UNRWA’S dark agenda


UNRWA was founded under UNGA Resolution 302 in 1949. Set apart from the UNHCR that deals with all the world’s refugees, UNRWA is unique and only deals with Palestine refugees. Its separateness and absurd definition of inherited refugee status is reminiscent of Augustine’s “eternal witness,” whereby Jews were permitted to exist, but only in perpetual impoverishment. UNRWA does not merely permit ongoing refugee status: it demands and encourages it.

In the fourth century, Church founder Augustine coined the term “eternal witness” to proscribe the purpose of Jews. Under this dictum, Jews were cast into a pariah status of rejection, homelessness, loathing and impoverishment. This status developed with European culture, expressed not only in church sermons, but also in the arts and socio-political structures. In 1215, The Fourth Lateran Council decreed that Jews wear distinguishing clothes and badges to be identified as objects of loathing.

While some changes occurred after the Enlightenment including Napoleon’s liberation of Jews, Augustine’s stigma remained. Consequently, about half of German and Austrian Jews converted to be accepted into mainstream society, Heine and Mahler being well known examples. The Hep-Hep riots, the Edgardo Mortara and Dreyfus Affairs as well as the Holocaust, significantly occurred after the Enlightenment.

The arts, maintained the image of the homeless Jew. Writers such as Goethe, in his Wilhelm Meisters Wanderjahre wrote of a new society in America, that excluded Jews. Wagner’s operas reflected his political beliefs such as the metaphor of the wandering Jew in the Flying Dutchman.  Despite Jewish assimilation, artists such as Manet, Cezanne and Degas publicly supported French popular incitement against Jews while Renoir considered Jews to be “natives of no country.” The theme of “eternal witness” prevailed well after the Holocaust—in the popular Arthur Mee Childrens’ Encyclopaedia, Jews were depicted as having been condemned to wander for having rejected Christ.

In 1904, Pope Pius X advised Herzl that he could not support a Jewish state, “as Jews had not recognised our Lord, therefore we cannot recognise the Jewish people.” He further said that while it was unpleasant to have the Turks in control of Jerusalem, Jewish control was out of the question.

In 1964, Pope Paul Vl, visiting Jerusalem, declined to refer to Israel by name, meet the Chief Rabbi or visit places of Jewish significance.  The following year, he promulgated Nostra Aetate which absolved Jews of collective responsibility for the death of Christ and decried antisemitism. Yet the Vatican only established relations with Israel in 1993. The present Pope, Francis usually refers to Israel as “the Holy Land” rather than by its name which implies sovereignty.

Leon Poliakov referred to Israel as “the Jew among the nations.” The implication was that Israel as a sovereign state, experiences similar pariah status as envisaged by Augustine.

Accordingly, Israel is singled out for multiple condemnations at various UN bodies. Displaying its anti-Jewish bias, UNESCO dejudaizes the Judaism’s holiest places, reassigning Arab names to the Western Wall and other Jewish sites.  The EU, whose constituent states mostly do not vote against such resolutions, also insists on special labelling of Israeli products from the disputed territories, ignoring all other territorial disputes. The ICRC only permits Israeli membership without its Star of David insignia. The list is by no means exhaustive, but illustrates the extent to which “the Jew amongst the nations” has to struggle against isolation.

UNRWA, originally meant as a temporary refugee agency for displaced Arabs in the 1948 war with Israel, is the only refugee agency that specifically has an agenda that differs substantially from the other UN refugee agency, the UNHCR. Whereas UNRWA employs nearly 30,000, to service some 5 million people, uniquely including the descendants of the original 650,000, UNHCR has 8500 employees to service 65 million worldwide and does not include descendants of resettled refugees.

Unlike UNHCR, UNRWA has politicised its role, colluded with Hamas and continues to perpetuate the plight and uncertainty of refugees and their destinies. It has tailored its refugee programs to enhance the misery of these people for its own dubious ends. UN Watch has documented UNRWA staff posting anti-Semitic cartoons while UNRWA school pageants proudly incite and demonise Jews and their state.

Some seventeen centuries after Augustine’s “eternal witness,” contempt and loathing have morphed into many forms including the current concept of UNRWA. The purpose was always to shame the Jew. UNRWA has enthusiastically adopted this role, reinforced by annual  commemorative events such as Nakba (catastrophe) Day that encourages resilience and hope to return to Palestine, rather than resolving the refugee crisis per se. Noteworthy are rejections of offers such as by Canada in 2001,to absorb Palestinian refugees. In other words, UNRWA primarily seeks to replace a UN member state, rather than improve lives.

UNRWA encourages Nakba events in order to label Israel as a nation of guilt, shame and born in sin. Encouraging Palestinians to be resilient and hopeful, instead of fomenting new lives as UNHCR does, Palestinians are openly encouraged to await their “return to Palestine”—a euphemism for Israel’s dissolution.

UNRWA’s role is the “Jew badge” of Israel—a modern manifestation of Augustine’s “eternal witness,” primarily meant to shame and loathe.

