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Jordan’s New Center for Israel Studies

April 8 2015

Abdullah Swalha, a Jordanian political scientist, thinks Jordanians could benefit from better understanding the state on the other side of their western border. “Why is it,” he asks, “that Israeli think tanks know everything about the Arab world, but that Arab think tanks don’t know anything about Israel?” To this end, he has started the Center for Israel Studies in Amman. Avi Lewis writes:

The . . . Center for Israel Studies [is] an independent nonprofit think tank established in late 2014 that seeks to combat media misinformation surrounding the Jewish state and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by presenting an alternative, [more neutral] view of Israel in Arabic for Jordan’s decision makers, journalists, and wider public. . . .

The man behind the institute, Dr. Abdullah Swalha, wants to see an informed Arab public equipped with the tools to relate, deal, and negotiate with Israel, by presenting the country as an imperfect democracy and model of tolerance, albeit with inequalities between Arab and Jewish citizens and an occupying power still controlling the lives of millions of Palestinians in the West Bank—a far cry from the “Zionist entity” trope widely used for decades in the Arab world as a blanket description for the Jewish state.

“We don’t see the other side of Israel: Israel as a model of democracy, Israel as a model for prosperity, Israel as a state that respects human rights,” Swalha [said].

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel-Arab relations, Israeli democracy, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Jordan

The Palestinian Authority Should Be Held Responsible for Palestinian Refugees

April 25 2018

For aid and assistance with resettlement, most of the world’s displaced persons look to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Only Palestinian refugees and their descendants are consigned to the bloated, corrupt, and terrorist-infiltrated UN Relief Works Agency (UNRWA), which aims to keep its wards in a permanent state of refugeehood. Alex Joffe argues that UNRWA should be abolished, and its responsibilities handed over to the Palestinian Authority (PA):

The PA [should] be responsible for the Palestinians within its own territories as well as those who reside in other Arab states. It would [thus] be forced to act like a state and defend the rights and interests of its own citizens. Externally, foreign aid to a state can also—in theory—be subject to more rigorous donor oversight. Unlike UNRWA’s internal assessments, which rarely find problems except in the allegedly inadequate scale of aid and programs, external review by donor countries would examine metrics and efficiencies, spot corruption, determine the success or failure of programs, and assess the overall level of need. External review is designed to encourage self-sufficiency, not dependency. . . .

UNRWA is an iconic and sacrosanct entity. Without it, aid to the Palestinians would no longer be a sacralized demonstration of support for their narratives of displacement and return, or of support for the international system itself and for the UN. The Palestinian issue would be put into proportion while other needs and issues, like the genuine refugee crises in Syria and Yemen, would receive proper attention and resources.

Finally, by transferring responsibility, two cultural-political requirements would be addressed. First, a final-status issue would be at least partially taken off the table [of Israel-Palestinian negotiations]: that of who bears responsibilities for Palestinian “refugees.” It is the PA. Even without formally repudiating the “right of return,” which UNRWA supports and the PA cannot at this point conceivably abandon, the issue would be incrementally quashed in theoretical and practical terms.

The PA’s taking responsibility, and the end of UNRWA, would also go a long way toward forcing Palestinians to give up the centrality of refugee-ness in their own culture. They are not refugees, much less internationally supported ones. They are a people with their own nascent state.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Israel & Zionism, Palestinian Authority, Palestinian refugees, UNRWA