According to recent estimates, there are fewer than 50,000 living Arab refugees from Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, but the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA)—an organization dedicated solely to the needs of Palestinians—caters to a population of over five million, composed of any descendants of the original refugees on the male line including even their great-grandchildren. Much good would be done, argue Richard Schifter and Eric Rozenman, by ending UNRWA’s independence:
Over the years, UNRWA has helped prolong the refugee problem it was created to resolve. A self-perpetuating bureaucracy, UNRWA also functions as an employment agency with a reported 30,000 staffers—most Palestinian and some having come from terrorist groups like Hamas. It boasts an annual budget of $1.3 billion, of which American taxpayers provide $400 million.
In the 2014 Gaza war, . . . UNRWA facilities—including schools and clinics—served wittingly or unwittingly as weapons depots and launch pads or as “shields” against retaliation for attacks staged from adjacent properties. During periods of quiet, anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish curricula in UNRWA schools have indoctrinated future generations of rejectionists and terror recruits.
There is no doubt that simply abolishing UNRWA would overburden Jordan and the Palestinian Authority with responsibility to support these persons of Palestinian ancestry who have not yet been fully integrated into the countries in which they live. That is why, for both political and humanitarian reasons, it would be appropriate for the United States to call for UNRWA to be folded into the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC), and insist [that] the $400-million UNRWA allocation [go directly to] the UNHCR.
Further, the United States should require that Palestinian Arab refugees be treated like all other displaced groups. None of them can bequeath refugee status—and the material, financial, and diplomatic support that comes with it—to future generations. Finally, the United States should insist UNRWA-enabled anti-Israel, anti-peace curricula not migrate to UNHCR.