Some US lawmakers are reviewing the efficacy of UNRWA which is to be welcomed. Yet UNRWA’s purpose goes beyond refugees and a balance sheet.

The time has come for the US and EU, both committed to fighting antisemitism, yet also UNRWA’s largest donors, to take a sober and honest look as to what exactly they are funding. Denial and rationalisation are no longer defensible.

Ron Jontof-Hutter is a writer and fellow at the Berlin International Centre for the Study of Antisemitism. His satire on political correctness and antisemitism, “The trombone man: tales of a misogynist,” was recently published.

The Arab-Israeli conflict: Time to move on


This article originally appeared on Ynetnews.com

As a result of the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, roughly 800,000 Jews were expelled from various Arab countries in which they had been living for generations. 

Consequently, they were forced, like millions of other refugees throughout the 20th century, to resettle elsewhere. Although certainly not an easy task, eventually both the initial refugees and their descendants were able to let go of the past and move on with their lives.

Unlike the Jewish refugees from Arab countries, the story of the roughly 500,000 Arab refugees created by Israel’s War of Independence has been vastly different. Rather than being encouraged to resettle elsewhere, they were turned into permanent refugees to be used as a political tool against Israel. For this purpose, a special UN agency, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), was created in 1950 for the sole intent of maintaining, as opposed to resettling, the original refugees. 

Even today, nearly seventy years later, UNRWA continues with this policy unabashedly. As they boldly state on their site “We are committed to fostering the human development of Palestine refugees by helping them to acquire knowledge and skills, lead long and healthy lives, achieve decent standards of living and enjoy human rights to the fullest possible extent.” Noticeably absent from this list is any attempt to help the refugees restart their lives in another place.

The exact opposite is the case for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an agency that was also established in 1950 and which deals with every other other refugee population in the world. According to its site, “The agency is mandated to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide.”

In addition, it “strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another state, with the option to return home voluntarily, integrate locally or to resettle in a third country.” In other words, the emphasis is on problem resolution, a point that is proudly stated on its site: “Since 1950, the agency has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives.” 

Thus, while UNHCR is constantly trying to lower the number of refugees in the world, UNRWA is actually working in the opposite direction. By an absurd policy that is unique to UNRWA and which states that “the descendants of Palestine refugee males, including legally adopted children, are also eligible for registration.” UNRWA has succeeded in turning the original half million into five million and counting.

In addition to the detrimental policies of UNRWA, which have deliberately kept the refugee issue alive for years, the refugees themselves—both the originals and their descendants—as well as the other Arabs living in Judea and Samaria, have been led to believe that eventually they would receive their own country somewhere west of the Jordan River. By some, they were told the new country would include their former homes in Haifa and Jerusalem, while by others they were promised a more modest state side by side with a tiny Jewish one. Different variations of these assurances have repeatedly been made to them over the years by assorted Arab leaders, western/international leaders and even some Israeli leaders.

Hence although the Arabs themselves, refugee or non-refugee, are partly to blame for not letting go of the past and simply moving on with their lives, it’s obvious that their permanent statelessness is also due to the fact that they’ve been a pawn in a much larger game.

What’s more, the seemingly endless bloody conflict between Jews and Arabs is the direct result of intentionally keeping this issue alive. This is by far the most tragic aspect of all the false promises and misleading UN policies. Nevertheless and despite the fact that at the moment there appears to be no end in sight to the conflict, something must be done since Israel cannot rule forever over another population with roadblocks and security checks and the Arabs cannot live eternally in a state of limbo.

Therefore, in order to finally break this vicious cycle and to allow everyone to move on with their lives, some truths must be faced. For starters, despite all the promises that have been made it’s clear to nearly everyone today that Israel cannot allow for the creation of an Arab state in any shape or size west of the Jordan River since such an entity would pose an existential threat to the very existence of the Jewish state. Thus, despite all the headlines that the two-state solution receives, practically speaking it’s a non-starter. More than twenty-two years of the failed Oslo Process and all the accompanying wars and terrorist attacks, as well as the still unfolding events of the “Arab Spring”, makes this point self-evident.

Equally suicidal for Israel is the granting of citizenship to another one or two million Arabs living in Judea and Samaria – many of whom consider Israel an enemy state – as part of any future process of Israel declaring sovereignty over these areas. The demographic and economic problems of such an endeavor, combined with the obvious security problem of absorbing a large hostile population, would surely overwhelm the Jewish state.

The only solution therefore, and by far the most humane one, is to rectify the injustice that was done to the Arabs by both the negligent polices of UNRWA and by years of being misled by false promises of statehood west of the Jordan River. Practically speaking, the Arabs need to be financially compensated and helped to resettle elsewhere, as the Jews from Arab countries did seventy years ago and as millions of refugees have done over the course of the last one hundred years as a result of various wars and conflicts. The new host country could be neighboring Jordan or another Arab country or wherever as long as it’s part of an international agreement. Such an agreement would also need to allow Israel to fortify its long-term security by extending Israeli sovereignty up to the natural border of the Jordan River.

