Op-Ed: Palestine - A State of Confusion Promoted by UNESCO (INN) ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS) David Singer 05/28/12)
INN} ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS
INN} ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS Articles-Index-Top
If they recognized the supposed "State of Palestine", why don´t
UNESCO and UNWRA dismantle the refugee camps? How can you be a
refugee in your own "state"?
A crisis of diplomatic confusion seems to have arisen between two
affiliate organizations of the United Nations following the
announcement by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for
Palestinian Refugees (UNWRA) of its intention to upgrade the
dilapidated conditions in some of the refugee camps under its
control - rather than taking progressive steps to close them down
following recognition of the State of Palestine by UNESCO on 31
The upgrades will take place with the help of German Government
funding in improving health clinics, sanitation and advanced
education in coordination with local committees in five camps in the
West Bank and two in Jordan.
Certainly any improvements to the daily lives of refugees and the
abject conditions under which they have lived for the last six
decades should be regarded as a welcome initiative.
However, the recognition of the State of Palestine by UNESCO - and
with it an end to Palestinian homelessness - should have also
signalled, at least for the sake of consistency, the beginning of the
dismantlement of the refugee camps and a structured program to
achieve this humanitarian goal.
The vast resources available to UNWRA should surely now be better
employed to assist the permanent resettlement of Palestinian refugees
in their "newly recognized state". Yet UNWRA has remained silent on
implementing any such plans.
One of the camps slated for an upgrade is the Dheishe refugee camp -
at present home to 13000 refugees. This camp is situated on the
outskirts of Bethlehem in Area A of the West Bank - an area
completely under the administrative and military control of the
If there are any areas that can be readily identified as forming part
of the proposed and "newly recognized state of Palestine" - it is
those areas that comprise Area A under the Oslo Accords - which
currently cover 18% of the West Bank and include 55% of the total
Arab population of the West Bank. Not one Jew lives in Area A.
On December 21, 1995, Israeli troops withdrew from Bethlehem and
three days later the city came under the complete administration and
military control of the Palestinian National Authority in conformance
with the Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in
One could indeed ask why Dheishe refugee camp has not been shut down
at any time during the last 17 years of its existence - post Oslo -
given that resposibility for the lives of its inhabitants was always
under the complete authority and control of the Palestinian Authority.
The reasons profferred till now have been the lack of a Palestinian
state to end Palestinian Arab homelessness and a belief that one day
the residents would be entitled to return to live in Israel. This
latter reason has never been - and will never be - an option that can
ever be realised unless the State of Israel itself is dismantled.
The UNESCO decision to recognize the existence of an independent
State of Palestine has brought with it an end to the acceptability of
claims by Arabs of Palestinian Arab homelessness. .
Yet Habis al-Aisa - a Dheishe resident - still believes nothing has
changed as he laments:
"We´re refugees, and the U.N. should be totally responsible for our
needs and our situation, because our status is an international
Another resident - Othman Abu Omar comments:
"We hope one day to be done with dependence. Everybody should depend
Sandi Hilal - the director of UNRWA´s "camp improvement program" in
the the area- also seems to be under the same misapprehension as to
the change in status of those under his charge when adding:
"Improving the daily life of refugees doesn´t jeopardize their right
to return back home".
Can the Dheishe occupants still claim the status of "refugees" - now
that UNESCO claims they have their own State - a goal that has been
pursued with international support and diplomacy for the last 19
Does UNWRA´s stated position on the "right to return home" mean "to
the UNESCO recognized State of Palestine" - or does it mean "to
It would appear that UNWRA is having problems comprehending the
enormity of the UNESCO decision and the changes that have occurred to
the status of those whom it has looked after for 64 years.
The United Nations has recognized as Palestinian refugees those
Palestinian Arabs - and their descendants - who registered with
UNRWA after fleeing their homes from what is now Israel. They are
covered by the U.N. resolutions and eligible to receive the agency´s
services even if not resident in the camps, but not if they attain
citizenship or asylum in another country.
The Palestinian Arab "refugees" have enjoyed a special status not
accorded to any other refugee groups world wide during the past 64
years. That status is - and has always been - privileged and
discriminatory and needs to be ended without delay - especially now
that a "Palestinian state" has been internationally recognized and
accepted by the 194 member states of UNESCO.
UNWRA now needs to rise to the challenges and the opportunities the
UNESCO decision has presented - and implement a program for the
closing of the refugee camps.
UNWRA and UNESCO should be meeting to jointly plan such a
humanitarian program to bring the long running and festering issue of
the Palestinian Arab refugees to an end.
Whilst UNESCO recognizes the existence of a a Palestinian State and
UNWRA apparently does not - one can only conclude that
The sooner the refugee camps start being dismantled - the better the
prospects for a resolution of the long running Jewish-Arab conflict
in the area. (IsraelNationalNews © 2012 05/28/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY