As a proud Palestinian who grew up in an UNRWA refugee camp, this is not the first time that I have been involved in an effort to reform UNRWA, so that UNRWA will treat descendants of Arab refugees from the 1948 war with dignity.
I fondly remember the hopes that were raised in the early 1980’s , when UNRWA camp residents throughout the Middle East cooperated with an Israeli government minister, Mordecai Ben Porat, to plan a massive effort to transform the UNRWA camps into decent communities, until the donor nations stopped all efforts at UNRWA reform and the UN stepped in with a UN resolution in 1985 which stopped all efforts to reform UNRWA under the silly premise that any attempt to improve our conditions in the refugee camps would violate our “right of return” to Arab villages that existed before 1948.
My first activist venture for UNRWA reform occurred in 1986, when I participated in demonstrations outside of the UNRWA offices in Jerusalem, where we demanded the removal of the director of the UNRWA camp in Shuafat, Jerusalem, where I grew up
Perhaps the turning point in UNRWA corruption occurred in 1988, when UNRWA appointed an officer in each camp who was then instructed to organize popular committees to control funding of humanitarian services in the camps, which resulted in the popular committees gaining power over the distribution of funds for health, education and welfare services from more than forty countries, and the disappearance of funds into the pockets of these popular committees.
Do you know how often UNRWA collects double, triple and quadruple donations for the same health, educational or social service from different donor nations, allowing the difference to be embezzled
The Hamas takeover of the UNRWA workers union and UNRWA teachers union in Gaza in 1999 represented a continuity of the policy of allowing political groups to control the lives of our people who live under UNRWA. The studies conducted by the US Congressional Research Group and the European Parliament which document the Hamas takeover of UNRWA in Gaza have been shared with the donor countries, who seem to ignore the reality that the laws passed by just about all donor nations forbid aid to any refugee agency which is controlled by terrorist groups or where military training takes have seen the evidence that paramilitary training takes place in the UNRWA schools in Gaza, because the Hamas school teachers share evidence of that training on the you tube.
I have seen the new school books used by UNRWA which emphasize war, Jihad and the command to conquer all of Palestine as the supposed values promoted by UNRWA.
I have conducted countless interviews with children in UNRWA schools who affirm that UNRWA prepares them for war.
This UNRWA policy is not acceptable to any Palestinian who wants peace.
I therefore announce that I intend to organize delegations of Palestinian refugees to make our voices known to the donor nations of UNRWA, to demand that the countries who give money to UNRWA condition further funds on a total overhaul of UNRWA.
Two weeks ago, I was invited to appear in the Parliament in London. I intend to appear at 20 Parliaments of donor nations with a clear demand of UNRWA Reform as a condition of funding UNRWA.
UNRWA must be forced by the donor nations to conduct an audit and stop the unchecked flow of funds to UNRWA facilities, to make sure that there are no duplication of donations which allows for funds to be embezzled.
UNRWA must dismiss Hamas members from its schools. Since when does a UN agency allow for terrorists on staff?
UNRWA must engage in permanent resettlement of the descendants of refugees
To the Americans, I have a special message: Stop repeating the untruthful mantra that UNRWA schools are an alternative to Hamas schools, since UNRWA schools in Gaza have been run by Hamas for more than 15 years, and since Hamas and PA schools in all run the same exact curriculum.
And to the Israelis I have a special message.
Your Civil Administration delivers $13 million in cash each month to UNRWA in Gaza at the Erez Crossing, at the request of UNRWA, which likes to receive cold cash in US dollars, from donor countries who use the Bank of Israel to deliver funds to UNRWA in Gaza. Do the Israelis not realize that they are handing cash to a terrorist organization, since Hamas runs UNRWA in Gaza? Are Israelis under any illusions as to what the Hamas does with that cash.?
And then there are the cement deliveries to UNRWA in Gaza from Israel!
Why does Israel allow these cement trucks to build UNRWA schools without making basic demands that UNRWA remove Hamas from their premises?
Perhaps Israel Civil Administration can report to the people as to how much profits the Nesher cement corporation make from these cement deliveries in Gaza?
Israelis must ask: Are Nesher profits more important than a Hamas danger posed to human lives?