Ma’an published an op-ed by Ali Hweidi, a writer and researcher on Palestinian affairs from Lebanon, about the threat of closing down UNRWA.
He begins by stating a truth that UNRWA’s supporters in the West vehemently deny.
The calls for the establishment of alternative institutions to UNRWA are a strategic threat that weakens the political power of the refugee issue and turns it into a humanitarian issue.
That’s exactly it. UNRWA was always meant to be a humanitarian agency, but the Palestinians and Arab world turned the refugee issue into a political issue — a means to attack Israel and not actually solve the problem.
This politicization of UNRWA is what makes it an anti-humanitarian agency.
Hweidi goes through the history of UNRWA, not entirely accurately, describing how different it was in the 1950s compared to today. By doing so, he doesn’t quite realize that he is damning the agency.
In 1949, the Agency was given the task of supporting the Palestinian refugees, in addition to providing humanitarian services such as health, education and relief, coordinating with the host countries to integrate refugees into the economies of the region and working to settle those who do not wish to return and reside in host countries in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. These countries were forced to sign armistice agreements with the Israeli occupation between February and July 1949, creating a political climate suitable to begin the process of resettlement without the objection of the host countries and the exploitation of the deteriorating humanitarian situation of the refugees. The refugees themselves stopped this project and promoted awareness of what their perception was being plotted against them.