The World Doesn’t Care About the Palestinian People

Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon
The refugee camps which sprung up in 1948 became permanent residences in exile.

Is this UN agency merely a political tool for Western governments?

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For more than 60 years UNRWA has been providing housing and direct aid for the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. The refugees have no prospect of returning to Palestine, nor being integrated into Lebanese society. A number of Western officials now say that the international community deliberately sponsors the limbo via UNRWA.

All his life Salah Salah has been struggling for the Palestinian cause. His office in the Malaab area in Beirut, Lebanon is full of artefacts ranging from Cuban flags from his time as PLO’s representative in the Caribbean country to drawings of the Palestinian cartoon-icon, the child Handala. In the middle of the memorabilia sits 78-year-old Mr. Salah, the living proof of the presence of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon since the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. He was 12-years-old when his village on the shore of Lake Tiberias came under attack and his life as a refugee began.

LIKE MOST PALESTINIANS, Mr. Salah can’t help but feeling split on the issue of UNRWA (United Nation Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East), the UN agency founded in 1949 set to help the refugees until the crisis was solved. The organization was founded with a two-year mandate, which has been renewed every time it has expired.

“The Jews got Israel and we got UNRWA,” says Mr. Salah, echoing a Palestinian saying often heard in the 12 Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon.

The camps are scattered across the country and are home to more than 150.000 people. The exact number of Palestinian refugees residing in Lebanon is disputed, but UNRWA estimates the number to be between 260.000 and 300.000.

“The Jews got Israel and we got UNRWA”

Mr. Salah’s oxymoronic view on UNRWA is a result of the fact that the organization still exists, symbolizing the UN’s inability to find a just solution to the Palestine/Israel-conflict, which the UN itself has a large share in creating. On the other hand, though, UNRWA still provides vital services to the Palestinian refugees.

“It is not UNRWA’s responsibility to find a solution. Their responsibility has always been to provide shelter, social security, health care, and education for the refugees,” says Mr. Salah, who is the present political leader of the PLO in Lebanon, but also a founding member of PFLP.

He continues: “UNRWA knows how hard the situation is for the Palestinians, so they should work by all means to improve the relief and services for the refugees. But instead of their services being increased, they are now decreasing their services.”

And it is true that UNRWA’s core budget does not match the growing number of Palestinian refugees in the same way it used to. According to the former UNRWA national director in Lebanon, Ann Dismorr, who stepped out of office on October 1st this year, there is a number of structural reasons for this unfortunate mismatch, which in some cases cause “unacceptable” poor services at UNRWA facilities.

“Because UNRWA lives off of voluntary contributions it is actually up to the international community if it wants to live up to the obligation or not. UNRWA is struggling with a massive lack of funding, and right now the organization is not living up to its mandate to a satisfying extent,” says Ann Dismorr.

UNRWA was founded during the political turmoil in the wake of the Arab-Israeli War and therefore it was decided that the organization’s budget should be kept separate from the main UN budget. To this day this means that the member states of the UN are free to choose whether or not they want to contribute, and how much. Out of UNRWA’s core budget of $550 million last year Western countries funded more than 95 percent. The US was the biggest single contributor with its $130 million donation.

THE SECOND STRUCTURAL challenge UNRWA faces is caused by another decision from the late 1940s. Because of the general notion that the Palestine/Israel-conflict would be solved within a reasonable time period, the decision was made that the descendants of the original approximately 750.000 Palestinian refugees should be granted refugee status and thereby be given the same rights from UNRWA. Since the conflict is yet to be solved, UNRWA by January 1st 2014 registered more than 5 million Palestinians as refugees in its field of operations in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Gaza and the West Bank. This increase naturally puts more pressure on the UN member states to donate.

Especially among the Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon these factors have become highly important since the refugees there face a number of discriminatory laws and a general lack of basic civil rights. To name a few they are allowed neither public health care or education, they cannot work in the public sector or the army, there is an actual list of 30 other jobs they are barred from, they cannot own property, and they are not allowed to organize or go into politics. This, naturally, creates a dependency on UNRWA’s services.

“We live in a region which by the day becomes more and more complex and where unrest is a part of everyday life. That means that we in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon now have competing crises – and the donors don’t have unlimited funds. It is becoming a more challenging environment for UNRWA to work in,” says Ann Dismorr and stresses the fact that it is “absolutely not” helping the Palestinian cause that it is considered the old crisis in the region.

“It’s not even an impasse we are witnessing. It is actually a continuing aggravation of the situation for the Palestinians here,” says Ann Dismorr.