Although such a suggestion may sound harsh to some people, the truth is it is the only way to resolve the one hundred year conflict and to stop the pointless and never-ending bloodshed between Jews and Arabs. Moreover, the idea of financially compensating the Arabs and helping them to resettle elsewhere as part of an international agreement is the only solution that will both guarantee the continued existence of the world’s only Jewish state as well as enable the Arabs to escape their prison of false promises and to finally start building normal productive lives. For the well-being of both Jews and Arabs, the time has come to embrace the only solution that is truly capable of ending the conflict.

Yoel Meltzer, a freelance writer living in Jerusalem, has an MA in Middle Eastern Studies from New York University. He can be contacted via yoelmeltzer.com .

U.N. says cash to repair Gaza homes will run out by month’s end


The U.N. agency in charge of aiding Palestinians will run out of money by the end of January to repair homes in Gaza damaged in the 2014 war with Israel, worsening an already dire humanitarian situation, an agency spokesman said on Thursday.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said it had received only $135 million of an estimated $720 million needed to rebuild and repair destroyed and damaged homes and for rent subsidies for people made homeless by the conflict.

“Because of this shortfall, we're going to be forced to suspend the program by the end of the month,” UNWRA spokesman Christopher Gunness told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“Our concern is the humanitarian impact this would have on the people of Gaza,” he said by telephone from Jerusalem.

Gunness said the consequences of suspending the program would be dire as Gaza's 1.8 million people struggle to recover from last summer's fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants in the coastal enclave.

The conflict damaged or destroyed more than 96,000 homes, more than double the original estimate, along with much of the tiny enclave's infrastructure, UNWRA said in December.

More than 14,000 people driven from their homes by the conflict still live in schools run by UNWRA, while others live in makeshift shelters or prefabricated housing units, or homes so badly damaged that they are exposed to the elements.

STILL VULNERABLE

Heavy winter storms this month added to the suffering of the people of Gaza, especially as electricity, fuel and cooking gas are running short there, said Arwa Mhanna, aid agency Oxfam's spokeswoman in Gaza.

“Many people are still displaced, many still lack heating and lighting and simply don’t live in adequate conditions, more than six months after the end of the war,” Mhanna said by telephone from Gaza.

“The needs are much bigger than what is coming to Gaza in terms of aid and support,” she said.

International donors pledged $5.4 billion toward reconstruction last October but progress has been slow.

“While the number of people benefiting from reconstruction efforts is rising, progress is not fast enough,” Gunness said.

Aid workers said a blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel after the Islamist movement Hamas won power there in elections in 2006 is a big obstacle to their efforts.

Both Egpyt and Israel continue to impose tight controls on the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza, so not enough building materials can be brought in to speed up reconstruction, aid workers said.

Apart from housing, repairs to Gaza’s creaking water supply network are also desperately needed as more than 90 percent of water in the territory has been classified as unfit for human consumption.

“Water and sanitation are among the biggest problems in Gaza and the effects of the war have made this situation a lot worse,” said Joseph Aguettant, aid agency Terre des Hommes country representative for Palestine.

Terre des Hommes has just received funding to set up 42 water tanks to provide clean drinking water in schools damaged during the fighting, Aguettant said by telephone from Jerusalem.

It is also working with the Gaza Strip’s Coastal Municipalities Water Utility to supply chlorine to disinfect water wells.

An open letter to Nobel Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai from a Palestinian Human Rights Activist


Dear Malala,

We see you have received the Nobel Peace Prize this week in honor of your activity for peace in Pakistan.

We congratulate you for your courage and for not being afraid to fight radical Islam in your nation. 

I write these words as a proud fellow Muslem.

I know how how difficult it is with so many obstacles in your way. 

For that reason,  we need to support you.

We are very proud of you.

I appreciate your decision to contribute your prize money to the children of Palestinian refugees in Gaza, because they really need your help.

I must advise you that if you want to make such a donation, please come here to do so in person and not through  UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency.)

If you send funds through UNRWA,  Palestinian refugee children will never benefit from it, because UNRWA funds in Gaza wind up in the hands of Radical Islam.

You are personally invited to my home and my community in Jerusalem. 

We will organize a trip for you to travel to Gaza to meet Gaza school children and help you contribute your gift directly to children who need your help.

Here are the facts at your finger tips.

That rocket launchers were found at U.N. facilities was hardly surprising. 

Fifteen years ago, the Gaza-based employees of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency held elections to determine its union leaders. 

Hamas took advantage of the campaign and took over the entire school system. 

By 2012, more the 90 percent of UNRWA employees had become Hamas supporters.

As a result of the takeover, Hamas created an entire apparatus whose mission was to maintain its grip on all the Gaza-based UNRWA schools. 

The organization, Al-Kutla Al-Islamiya (the Islamic Bloc), changed the school curriculum and introduced new textbooks. 

