Of the many wretched international organizations that afflict the world, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency is surely the worst – inculcating habits of dependence, fostering grievances, and sympathizing with terrorism. So, it comes as a surprise to be able to say something good about this rogue institution – that it is actually doing what its regulations require.
As I explained in "[UNRWA:] The Refugee Curse," the Palestinian "refugee" status differs from every other one around the world in that it is can be inherited generation after generation, something that has vast and mischievous consequences. Even so, the definition of a Palestinian refugee is limited to those who lived in Palestine "between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict." In other words, the definition is temporally limited.
Palestinians living on the West Bank who fled to the East Bank at a later date, in particular due to the 1967 war, moved within the confines of a single country (Jordan had annexed the West Bank) and so are known as displaced persons, not refugees. The United Nations, not famous for its demographic accuracy when it comes to Palestinians, estimates that the number of Palestinian displaced persons (and their descendants) comes to about 200,000.
That UNRWA exists only to serve "refugees" – not displaced persons – has routinely been ignored over the decades, but no longer, the Jordan Times reports. UNRWA "has stopped admitting children of persons displaced by the 1967 Arab-Israeli war at its schools." The parents of these children are of course indignant and UNRWA is explaining this change not as a result of following its instructions but due to some vague "regulatory process" (which is bureaucratese for "overcrowding"). And it has accepted 200-300 "exceptional cases" of displaced persons' children. Still, this is a rare step in the right direction. (September 20, 2004)
Apr. 13, 2017 update: This second case is not one of UNRWA following the law but, relatedly, doing the right thing. Word leaked that UNRWA plans changes to its school curriculum and the Palestinian Authority "Ministry" of Education suspended ties with it deeming these an "affront to the Palestinian people, its history and struggles."
What are those changes?
The changes, according to Arab media reports, include revisions to the map of "historic Palestine" to exclude references to cities inside Israel as Palestinian cities.... According to COGAT, the Israeli Defense Ministry agency responsible for civilian affairs in the West Bank and Gaza, in a report published at the end of March, part of the reform to the UNRWA curriculum "is a balanced representation of Jerusalem as having religious significance to the three major monotheistic religions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism), and mentioning that Muslim believers have access to the holy sites. ... UNRWA additionally sought to amend textbooks in cases where the content showed gender bias, lacked objectivity and incited violence against Israel.