UNRWAhistory.jpg
Picture from 1948, Palestinians leaving their homeland. © UNRWA

According to a number of Western diplomats and officials in Beirut, who all speak on condition of anonymity, UNRWA serves more than just the purpose of providing aid. The funding of UNRWA is just as much a political tool used in a broader context in Lebanon and the region, they say.

“If we didn’t have UNRWA we would almost certainly have a continuous conflict in Lebanon. And if that was the case the Palestinians would be – even more than they already are – radicalized and supportive of groups such as Islamic State,” says one Western top diplomat who still, though, refers to the situation as “clearly disgraceful”.

The current uncertain situation in Lebanon is mainly caused by the war in Syria, which so far has sent well over a million refugees into Lebanon, a country half the size of Wales. Add to that a number of spillover conflicts between militant Islamists and the Lebanese army and Hizbollah.

“Right now nobody wishes to do anything about the Palestinians’ situation or try to push the Lebanese government into doing anything, because Lebanon is on the brink of chaos. Focus is on keeping the status quo and keeping Lebanon together in one piece. That simply gives the Palestinian refugee issue a lower priority.”

A former Western diplomat and now official with the UN explains UNRWA’s services this way: “The aid UNRWA provides is basically to make sure that the Palestinians don’t go crazy. UNRWA definitely serves a purpose of silencing the Palestinians – and that goes for the Palestinians in the whole region. We, the donor countries, are putting millions of dollars into this, and by doing that we are sustaining the conflict and the situation on the ground, where we don’t see any real progress. With the continuing funding of UNRWA the donor countries are actually recognizing the current way of operating. So in that way the Western support is highly political.”

ONE THING is the present unrest in the region, but according to one source the lack of Western interest in the refugee component of the broader Palestine/Israel-conflict also comes out of diplomatic considerations.

“The Palestinians have many friends but no allies. There are basically no Western countries that want to risk their relationship with Israel by working on a settlement of the refugee issue, because the only thing to be won is a loss of friendship with the US. So in that perspective it is fair to conclude that UNRWA – and the funding hereof – is contributing to the Palestinians’ Lebanese limbo,” says the source, who for years has been working with the Palestine/Israel-conflict for a number of European governments.

For decades UNRWA has been the subject of intense debates. One argument is that UNRWA by its very existence is prolonging the conflict, since the recognition of the Palestinian refugees and their right to return to their homeland prevents a pragmatic solution to the conflict. The pragmatic solution lies in the fact that it is unlikely for all the Palestinians to return, since there are now more than 7 million Israelis living in the disputed area, so the demand should be taken out of the negotiations or at least be altered.

The structural – and now historic – decisions about UNRWA are without a doubt making the issue of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon “extremely complex”, says the Middle East scholar Leila Stockmarr from Roskilde University in Denmark.

“The aid UNRWA provides is basically to make sure that the Palestinians don’t go crazy”

“On the one hand you can say, that if Western government find the Palestinian refugees’ right to return indisputable, then UNRWA is simply underscoring this right. It is part of UNRWA’s mandate that the organization can’t be dissolved before there is a solution to the conflict. On the other hand, this situation keeps many Palestinians claiming their rights, even though, for most of them it is highly unlikely that they will return,” says Leila Stockmarr.

Most Palestinians in Lebanon origin from northern Israel, which is within the Israeli 1967-borders, i.e. not within what is being negotiated about in the two-state solution.

According to the former UNRWA National Director in Lebanon, Ann Dismorr, it is not all bad, though.

“If UNRWA was not present in Lebanon the Palestinian refugees would not have anything. They would be 69 schools and 7 health clinics short, and it’s not like the Lebanese state would step in and fill the gap. That is the harsh reality. The only thing that can stop the Palestinian suffering is if the international community works harder to find a political solution instead of turning their pockets inside out in search of more money,” says Ann Dismorr.

ACCORDING TO UNRWA approximately 66 percent of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live for less than $6 a day, but if the organization disappeared overnight that number would go up 14 percent. Add to that the advocacy work that UNRWA is doing to create awareness about the Palestinian refugees. One UNRWA staff member explains it this way: “We might be a band-aid – but we are a big flashy one!”

For 78-year-old Salah Salah advocacy and direct aid from UNRWA has not changed the fact that his temporary exile in Lebanon has turned into 66 years as a refugee. And there is nothing changing his feelings of being treated unjust.