Anyone looking at the subject matter would see an organization bent on disseminating its lethal ideology to young Gazans.

The takeover of UNRWA was an “inside job”, carried out by the Hamas representatives assigned to each school and whose job is to recruit students to the Islamic Bloc. 

This ensures  that UNRWA schools have programs that prepare pupils for the armed struggle against Israel. 

This involves grooming children as “would-be shaheeds [martyrs]” and brainwashing them on the unachieveable “right of return” to Arab villages from before 1948 that no longer exist.

For you to get a an idea of the indoctrination that is taking place in Gaza, it would suffice to look at the Islamic Bloc’s YouTubeclips, which feature UNRWA instructors acting at Hamas’ bidding.

The footage clearly shows that Gaza children are not introduced to the values of the U.N. but rather to the values of jihad, “liberation of Palestine”  and the “right of return,” by force or arms.

Despite all this being an open secret — all of UNRWA’s donors are in the know, including the United States and Israel — the organization is still considered a welfare and relief agency that could provide an “alternative to Hamas.” 

But if you ask Gazans what UNRWA has done for them, they would say “nothing,” (that is, except perpetuate their refugee status). Hamas knows the reason.

It has a vested interest in ensuring that conditions of poverty remain unchanged and that the millions of greenbacks keep flowing in. 

This keeps the “right of return” relevant.

To state it simply: Donors hand funds to UNRWA officials who are affiliated with Hamas who then act according to principles of Radical Islam, not of the UN principles. 

Rockets and tunnels had been the most pressing concern from Gaza this past summer. 

Over the long haul, it is the Hamas brainwashing of Gazan schoolchildren that should have us worried.

In peace,

Bassem Eid,

Human Rights Activist, Political Analyst and Commentator on the  Israeli-Palestinian Conflict & on Internal Palestinian Politics.

 

Palestinian activist calls to reform UNRWA


Bassem Eid, a Palestinian human rights activist, has launched a crusade against the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), tasked with providing “assistance and protection” for five million Palestinian refugees around the world. In Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, UNRWA gives food, aid, and runs schools.

Eid said a recent study by well-known Palestinian pollster Khalil Shikaki shows that 70 percent of Palestinian refugees are seeking financial compensation rather than the “right of return” to their former homes in what is today Israel. He said that UNRWA has an interest in perpetuating the right of return, to justify its large budgets. It is part of Eid’s blistering attack on UNRWA, which operates with a $1.2 billion budget from donor countries including the United States.

“Palestinians in refugee camps are suffering while UNRWA is gaining power and money,” Eid, who grew up in the Shuafat refugee camp in Jerusalem, told a small group of journalists. “In Gaza you hear more and more voices saying that UNRWA is responsible for delaying the reconstruction of Gaza (after the heavy fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza last summer).”

In an article in The Jerusalem Post earlier this month, Eid called for a five-point program to reform UNRWA including a call for an audit of all fund allocated to UNRWA and a demand that the organization dismiss employees affiliated with the Islamist Hamas, which controls Gaza.

“Hamas has never denied that the majority of UNRWA employees are affiliated with Hamas and coordinate with the organization,” Eid said.

During the past summer’s fighting in Gaza, Israel accused UNRWA of allowing Hamas to use its schools to fire rockets at southern Israel, a charge UNRWA denied. Over the summer, UNRWA twice found rockets in two empty schools and issued a strong condemnation.

“UNRWA strongly and unequivocally condemns the group or groups responsible for this flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law,” the group wrote in a statement published on its website. “The Agency immediately informed the relevant parties and is pursuing all possible measures for the removal of the objects in order to preserve the safety and security of the school. UNRWA will launch a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding this incident.”

UNRWA officials declined to comment on the allegations. But a UN source provided The Media Line with a list of 16 “errors” in Bassem Eid’s original article to the Jerusalem Post. The rebuttals were brief. For example, in response to Eid’s charge that UNRWA staff in Gaza are affiliated with Hamas, the source said, “UNRWA staff are not affiliated with Hamas.” In response to Eid’s call for an audit of UNRWA, the source wrote that Eid “insinuates no audits take place – they do.”

UNRWA has long been a target of the right-wing in Israel, and they have happily embraced Eid. He told The Media Line that he is not paid by any of these groups and is currently seeking independent sources of funding.

“I have only started this project three weeks ago and I will be meeting with many people trying to get it funded,” he said.

Lack of stability in Gaza risks return to war, says U.N.


There is still not an effective or united Palestinian government in place in Gaza and unless stability is achieved rapidly, another conflict will engulf the territory, a senior United Nations official said on Tuesday.

Robert Turner, director of operations for the United NationsRelief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza, said the extent of damage and homelessness after the July-August war was worse than first thought. The latest estimates suggested reconstruction would take two to three years if all went well, he said.

“I do not see the national consensus government effectively governing Gaza,” said Turner, referring to a technocrat cabinet agreed in June between the Western-backed Palestinian Authority and the Islamist movement Hamas, which dominates Gaza.

