Thursday, June 24, 2010

UN chief says Israeli plan for east Jerusalem is illegal

UN chief says Israeli plan for east Jerusalem is illegal

Ban "is deeply concerned about the decision by the Jerusalem Municipality to advance planning for house demolitions and further settlement activity in the area of Silwan in East Jerusalem," the secretary general's spokesman Martin Nesirky said in a statement.

"The planned moves are contrary to international law, and to the wishes of Palestinian residents," the statement said.

Ban "reminds the Israeli Government of its responsibility to ensure provocative steps are not taken which would heighten tensions in the city. The current moves are unhelpful, coming at a time when the goal must be to build trust to support political negotiations," the statement added.

The park, which is planned for a crumbling Arab neighborhood just outside the walls of the Old City, was approved by Jerusalem city council on Monday in a move that drew criticism both at home and abroad.

The plan was put before the city's planning and building committee on Monday, which approved Gan Hamelech, the Hebrew name for an area outside the Old City known as Al-Bustan to its mostly Arab residents.

Under the plan, 22 homes would be razed, while another 66 would be legalized. The 88 homes all had been slated for demolition because they were built without Israeli permits.

The issue is all the more sensitive as most of the international community does not recognize Israel's annexation of east Jerusalem since June 1967.

By Emergency:

'The wall ruined my life, separated my family'... The demolition of a Palestinian man's home on Monday was his final lost battle in a string of defeat

Images from Anton`s childhood at the Beit Jala home, including images following the demolition, which took place on Monday.

'The wall ruined my life, separated my family'
Published today (updated) 24/06/2010 12:55

Bethlehem - Ma'an - The demolition of a Palestinian man's home on Monday was his final lost battle in a string of defeats going back to the 1990s, the Beit Jala man told Ma'an.

In 1992, Israel confiscated several hundred dunums of land belonging to the family, where the tunnels system was created to connect the illegal Israeli settlements of Gilo and Bettar Illit with Jerusalem. What was left undeveloped on the far side of the tunnel road was confiscated, and the farming family was left to find a different source of livelihood.

In 1997, Anton married a Jerusalemite woman, and the two decided to settle in the holy city, where Anton could work. After some effort, they successfully registered him as a Jerusalem resident, and they had two daughters who were also accorded Jerusalem residency status. Anton was able to find work and the family started anew.

In 2004, however, as the final route of the separation wall was set, his family was handed a home demolition targeting ancestral buildings in Wadi Ahmed, on the lands that remained in their possession.

Worried that more of his family land and property would be confiscated, Anton moved back to the home, in an attempt to protect the area from further Israeli encroachment. He said he was worried that the land would be declared abandoned, and his family would lose all that remained.

On the property were two homes, one ancient and one modern. The older building was said to have been several hundred years old, and was used by his family as a Qasr, or an agricultural building where relatives would stay during the harvest season. The building traditionally stored tools and food for the family for the summer and early fall.

"They began asking me questions in 2006," Anton told Ma'an, "they found that my 'center of life' was no longer Jerusalem so in 2007 they stripped me of my Jerusalem residency card."

Without the card, Anton, like all other West Bank Palestinians was no longer permitted to enter Jerusalem. "I could no longer see my wife, my daughters," he said.

Anton remained in his Beit Jala home, and his wife and daughter would visit him on weekends and evenings when they could. Then on 25 May 2010, Anton was handed an demolition order for his home and the agricultural building nearby.

The demolitions were carried out on Monday, as the path of Israel's separation wall continued to wind southward.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Funding shortages limiting UN ability to aid Palestinian refugees

Funding shortages limiting UN ability to aid Palestinian refugees

Filippo Grandi, Commissioner General of UNRWA

22 June 2010 – The head of the United Nations agency tasked with supporting Palestinian refugees has urged the international community to bridge a $103 million budget deficit, saying any further funding shortfall would continue to undermine its ability to provide services to those in need.

“Without more generous funding, UNRWA [UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] will continue to be limited in its capacity to adequately pay its existing staff – the teachers, doctors, sanitation labourers, relief workers and others,” Filippo Grandi, UNRWA Commissioner-General, told a meeting of the agency’s Advisory Commission in Cairo yesterday.