“It is mainly the responsibility of the US and the Western European countries that Israel was created. Therefore it is also their responsibility to take care of the refugees their actions caused. They are responsible that I to this day am a refugee, and they have to recognize that responsibility,” says the PLO-leader.

He continues: “Right now the donors are using their money as a weapon against the Palestinians. They hope that by forcing the Palestinians to live in this poor situation the Palestinians will eventually give up and settle for any solution. But they forget, the Palestinians will never give up.”

Ann Dismorr was interviewed a few days prior to her departure as National Director of UNRWA in Lebanon.

Asger Gørup Nielsen

Asger is a Danish freelance journalist currently based in Beirut. He writes mostly about human rights issues and the overlooked stories in Lebanon. He is educated from the Danish School of Media and Journalism and the American University of Beirut.

Japan-China-Sinkaku-Diaoyu Statements of China and Japan

China and Japan reach four-point principled agreement on handling and improving bilateral relations

On 7 November 2014, State Councilor Yang Jiechi held talks with visiting National Security Advisor of Japan Shotaro Yachi at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse.

Yang said that a long-term, healthy and stable growth of China-Japan relations serves the fundamental interests of both countries and their people, and it is China’s consistent position to grow China-Japan relations on the basis of the four political documents between the two sides and in the spirit of “taking history as a mirror and looking forward to the future”. For reasons known to all, China-Japan relations have encountered persistent and serious difficulty. In recent months, the two sides have conducted rounds of consultations through the diplomatic channel to overcome political obstacles in the bilateral relations. The Chinese side has reiterated its solemn position, urging the Japanese side to face up to and properly handle such issues of great sensitivity as history and the Diaoyu Islands and work with the Chinese side for the improvement and growth of the bilateral relations.

Yachi said that the Japanese side attaches great importance to the strategic relationship of mutual benefit between Japan and China. Japan stands ready to proceed from the overall interests, conduct dialogue and consultation with the Chinese side to enhance common understanding and mutual trust, and properly handle disagreement and sensitive issues, with a view to advancing the process of improvement of Japan-China relations.

The two sides reached a four-point principled agreement on handling and improving the bilateral relations:

First, the two sides have affirmed that they will follow the principles and spirit of the four political documents between China and Japan and continue to develop the China-Japan strategic relationship of mutual benefit.

Second, in the spirit of “facing history squarely and looking forward to the future”, the two sides have reached some agreement on overcoming political obstacles in the bilateral relations.

Third, the two sides have acknowledged that different positions exist between them regarding the tensions which have emerged in recent years over the Diaoyu Islands and some waters in the East China Sea, and agreed to prevent the situation from aggravating through dialogue and consultation and establish crisis management mechanisms to avoid contingencies.

Fourth, the two sides have agreed to gradually resume political, diplomatic and security dialogue through various multilateral and bilateral channels and to make efforts to build political mutual trust.

Yang stressed that the two sides need to uphold the political foundation for China-Japan relations in strict accordance with the spirit of the above-mentioned agreement, ensure the right direction for the growth of bilateral relations, properly handle sensitive issues in a timely fashion, take concrete action to build political mutual trust and gradually put bilateral relations on a track of sound development.

Yachi said that the four-point principled agreement is of great importance. The Japanese side will work with the Chinese side in the same direction.

*  *  *  *  *  *

Regarding Discussions toward Improving Japan-China Relations

min for affairs japan

Toward the improvement of the Japan-China relations, quiet discussions have been held between the Governments of Japan and China. Both sides have come to share views on the following points:

1. Both sides confirmed that they would observe the principles and spirit of the four basic documents between Japan and China and that they would continue to develop a mutually beneficial relationship based on common strategic interests.

2. Both sides shared some recognition that, following the spirit of squarely facing history and advancing toward the future, they would overcome political difficulties that affect their bilateral relations.

3. Both sides recognized that they had different views as to the emergence of tense situations in recent years in the waters of the East China Sea, including those around the Senkaku Islands, and shared the view that, through dialogue and consultation, they would prevent the deterioration of the situation, establish a crisis management mechanism and avert the rise of unforeseen circumstances.

4. Both sides shared the view that, by utilizing various multilateral and bilateral channels, they would gradually resume dialogue in political, diplomatic and security fields and make an effort to build a political relationship of mutual trust.

Obama Tries To Isolate Putin By Kissing Xi Ass In China

President Xi advocates new type of military relations with U.S.

Xinhua net

Editor: Yang Yi obamaxi

Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) holds a welcoming ceremony for U.S. President Barack Obama (R) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Nov. 12, 2014. (Xinhua/Li Xueren)

BEIJING, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) — President Xi Jinping on Wednesday proposed “a new type of military relations” that suits the new type of major-country relationship between China and the United States.

