“I worry,” Walter Cronkite once said, “that we’re not getting enough of the news to make us informed citizens.” Looking at recent coverage of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), Cronkite’s concerns seem justified, as recent reports by Foreign Policy magazine and The Washington Post, among others, have whitewashed troubling aspects of the organization’s history.
UNRWA was created in 1949, following the unsuccessful attempt by several Arab states to destroy Israel. It is the only UN organization whose stated mission is to assist a specific group of refugees — Palestinian Arabs. All other refugee populations in the world fall under the jurisdiction of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This is but one of several ways in which “Palestinian refugees” are treated and categorized in a completely different manner from every other refugee.
As Cliff Smith, an analyst at the Middle East Forum, has highlighted, UNRWA’s peculiar definition of “refugee” includes people who are “generations removed from the conflict, people who are citizens of new states, and people who are in their internationally recognized home of the West Bank and Gaza.” UNRWA’s categorization of “refugee” also applies to citizens of recognized states.
As the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) has noted, according to UNRWA’s spurious definition, the 20-year old, Los Angeles-born millionaire fashion model Bella Hadid is considered a “refugee.”