“If we do not have political stability, I think if we do not have a national Palestinian government, I think if we do not have at least an easing of the blockade, yes there will be another war,” Turner told reporters.

Israel has agreed to ease its blockade on Gaza's borders and allow reconstruction material and other goods to flow more freely into the territory, but it is predicated on the reconciliation government assuming full control in the enclave.

Ongoing differences between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, particularly over the payment of salaries to Hamas employees, has kept tensions high in Gaza and the flow of goods into the territory has been stalled. After a rocket was fired out of Gaza last week, Israel closed the borders for three days.

Economists in Gaza have estimated that as many as 400 trucks of equipment – from concrete to building materials and machinery – is needed every day for the next six months to meet the demand, but so far only around 75 trucks have made deliveries.

“I know there is frustration at the pace of reconstruction,” Turner said, adding that efforts were underway to fully implement a mechanism negotiated by the UN's special coordinator in the Middle East, Robert Serry, to speed up the flow of goods.

CHOKE POINTS

That mechanism relies on extremely close monitoring of all materials going into Gaza, including GPS tracking and video surveillance of their storage, to ensure nothing goes missing and ends up being used by militants to attack Israel.

“There are a number of weak points, choke points, and the mechanism is one,” Turner said. “We need political progress or we will not have the resources to do reconstruction regardless of what mechanism we have.”

At a conference last month, international donors pledged $5.4 billion in aid to Gaza's 1.8 million Palestinians, with around half of that earmarked for rebuilding the estimated 80,000 homes damaged or destroyed during the seven-week war.

The conflict, which began after Israel said it was determined to put a stop to constant rocket fire by Hamas militants into Israel, killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Sixty-seven Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel were also killed.

While Hamas and people in Gaza have lamented the slow flow of goods, Turner was optimistic that the volume could be greatly increased if political stability could be brought to bear and if Egypt and Israel fully lifted their combined blockade.

Asked if a volume of 400 trucks a day could be achieved, he was positive. “I do not believe the crossing is a problem,” he said. “All the technical problems can be addressed. The question for me is that the political choke points be addressed.”

“If the political will exists… expanding the crossing to 800 trucks a day is just a matter of paying for the expansion.”

U.S. providing additional $71 million in Gaza aid


The United States said it will provide $71 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the Palestinians in Gaza.

The funds announced Monday by Secretary of State John Kerry are above the $47 million pledged by the U.S. for emergency needs in Gaza in the wake of Israel’s military operation in the coastal strip.

From the new funding, $59 million will go to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA, the State Department said in a statement. The rest will go to other agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development. 

“The United States remains committed to addressing the needs of the Palestinian people,” the statement said.

Ban orders review following allegations UNRWA gave rockets back to Hamas


U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commissioned a review of U.N. practices for relocating weapons found on its premises following reports that rockets found in an UNRWA school were returned to Hamas.

“The Secretary-General is alarmed to hear that rockets were placed in an UNRWA school in Gaza and that subsequently these have gone missing,” Ban said in a statement Wednesday, a day after the second such cache of weapons was uncovered in a school run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the principal group assisting Palestinian refugees.

“The Secretary-General has asked for a full review of such incidents and how the U.N. responds in such instances,” the statement said. “The United Nations is taking concerted action to increase its vigilance in preventing such episodes from happening again.”

Ban, the statement said, directed two security departments to “to immediately develop and implement an effective security plan for the safe and secure handling of any weapons discovered in U.N. premises.”

Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, accused UNRWA of returning the missiles to Hamas when he met Wednesday with Ban, who is in the region trying to bring about a cease-fire, The Jerusalem Post reported.

Christopher McGrath, an UNRWA spokesman, told JTA in an email that UNRWA’s practice was to refer unexploded ordnance to “local authorities.” He said the local authorities in this case did not answer to Hamas but to the government of unaffiliated technocrats in Ramallah.

“They pledged to pass a message to all parties not to violate UNRWA neutrality,” he said of the authorities.

Another UNRWA spokesman said the missing weapons to which Ban referred was the second batch, discovered Tuesday. UNRWA evacuated the school, Christopher Gunness told JTA, and its staff sought appropriate personnel to remove the weapons only to discover the next day when they returned that the weapons had been removed.

“We evacuated the premises and placed a guard at the gate,” Gunness told JTA in an email from Jerusalem, where he is based.

“At the same time, we began intensive consultations to find an international actor to help survey the weapons so the extent of the problem could be ascertained and a safe disposal plan developed,” he said. “There were 1,500 displaced civilians in schools on either side of the installation and their safety was paramount. UNRWA staff did not re-enter the installation until the following day when displaced people from Beit Hanoun forced open the school seeking refuge. At that point our staff went to secure the area in which the weapons had been discovered the previous day and found they had been removed.”

Gunness noted that UNRWA staff have come under fire during the war. Three teachers, all women, were killed Thursday by Israeli fire — two in their residences, where family members also were killed, and one returning home from an UNRWA emergency shelter.

