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'We need to close UNRWA down for good,’ says former Israeli Knesset member

Wilf provides thought-provoking testimony about the United Nations refugee organization

A general strike by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in the Balata camp, in the West Bank city of Nablus, January 24, 2023. (Photo: Nasser Ishtayeh/Flash90)

Since the murderous invasion of southern border communities in Israel by Hamas terrorists on Oct. 7, and the ensuing war in the Gaza Strip, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in short, has been in the news a lot, most of the time siding with Palestinians or even flat-out supporting the Hamas terror organization.

Dr. Einat Wilf explained the deeply rooted issues with the UN organization in her recent testimony in front of the Knesset Committee for Foreign Policy and Information.

“UNRWA was taken over by the Arab refugees, to turn into a Palestinian organization for their benefit. From the beginning, it was built as an organization against the partition plan [of Palestine],” said Wilf, a former Israeli Knesset member in the Labor party.

Wilf, co-author of: "The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream has Obstructed the Path to Peace," has been involved in the refugee issue for years.

She explained that UNRWA was founded as one of many temporary UN agencies dealing with refugee problems after World War II, similar to the UN Korean Reconstruction Agency (UNKRA).

Dr. Einat Wilf speaking at a session of the Knesset Committee for Foreign Policy and Information (Photo: Screenshot)

Contrary to what happened with UNRWA, some two million Korean refugees – three times the number of Arab refugees – were settled in a span of 3-4 years, and did so with only one-third the amount of funding the UNRWA has had.

UNKRA was eventually disbanded once it fulfilled its mandate of solving the refugee problem, something that UNRWA never attempted to do, even if it would be possible, according to its mandate.

However, Arab refugees who fled during Israel’s War of Independence 1948 refused to be settled, because, in their eyes, this would mean the recognition of the state of Israel.

Despite failing from the beginning, Arab nations pressured the West not to close UNRWA, as they wanted to keep it as a “constant question mark hanging over the existence of the Jewish state,” Wilf explained.

UNRWA went on to raise generations of people who see themselves as required to "Free Palestine" and to return the “lost paradise.”

This education, perpetrated through the refugee status itself, as well as through the school curricula, “naturally gives birth to terror organizations,” Wilf said.

“Hamas is a product of today’s UNRWA, but the perpetrators of the massacre of [Israeli] athletes in Munich [1974] were also children of the camps, they were also the product of UNRWA schools.”

Wilf explained that about 40% of the 5.8 million registered "refugees" that live in the West Bank or Gaza, were born there over the last three, four or sometimes five generations, according to their own view.

“We have more than 2 million people here, who according to their view were born in Palestine, but are still registered as refugees from Palestine. Which Palestine? The one that will be freed and will replace the Jewish state.”

Wilf argued these two million people would not be considered refugees under any other international standard.

Another 40% of registered refugees are Jordanian citizens, she explained, and many of them have reached the upper middle class and are businessmen, shopkeepers, etc. Most of them don’t live in the “refugee” camps anymore.

Roughly one million were living in Lebanon and Syria. Many of them left these countries in recent years and moved to Europe but even if they receive citizenship in their new country, they are still registered on UNRWA lists.

Because UNRWA automatically registers the next generation as refugees, the UNRWA ID has basically become a Palestinian identity marker, Wilf explained, and the services being provided mostly serve as an excuse to continue the existence of the UNRWA organization.

Wilf said the UNRWA currently has two main goals: “First, keep a question mark over the Jewish state until there is a return. That is the only thing that ends the refugee status, the end of Israel. So this is an organization that keeps the conflict alive generation after generation until the Jews don’t have a state anymore.”

“The second goal that became very clear in the wake of October 7, it’s to free up the murderers to be able to murder Israelis.”

Wilf referred to a recent interview by senior Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk, in which he said that the tunnels under Gaza were meant for Hamas to fight Israel, not to keep civilians safe. Instead, he put the responsibility for civilian safety on the UN.

“Everybody knows that 75% of the people in the Gaza Strip are refugees, and it is the responsibility of the United Nations to protect them,” Abu Marzouk said during the interview

“This means that as soon as the money for health, education, and social services starts flowing, the terror organizations and murderers have time to do their work,” Wilf noted.

She argued that on Oct. 7, the world saw that Palestinians have many abilities – but for over 100 years they have decided to dedicate their abilities to eliminating the Jewish state.

Wilf strongly advocated to close UNRWA for good instead of replacing it with some new organization.

“We need to make clear that the responsibility is on [the Palestinians], and we don’t need to help them or transfer money to them, and of course not find a replacement for UNRWA.”

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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