Tuesday, June 05, 2012

5-Jun-12: If there's one single thing about UNRWA that we wish people understood, it's this

A week ago, Australia signed on to a USD 90 million partnership agreement with UNRWA in support of what are termed its core programmes throughout the Middle East. The Australian commitment is for five years, and appears to be the initiative of Foreign Minister Bob Carr.

That Australia, an enlightened and fair-minded country filled with people of a similar character, is handing over large wads of donation money to that disgraceful organization is distressing. It's rare for the public sense of a major international body to be so at odds with what it actually does, what it stands for. You hope that people in government can see past this sort of thing. But too often, that's not what happens.

UNRWA, the United Nations agency created to care for the Palestinian Arabs 63 years ago, ought to be one of the bright spots in the dismal UN story. It's difficult to think of higher humanitarian principles: helping the dispossessed, educating and clothing the poor, giving meaning to lives damaged by political turmoil and dispossession. 

But the way it works in practice is not quite so bright.

Most Australians, if they pay attention to this at all, are likely to interpret criticism of the Carr decision as being political in its nature. This is a pity. Criticism of UNRWA, how it gets supported, what it does with the money it receives, cuts right across political lines. You don't have to be a friend of Israel to be appalled with what UNRWA is and does. 

But this is not a detailed take-down of UNRWA; maybe another time. For now, we want simply to point to one single factor. We blogged about it in February.

It's this. If UNRWA's work is so important, if it brings us closer to peace, if it restores dignity to the lives of dispossessed and destitute Arabs, then why, when you look at the top twenty list of donors to this agency that exists entirely from donations do you see that only one is Arab. In 2010, the most recent year for which we can find reliable data, that Arab donation (Islamic Development Bank) comes in at number 19. Australia gave three times as much and that was before last week's major gift announcement.

Every Aussie who pays taxes and/or cares for a decent humanitarian outcome to the Arab/Israel conflict needs to ask her/himself why the Arabs consistently don't give to alleviate the suffering of their Palestinian Arab brethren. This is a truly key question to which there are some persuasive and deeply disturbing answers.

We are more than willing to share an analysis of why UNRWA's work - all of it - makes the Middle East conflict worse not better, and was always intended to have that effect since UNRWA's inception in December 1949. 

Without any doubt, Australia's increased payments are a step away from peace, not towards it, and in the direction of encouraging more and more and more terror. But that's for a separate post.

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