Xi made the remarks at the meeting with visiting U.S. President Barack Obama.

Xi said that defense departments of the two countries have signed agreements to establish a mutual reporting mechanism on major military operations and a code of safe conduct on naval and air military encounter between the two sides.

The two militaries should deepen exchanges, mutual trust and cooperation based on these agreements, he said.

China would like to make progress in the exchanges between senior officers of the two armed forces, smooth communication mechanism and conduct more joint trainings and drills with the U.S. side, he said.

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Obama: US does not support “independence” of Taiwan,Tibet

BEIJING, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) — U.S. President Barack Obama reiterated on Wednesday that the United States does not support “independence” of Taiwan and Tibet.

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China, U.S. reach consensus on resuming ITA talks

BEIJING, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) — China and United States has reached consensus on resuming negotiations on updating the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Information Technology Agreement (ITA) by including more products, the Ministry of Commerce said Wednesday.

The two sides will work with other participants of the ITA to put an end to negotiations as soon as possible, the ministry said in a statement on its website. Full story

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BEIJING, Nov. 12 (Xinhua) — China and the United States have agreed to accelerate the bilateral investment treaty negotiations and will work hard to achieve agreements on core issues and major provisions by the end of this year. Full story

 

Jordan Taming Fire-Breathing Imams

To Counter ISIS, Jordan Orders Imams to Preach ‘Peaceful Islam’

arutz shiva israeli

In another move to crack down on ISIS supporters in the country, Jordanian authorities have ordered clerics to preach only moderate Islam.

By Cynthia Blank

Jordanian ISIS terrorist vows attack

Jordanian ISIS terrorist vows attack
Screenshot

In an effort to counter the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) and its effect on her borders, Jordan has imposed new rules on Muslim clerics.

In a mandatory meeting held at an auditorium in Zarqa and attended by hundreds of Muslim clerics, Jordan’s Minister of Islamic Affairs, Hayel Dawood, ordered imams to preach moderate Islam – or else.

“You clerics are our ground forces against the extremists,” Hayel Dawood told them. “Once you cross the red line,” he added, “you will not be let back in.”

For months, Jordan has been fortifying its border against the rapidly advancing ISIS – who now controls large portions of Iraq and Syria – for fear that the terrorist organization would soon set its sights on the nearby Hashemite Kingdom.

Fear of the radical Islamist organization do not seem unfounded as ISIS terrorists have publicly called for King Abdullah’s execution, declaring him a traitor to Islam who has joined forces with the West.

In response, Jordan has put its air force and intelligence service to work with the United States led alliance against Islamic State.

To counter support for the terrorist group within Jordan itself, the kingdom is prosecuting ISIS recruiters as well as cracking down on anyone waving an ISIS banner.

Now, it also has turned its attention to religion – and the country’s 7,000 mosques.

Although Jordanian security offices have always carefully watched radicals for years, they never stopped allowing even prominent al-Qaeda-affiliated clerics from preaching – as long as they watched what they said.

Now, with the sudden rise of Islamic State, Jordan’s religious authorities are clamping down.

They have authorities have started a campaign coaxing and even pressuring Muslim clerics to preach messages of moderate or peaceful Islam.

Jordan’s imams, of which there are more than 5,000, traditionally give sermons after Friday prayers. And Dawood is touring the kingdom unveiling the set of new laws in a series of meetings for any religious leader who wishes to address Friday worshippers.

Jordan is specifically demanding that preachers refrain from any speech against King Abdullah II and the royal family, slander against leaders of neighboring Arab states, incitement against the United States and Europe, and support for jihad and extremist thought.

For those who deviate, the result could be banishment from the pulpit for life – or worse. Offenders who openly praise ISIS could be brought to court to face charges under the country’s enhanced anti-terrorism law.

While Jordan’s moderate approach to Islam has been applauded in the past by US officials for emphasizing positive messages of charity, respect and tolerance, some Jordanian clerics are taking umbrage at being told what to preach.

They’ve left no space for us in the mosques,” Mohammed al-Shalabi, an elder leader of the ultraconservative Jihadi Salafis in Jordan, said to The Washington Post. “They’re not even allowing anyone to use the words ‘Islamic State.’”

But Jordanian authorities maintained their stance on the matter: “We have preachers using the pulpit for political means, to launch attacks on private individuals and the state,” Dawood said, stressing that, “This will not be tolerated.”