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"UNRWA - Connected to Hamas and Bad for the Refugees"

New film shows how Hamas has infiltrated UNRWA, but also what another UN agency does to solve the problem of the Arab refugees.
By Elad Benari & Yoni Kempinski
First Publish: 8/2/2011, 3:12 AM

Researchers at the Center for Near East Policy Research have produced a new documentary film entitled “Palestinian Refugee Policy: From Despair to Hope.”

The film shows just how deeply Hamas has penetrated UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency), the UN agency specializing in providing aid to PA Arabs. The film does this by using school posters and interviews with UNRWA teachers to highlight how the ideal of killing Israelis—rather than working for peace—has come to dominate a UN agency.

“The system of indoctrination in the Palestinian schools and summer camps run by UNRWA is contrasted with what goes on in Israel,” said David Bedein, Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research. “The entire State of Israel’s education system prepares people for some kind of peace in the future, while the United Nations is preparing the Palestinian Arab population to take back their homes from 1948.”

In the UNRWA-run summer camps, said Bedein, “The children are taught to take back the homes they lost in 1948 and repossess them. Now, those homes are not in Judea, Samaria, or Gaza. Those homes are everywhere possible within Israel itself.”

Bedein believes that UNRWA does not think its policy is an essence support for terror.

“From their point of view, this is the actualization of the human right, what they call the right of return,” he said.

The film also portrays a little known-initiative pioneered by another UN agency called UNHCR, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. This agency has launched an effort to resettle descendants of Arab refugees in South America, holding out a life of hope for their next generation.

“We show a film in Chile and we could have shown a film in 11 other countries where almost 20,000 Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendants are being relocated,” said Bedein.

“The concept of helping refugee descendants to go other countries such as Chile is one of the solutions,” he added. “We cannot solve the Israeli-Arab war. However, what can be solved is the issue of the refugees.”

According to Bedein, there is an effort going on in the United States Congress, in the Canadian parliament and in the European parliament (all of which fund UNRWA) to reform UNRWA so that it stops encouraging the right of return.

“For the first time, after 23 years of working on this subject, we are getting excellent feedback from the U.S. Congress, the Canadian parliament and the European parliament and, off the record, from officials in these governments,” he said. “They understand that this is the Achilles’ heel of the process and that if this isn’t solved, nothing can be solved.”

As for UNRWA itself, Bedein described it as “defensive. UNRWA wants to continue as it is. The fact that the UNRWA workers’ association and teachers’ association was taken over by Hamas doesn’t seem to bother them.”