“Our hearts go out to their surviving family members,” he said.

 

Rockets discovered at second U.N. school in Gaza


Rockets were discovered in a second United Nations school in Gaza.

The school in which the rockets were discovered on Tuesday is located between two other United Nations Relief and Works Agency schools, that are currently serving as shelter for 1,500 internal Gazan refugees, UNRWA said in a statement.

It is not known how many rockets were discovered in the vacant school. The rockets were discovered during a regular inspection of the premises, the agency said.

“UNRWA strongly and unequivocally condemns the group or groups responsible for this flagrant violation of the inviolability of its premises under international law,” the statement said.

The agency, which said it would investigate the incident, said in the statement that it “is pursuing all possible measures for the removal of the objects in order to preserve the safety and security of the school.”

Also Tuesday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in remarks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Tel Aviv, “My message to Israelis and Palestinians is the same: Stop fighting. Start talking. And take on the root causes of the conflict, so we are not back to the same situation in another six months or a year.”

The underlying causes, he said, “are mutual recognition, occupation, despair and the denial of dignity.”

Ban, who also visited Ramallah in the West Bank, called for an “immediate and unconditional cease-fire.”

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that Israel’s operation in Gaza so far has left over 500 people dead, the majority of them Palestinian civilians. More than 100,000 Palestinians, or 5 percent of the population of Gaza, have been displaced in the fighting. The Palestinian Maan news agency reported Tuesday that more than 600 Gazan Palestinians have been killed since the operation began on July 8.

E.U. donates $335m to UNRWA


The European Union approved a $335 million contribution to UNRWA, the United Nations agency responsible for people it defines as Palestinian refugees.

The contribution, which will go to UNRWA‘s General Fund for core services for the period 2014-2016, was announced on Wednesday at a ceremony attended by E.U. Foreign Affairs Chief Catherine Ashton and UNRWA Commissioner-General Pierre Krahenbühl.

“The European Union remains a steadfast partner for Palestine refugees amid the uncertainty of the Middle East right now,” he said at the ceremony in Brussels, according to the E.U.-funded ENPI Information and Communication Support Project.

“The European Union’s continuing support to UNRWA is a key element in our strategy to promote stability in the Middle East and facilitate the parties’ quest for peace,” said Ashton.

Ashton and Krahenbühl signed a joint declaration on E.U. support for UNRWA — an acronym for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees — in which the European Union pledged the new sum.

The United States is also a major donor to UNRWA, having contributed close to $300 million in 2013.

Founded in 1949, UNRWA provides social, welfare and medical services to approximately five million Palestinian Arabs who were displaced during the first Israeli-Arab war of 1948, or are descended from Palestinian Arabs who were displaced in the conflict. UNRWA provides education, welfare and medical services in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

Israel’s government works with UNRWA on a number of levels, in part because the agency’s relief helps maintain stability in the region, although Israel has clashed with the agency on a number of occasions.

In 2011, Israel’s foreign ministry accused UNRWA of helping to perpetuate the Palestinian-Israeli conflict by “not applying equal and universal principles,” claiming that its definition of refugee is more liberal than that of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

UNRWA officials say that in many cases they assist Palestinians who would otherwise be neglected by host governments. UNRWA has been a key conduit for aid, for instance, to Palestinians affected by the Syrian conflict.

Between 2007 and 2013, the European Union has provided more than $1.3 billion in support to UNRWA. In 2013, funding by European Union member states and institutions accounted for 43 percent of the U.N. organization’s budget, according to ENPI.

 

Arab Idol’s residency is more than just an address


This article orignally appeared on themedialine.org.
 
Celebrities around the world frequently change their place of residence for reasons much less compelling than meeting the needs of their career. But when the celebrity in question is leaving the Gaza Strip for the West Bank, unimagined complications emerge, as the newest Palestinian superstar is finding out.

Israel, which controls the movement of Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank, has just announced that it has given approval for Mohammed Assaf, winner of the Arab world’s franchise of the international “Idol” television phenomenon, and his family, to change their residency from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. Assaf, for whom travel will now play a large part in his life, he will no longer require the Palestinian Civil Administration to ask for Israel’s permission to the singer to leave Gaza.

As a part of the contract he signed upon winning Idol, Assaf’s actual residence will be in Dubai. But according to his aides in Ramallah, he will always want to come back to the Palestinian Territories.

“It's easier for him to travel within the West Bank having his residency changed especially when he is invited to perform in several concerts in Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jericho, etc.”, they told  The Media Line. Although Assaf can also return to Gaza, but to do so he will need to apply to Israel for a permit.

But many people here believe that he will never go back to the Gaza Strip. “Why would he go back? There is nothing for him to do there,” Omar Adel, a Ramallah-based computer engineer told The Media Line.

With Israel still in control of movement there, Gazans cannot travel to the West Bank unless they are given a permit by Israel. Those who wish to travel abroad can ask for a permit to go to the West Bank, then cross into Jordan over the Allenby Bridge and fly from Amman’s international airport. Or, as most people do, they can register their name with Gaza’s Hamas government and travel via Egypt after entering through the Egyptian-controlled Rafah crossing point.

