‘The Big Lie’: Israeli Envoy Launches Campaign Against UNRWA

Photo by Esty Dziubov/TPS on 28 August, 2019
By Aryeh Savir/TPS • 14 October, 2020

Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan announced that he will lead a campaign to expose the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) illegitimacy and its detrimental effect on peace in the Middle East.

Erdan, who began his tenure at the UN week ago, participated in a discussion with UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini and demanded that he “end the incitement and anti-Semitism in UNRWA schools and publicly pledge to eliminate any terrorist infrastructure in its buildings.”

UNRWA staff has been embroiled in anti-Semitism scandals while its facilities have repeatedly been found to be used as weapons caches by terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip.

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“I will lead a campaign in the UN to show UNRWA’s donor countries and the entire world the real reason there is no political process: Palestinian incitement denying the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel while demanding the Big Lie of the return of Palestinian ‘refugees,’” he stated Tuesday.

Israel has argued for years that the UN and the Palestinians are working to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee problem and oppose any attempt to seek a solution.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has recurrently charged that “UNRWA is an organization that perpetuates the Palestinian refugee problem. It also perpetuates the narrative of the right-of-return, as it were, in order to eliminate the state of Israel; therefore, UNRWA needs to pass from the world.”

He said the solution is to gradually shift UNRWA’s funding to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), “with clear criteria for supporting genuine refugees, not fictitious refugees as happens today under UNRWA.”

Erdan stated that “this Big Lie is legitimized by a UN organization that inflates the number of refugees and maintains a unique and ridiculous definition that applies only to the Palestinians.”

Speaking in January 2018, Netanyahu said that “this is an agency that was established 70 years ago, only for Palestinian refugees, at a time when the UNHCR (the UN refugee agency) deals with global refugee problems. Of course, this creates a situation in which there are great-grandchildren of refugees, who are not refugees but who are cared for by UNRWA, and another 70 years will pass and those great-grandchildren will have great-grandchildren and therefore, this absurdity needs to stop.”

The Palestinians’ status as refugees, which is passed down to generations on end, ensures an endless flow of international aid and has other financial ramifications.

A so-called Palestinian refugee receives quadruple the amount of aid that a Syrian, Iraqi or African refugee receives from the United Nations.

A study released in September 2017 shows that in 2016 UNRWA, which provides assistance solely to Palestinians, spent an average of $246 for each of the 5.3 million Palestinians it defines as refugees, while the UNHCR spent only a quarter of that, $58 per refugee, on non-Palestinians.


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