“I warn you that the financial shortfall will also severely curtail the ability of UNRWA to carry out important activities such as participating in the reconstruction of Gaza, should the blockade be lifted. Schools and health centres might be built through contributions to individual projects, but UNRWA will lack the funds to manage them, and to train and even pay the personnel to staff them,” Mr. Grandi added.

He said he was aware of some donors’ concern that, given the impact of the global financial crisis on UNRWA’s funding, the agency should make even further efforts to streamline expenditure and maximize cost-efficiencies.

However, Mr. Grandi said, the agency has been cutting services. For example, it has stopped paying the costs of hospital treatment for refugees, even when the services they need are as essential as breast cancer screening, physiotherapy or psychiatric treatment.

“In Gaza alone, UNRWA’s overcrowded schools have no place for nearly 40,000 additional refugee children,” Mr. Grandi said, adding that the agency had even reduced the number of school textbooks, and had suspended the implementation of initiatives designed to support children with special learning needs, including those with disabilities.

“We are reducing the support we provide to refugees hardest hit by poverty and social marginalization. We have cancelled expenditure on maintenance of UNRWA facilities and buildings seriously affecting safety standards and the quality of our services,” Mr. Grandi said.

He said that UNRWA will continue to ensure rigorously prudent financial management, effective programme management and the full application of relevant accountability mechanisms, and made an impassioned plea for more generous funding for the agency.

“UNRWA’s financial situation is grave, yet it is within our collective power to resolve. And if it is a crisis, as it no doubt is, then it is a crisis we must confront and solve by coming together, pooling our strengths and boldly rising to the challenges of now and the future,” Mr. Grandi added.

Meanwhile, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has reiterated the need for Israel to make a fundamental change to its policy of maintaining a blockade against the Gaza Strip.

At a meeting with Israel’s Defence Minister Ehud Barak in New York yesterday, the Secretary-General called for “prompt and positive response” to his proposal for an international panel to probe the 31 May incident in which Israeli soldiers raided a flotilla of boats carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza. The raid resulted in the death of nine civilians aboard the ships.

Mr. Ban also repeated his call for the unconditional release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who remains in detention in Gaza.

The UN and its Quartet partners – European Union, Russia and United States – have welcomed Israel’s decision to allow more civilian goods into Gaza, saying that implementation of the new policy will help meet the needs of the territory’s inhabitants and address Israel’s security concerns.

News Tracker: past stories on this issue

UN team calls for end to systematic rights violations by Israel in occupied territories

Budrus: Saving a Palestinian Village from the Separation Barrier through Non-Violent Resistance... 6-23-2010 A Discussion with Clips from the film

American Task Force on Palestine,
Just Vision,
Churches for Middle East Peace,
Americans for Peace Now,
and the Foundation for Middle East Peace

invite you to

Saving a Palestinian Village from the Separation Barrier through Non-Violent Resistance
A Discussion with Clips from the Award-Winning Documentary Film

Ronit Avni
Founder, Executive Director, Just Vision;
Filmmaker and Human Rights Advocate

Julia Bacha
Director, Budrus;
Senior Producer & Media Director, Just Vision

Ayed Morrar
Community Organizer;
Budrus, Palestine

Wednesday, June 23, 2010
9:00 am- 11:00 am
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
1779 Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, DC

Please RSVP to or 202-835-3650.

The full length film will be shown at the US Captiol Visitor Center on June 22 at 6:30 pm, and at the Silverdocs Film Festival at the American Film Institute in Silver Spring on June 24 at 7:15 pm and June 26 at 4:00 pm.

Budrus is a stunning documentary film about Palestinian villagers, under the leadership of Ayed Morrar and his fifteen-year-old daughter, Iltezam, who adopted the strategy of non-violent resistance, united all political factions along with Israelis and stopped construction of Israel's Separation Barrier that would have destroyed the villagers' lands, cemetery and livelihood. Their nonviolent effort has inspired villages across the West Bank and East Jerusalem to adopt similar methods. Ronit Avni, Julia Bacha and Ayed Morrar will speak and present clips from the film.

American Task Force on Palestine's President, Dr. Ziad Asali calls for a broad national alliance in support of a two-state solution.

June 22, 2010 - 12:00am

For those of us working here in the United States towards a reasonable and final end of conflict agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, the challenge is more daunting than in most contexts, and the stakes are higher. Those of us who care deeply about peace, Israel, the Palestinians and, above all, our own country, understand that it is our historic mission at this time to spare no effort and to work together towards achieving this crucial goal.