Upon his celebrated victory in the singing competition, Assaf was granted a diplomatic passport by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and a United Nations passport when the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) named the singer a goodwill ambassador. However, the passports will not ease his movement if he wants to leave Gaza when the border is closed: a frequent situation due to Egyptian security concerns that affects even high-level officials.

Gazans are quick to realize that Assaf’s good fortune actually began at Rafah because had the crossing point been closed, he would not have made it to the competition which was televised from Beirut.  In fact, Assaf almost missed the auditions In Egypt because he was stuck at the border for two days. A fan of the former wedding singer gave him his turn to audition, leading to the storybook ending and stardom.

A few days after his victory, thousands went to the border of the Gaza Strip to greet Assaf upon his return.  Sources told The Media Line that the Hamas government in Gaza told Assaf that he will not be able to hold any concerts in his hometown.

However, the situation is Ramallah is quite the opposite. Assaf came to the West Bank for second time after his June victory to inaugurate the Solomon Pools music festival in Bethlehem; and more recently returned to the West Bank to appear in the welcoming celebration for the visiting Barcelona football team in Hebron.

In fact, residents of the West Bank have already had a number of opportunities to see and hear Assaf. His first visit included welcoming FIFA (soccer league) head Sepp Blatter; hosting free concerts in Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jenin; and appearing in concert at hotels for those who paid around $125 per ticket to hear Assaf perform.  

Meanwhile, fans back in Assaf’s native Gaza Strip wish they had the same opportunity to see him. The problem there is not just issues of free movement. It’s also the religious fundamentalism of the Hamas government. “Hamas prevents men and women from mingling, so we weren’t expecting that Assaf will have any parties here, but we had a dream that he would,” Rana Hamdan, a 27-year-old NGO worker living in Gaza told The Media Line.

Hamdan says she understands that Assaf was not going to stay in Gaza after he become an Arab celebrity, but many of her friends felt some of their national pride was taken away.

Others share the resentment. “The Palestinian Authority and several businessmen are using Assaf,” Ahmed Mustafa, a 30-year-old government employee from Gaza told The Media Line. “They are including him in every occasion. I don’t know how he will sing anything against the Palestinian Authority or supportive of resistance against Israel,” Mustafa said.

Palestinian writer Ramzi Sadeq Shahin published in article in the Gaza-based Donia Al Watan agency calling Assaf a “fake ambassador.” “Gaza supported Assaf, but now he forgot about it. He had always said that he’s the son of Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza, but now he and his family moved to Ramallah as if Gaza has become a disgrace to him,” Shahin wrote in part.

Others have also been disappointed by the decision for more personal reasons. “I was frustrated when I heard that President Mahmoud Abbas gave Assaf a diplomatic passport and that Israel has agreed to his residency change,” Ruba Jahshan, 25, and officially from Gaza told The Media Line.

Jahshan is unable to leave the city of Bethlehem out of fear that officials at the Israeli checkpoints in between the West Bank cities will discover her situation and deport her to Gaza.

Jahshan posted a Facebook photo of her 1 ½-year old daughter, Tia, talking to her grandmother and aunts on Skype. Jashan, who says she hasn’t seen her sisters and brother for more than 5 years, wrote to President Abbas on his Facebook page saying, “I don’t want to be a diplomat. But can’t you, Mr. President, use these passports for people like us who can’t visit their families? It’s more humanitarian.” Jahshan says she’s not sure whether the president has heard her plea.

In 2007, Jasha came to Bethlehem using a temporary permit with the intent to marry the person she loved. “I didn’t know it would be this complicated,” Jahshan explained to The Media Line. Because Israel didn’t grant her a change of residency when the permit expired, she has lived in the West Bank illegally since then. Her parents are able to visit her each year at Easter and at Christmas when Israel provides permits for Christians to spend the holidays with their families in the West Bank.

Until matters come to a change as she waits for Israeli approval to change her residency to the West Bank, Jahshan says she will not encourage any Gazan to fall in love with a West Banker. Meanwhile, she is envious of Assaf’s newfound freedom of movement.

As a singer living amid this seemingly endless conflict, many ask Assaf to refrain from internecine politics and to be closer to the people. Emad Drimly, a journalist from the Gaza Strip and a fan of Assaf is one of them.

Drimly supports the singer’s choice of residency, but thinks he should stay clear of politics. “It’s a professional decision for Assaf to move to the West Bank. I am not against the decision as the situation Gaza prevents him from advancing his career forward. There is an attempt to create a division between the people of Gaza and the people of the West Bank, so I think Assaf should stay away from the political dispute,” Drimly added.

Warrior mom


Like any parent, Esther Kandel is crazy about her kids. For years, she has led the typical Jewish parenting life: PTA meetings, carpooling, after-school activities, nightly homework and dinner with the kids, preparing for Shabbat and holidays, and so on.

