Friday, August 8, 2014

Is the UN a party to the Gaza conflict between Hamas and Israel? Is there a way for the UN and UNRWA to actually foster peace and reconciliation rather than being a party to and perpetuator of the ongoing conflict?

The ongoing Gaza conflict has brought the UNRWA (the UN Relief Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees) into the spotlight, both in terms of its schools as refuges for those fleeing the fighting and its schools as storage places for the rockets used by Hamas to start the violence and also, according to some reports, as places from which to fire rockets at Israel.

With greater attention we now have more information about UNRWA and its long relationship with Hamas. Below are some excerpts from the following article:

"But Gaza under Hamas is a place with only two basic industries: aid and terrorism. These are much entwined, and not solely because Hamas controls Unrwa's staff unions in Gaza, where in 2012 a Hamas-affiliated slate swept 25 of 27 seats. In effect the U.N. group subsidizes Hamas. Among U.N. agencies in the Middle East, Unrwa is the largest employer, with a regular budget for 2014 of $731 million, and a total budget that, with emergency appeals, tops $1 billion.
The agency has roughly 30,000 staff on its payroll, almost all Palestinian. Some 12,500 work in Gaza, home to 1.2 million Unrwa-registered refugees, who account for about two-thirds of Gaza's population. The U.N. agency's welfare programs relieve Hamas of many of the costs of servicing the enclave it controls as its launchpad for terror."
"Thus unencumbered, Unrwa has ensured its own survival by transforming itself into the patron of Palestinian grievance, conferring refugee status down the generations, an unusual practice. The agency's website reports that since 1950 its roster of registered refugees has grown from an original 750,000 to 5.3 million—a sevenfold increase, all eligible for the Unrwa dole. For the Palestinians, this has been ruinous, fostering within an otherwise enterprising culture a crippling sense of entitlement and dependency."
"According to State Department historical data, the U.S. since Unrwa's inception has given the agency funds totaling $4.9 billion (closer to $7 billion in constant 2014 dollars).
In 2011 the agency opened an office in Washington run by two former U.S. government insiders: Matthew Reynolds, previously the State Department's assistant secretary for legislative affairs, and Chris McGrath, previously a media-events director for Sen. Harry Reid. The job descriptions include representing the U.N. agency's interests to the State Department and monitoring Congress on a daily basis to yield an "advocacy strategy dedicated to optimizing Unrwa's relations with Congress."
Thus U.S. tax dollars fund Unrwa officials now lobbying in Washington to obtain yet more money for an agency entwined with the rocket-launching, tunnel-digging rulers of Gaza. "
Is there a way for the UN and UNRWA to actually foster peace and reconciliation rather than being a party to and perpetuator of  the ongoing conflict?