UNRWA was established in 1949 as a temporary UN organization to support the Palestinian refugees. At that time there were ca, 700,000 refugees. Seventy (yes 70!) years later, it is not only still in existence, but because, unlike all other refugees in the world, they include all offspring as so-called refugees, the number of dependents they support has mushroomed to 5.3 million. This of course has led to the establishment of a large international organization that is closely associated with the terrorist group Hamas in Gaza and which has become extremely corrupt. Because of the close ties to the Arab world, this corruption has been over-looked and ignored, until now.
Finally, the UN Secty. Gen. Anthony Guterres has requested a Report of allegations of nepotism, intimidation, bullying and sexual misconduct as well as financial mismanagement and corruption. The investigation started in 2018 and is due to be concluded and published soon. A ten-page initial summary was leaked to Al Jazeera and as a result two of the primary officials accused have resigned, namely Deputy Commissioner General Sandra Mitchell and Chief of Staff Hakam Shawan. Two others accused, the Commissioner General Pierre Krankhenbuhl and Senior Adviser Maria Mohammedi, are still in place.
Because of allegations of financial mismanagement and ties to Hamas, the US under Pres. Trump started last year to reduce its m$135 contributions to UNRWA, and now the US has stopped all contributions. Until now the US has paid ca. 25% of the budget of the UNRWA for all 70 years. The Arab States have paid very little towards UNRWA, but the Palestine Authority has requested them to step up and replace the lost revenue from the US. However, not only have they not done so, but other countries have begun to see the true situation, Switzerland, Belgium and Holland have all stopped payments to UNRWA pending the Secty. General’s Report and any further outcomes, such as necessary reforms.
However, many people fear that the corruption is so endemic and pervasive that it is possible that the UNRWA’s mandate will not be renewed when it comes up for consideration at the next meeting of the UN. Of course, the Palestinians have come out with comments about a humanitarian crisis and as usual threatened future violence if UNRWA is not renewed and funded. But, they have been receiving large donations (more than any other refugee group) from many nations for 70 years and they have in no way done anything to establish organizations that could improve their economic conditions, they have been content to accept welfare and live off handouts from the other nations of the world. If Israel could in 70 years go from a destitute nation of immigrants and refugees to a thriving modern affluent society, why not the Palestinians? There are several answers to that question which I will leave to the readers to consider.
The best outcome is if when the full truth is known, UNRWA will be disbanded, and so-called Palestinians and their descendants in countries surrounding Israel will become citizens of those countries (namely Syria and Lebanon; in Jordan they are already citizens and therefore should not be classified as refugees!), as is required of all other refugees. Those so-called refugees living within the boundaries of what was the Palestine Mandate (in other words not refugees at all) should be settled where they are and start to live normally as everybody else does. Such an outcome would greatly improve the chances of an eventual negotiated settlement. Continuing to support the Palestinians thru UNRWA has meant that they have had no real pressure to improve their own situation or deal with Israel, it has perpetuated the conflict.