But behind this normal life, she has led another, more mysterious life that few people know about — one that includes, among other things, going undercover as a spy to expose radical Islamic elements.

Back in 2002, when the Second Intifada was raging, she would regularly put on a hijab and attend Islamic conferences all over Southern California. She was there to document the hateful venom that often permeated these events, reporting her findings to private investigators of radical Islam in America.

Her obsession with fighting the evil of terrorism, she says, started on a Tuesday morning at the Cleveland airport. The date was Sept. 11, 2001. As she headed for her gate, she remembers seeing a security guard running at full speed toward her and screaming: “Everybody evacuate, the airplane’s coming this way!”

It was a false alarm for Cleveland, of course, but not for New York or Washington, and the events of that day left a mark on Kandel that still fires her warrior instincts.

One of her first battles was in the winter of 2002, when she saw a report on honestreporting.com about a fake Palestinian funeral filmed by the IDF, which showed a “dead” Palestinian body that kept falling off the stretcher and getting back on — an obvious hoax.

Outraged, she got a copy of the videotape and spent hours on the phone with news producers trying to convince them to air it. Eventually, she got it on MSNBC, where Alan Keyes used the footage to illustrate, in his words, “the issue of Palestinian credibility in the wake of increasing indications that the claims of hundreds of dead and Nazi-style atrocities were greatly exaggerated, abused for propaganda purposes to achieve a political result.”

Kandel was just getting warmed up.

Since then, in between PTA meetings and carpooling, she has continued her Batman-like escapades into the murky world of radical Islam and made a nuisance of herself any time she saw fit, even with members of her own tribe.

At a November 2007 conference in New York titled: “Hijacking Human Rights: The Demonization of Israel at the United Nations,” sponsored by the Hudson Institute and two Jewish organizations, she stood up and publicly took to task Ambassador Daniel Carmon, Israel’s deputy permanent envoy to the United Nations, who had lauded the work of UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency) in sustaining Palestinian refugees.

Kandel, who had lobbied Capitol Hill to cut off U.S. funding for UNRWA, which she accused of massive corruption and publishing anti-Semitic textbooks, was subsequently quoted in the Jewish Week: “It doesn’t help when we are trying to educate members of Congress about the fraud and evil-doing in UNRWA to have a representative of Israel say that UNRWA is a good thing. I feel undercut and undermined by the government of Israel on this issue.”

No cause, however, has grabbed Kandel’s passion like that of 55-year-old Mithal al Alusi, who has been called the “bravest man in Iraq.”

Alusi is the secular and liberal Sunni politician who has incurred the wrath of Iraqi leaders for doing things like visiting Israel, protesting too loudly about human rights abuses and warning against the corrupting influence of Iran. After he first visited Israel in 2004 — and made a star turn at a counterterrorism conference — he was stripped of his bodyguards and his position in the transition government.

Kandel quickly heard about his situation and got in touch with Alusi, who sent her an e-mail saying he feared he would be thrown in jail or killed by terrorists. She tried to help, but all the doors were closed. Shortly thereafter, Alusi’s two boys were brutally murdered. Undeterred, he told the Los Angeles Times: “They were stupid to think that by killing my sons they would make me soft.”

Fired up by the boys’ murders, Kandel spent several months flying back and forth to Israel and Washington, lobbying members of Congress to move Alusi to the safer Green Zone in Baghdad. She and Alusi, who flew to Washington, met with a motley crew of sympathizers — including people like David Frum, Christopher Hitchens, New York Sun journalist Eli Lake and Iraqi blogger Nibras Kazimi — and eventually hit pay dirt when the late Congressman Tom Lantos, himself a fervent Zionist and Holocaust survivor, took up the cause.

In May 2005, Alusi and his wife were moved into the safety of the Green Zone, along with his 70 bodyguards.

But now he is in danger again, because earlier this year he had the chutzpah to attend another conference in Israel. He was immediately stripped of his parliamentary immunity and, Kandel says, is at risk of being tried for treason.

When I spoke to Alusi a few weeks ago by phone from Baghdad, he seemed to feel he had more important things on his plate than his own survival. He desperately wants the world to know the extent to which Iran has infiltrated the Iraqi government.

“Almost everyone’s corrupt,” he told me. “Half of the Parliament is working for the Iranians or the terrorists, and the other half is distracted by money.”

So while Alusi fights to get his important message out, Kandel and her allies are fighting to get him justice and protection so he can continue his fight.

It’s not clear where this Pico-Robertson mother gets her unrelenting passion to defend a Mesopotamian man most of us have never heard of, or, for that matter, where she gets the energy to make 100 calls in one afternoon in support of one cause or another.

This, however, is clear: With two daughters in college and a son already in high school, this carpool mom will soon have a lot more time to play warrior mom — a pleasant thought for victims everywhere.

David Suissa, an advertising executive, is founder of OLAM magazine and Ads4Israel.com. He can be reached at dsuissa@olam.org.