merely to gather accurate data. Thankfully, the Senate Appropriations Committee ignored the hysterical and grossly dishonest plea.
UNRWA provides a rare peek behind the curtain, a glimpse of the “international community,” which in collaboration with the Palestinian Authority and the Arab states, aims to perpetuate, not resolve the conflict, and avoid any step that might prejudice the pipe dream of the “right of return” for millions of Arabs. One need look no further than UNRWA and the preservation of refugee camps in the West Bank (decades after the founding of the Jewish state) to understand that what the Palestinians seek to do is not establish a viable state alongside Israel but to “return” (with generations who’ve never been there) to Haifa, Tel Aviv, etc. They are refugees not from the future Palestinian state but from 1948 Israel.
This episode, close observers will note, highlights the fraudulent terms of the “peace process.” The goal on the Palestinian side, when you dig deep enough, is not two states — for a Palestinian state would not hold residents in “refugee” camps — but reoccupation of Israel. No one who is part of the peace process cult wants to acknowledge that painful truth, for it would highlight how fruitless and contrived has been 40-plus years of “peace negotiations.”
The reason so many are so freaked out about scrutiny of UNRWA is that transparency challenges the industry (it’s a profitable one) dedicated to preserving grievance, perpetuating conflict and keeping the unattainable ambition of the “right of return” alive.