In this regard, allow me to tell you about the American Task Force on Palestine, what we do and why we do it, and what we'd like to see happening in the coming months and years. ATFP was founded in 2003 as a nonprofit, nonpartisan Palestinian-American organization with a simple mission: to advocate that a negotiated end of conflict agreement that allows for two states, Israel and Palestine, to live side-by-side in peace and security is in our American national interest. We are gratified that this has become official policy supported by a consensus among the foreign policy establishment in Washington, and the world as represented by the Quartet.

We neither believe nor argue that an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a panacea that will solve all outstanding issues in the Middle East, but instead we have argued that it would render all the objectives of the United States in the region significantly easier to achieve. It would remove the greatest single driving force of alienation between Arab and Muslim societies and the United States. We have maintained that it is a necessary counterattack against forces of anti-American extremism and terrorism coming from radicals like Al Qaeda, Iran and its allies, and other newcomers, all of whom cynically use the conflict as a powerful tool to secure support and recruits. We have pointed to the undoubted economic and social benefits that would accrue by the regional recognition and integration of a secure Israel into the broader Middle East, not just to Israelis and Palestinians but to us as well. We have argued that ending the conflict and ending the occupation that started in 1967 strongly reflects American values, especially since we advocate that the Palestinian state be democratic, pluralistic, non-militarized and based on the rule of law. And we have stressed the extent to which brokering an end to this conflict would strengthen the American role as the guarantor of both international and Middle Eastern regional stability.

Obviously, these arguments deviate from the traditional approach to pro-Palestinian advocacy in the United States, which has tended to emphasize history, justice and suffering to the exclusion of directly addressing the American national interest, addressing political realities and the moral imperative of focusing on the lives of the people at the present and for generations to come. ATFP has been committed to a new attitude towards Israel and the Jewish American community. We have rejected the notion that this is a zero-sum conflict in which whatever is good for one party is bad for the other. We see the answer in a potentially win-win situation in which both parties, for different reasons, need the same thing: a negotiated agreement that ends the occupation and the conflict once and for all. We maintain that Palestinians cannot achieve their basic goal of independence and statehood without a negotiated agreement. But we similarly maintain that Israel cannot achieve peace, defined borders, regional acceptance and long-term security without a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians. There is no military solution and neither party is going to go away or capitulate. Therefore, Israel and the Palestinians are necessary partners who must reach a reasonable compromise. Simply put, forces opposed to this compromise on both sides must lose.

The corollary to our understanding is a new attitude towards the Jewish American community and its mainstream organizations. For too long, our two communities have regarded each other with deep suspicion. Realizing that the majority of Israeli and Palestinian societies need the same outcome, gives us a very different perspective on the relationship between Jewish and Arab Americans. Rather than seeing the two communities as adversaries seeking to marginalize and exclude each other, we strongly believe that an alliance needs to be cultivated on the basis of shared goals and mutual interests. One of the most maddening statistics continuously reflected by opinion polling among Israelis and Palestinians holds that a substantial majority of both societies, while in favor of a two-state solution, is both skeptical that it can be achieved and convinced that the other party is insincere and will not deliver it. This attitude is also reflected among many Jewish and Arab Americans who are convinced of their own support of a two-state peace agreement but are highly skeptical of the other side’s sincerity or ability to deliver. These broad generalizations, rooted over decades of deep suspicion, distrust and negative experiences, have prevented the two groups from working together to achieve a professed common goal. This has got to change!

ATFP has argued that we must put each party to the test. We are strongly in favor of a deep and broad national alliance led by Jewish and Arab Americans in support of a two state solution. The audiences are widespread: our own government, the people in our communities who still need educating about the possibility of peace, our friends and relatives in the region whose skepticism about each other's intentions runs deep, as well as all other fellow Americans interested in this conflict. The message is simple: Jewish American friends of Israel and Arab American friends of Palestine are working together to promote peace for the benefit of our country and our own friends; That we have, with intact memories and open eyes, put aside decades of hostility, and recriminations, and are looking forward instead of backward.

Our government, and the politicians, need know that they can rely on the support of our communities when they take reasonable risks as they bring the parties together in pursuit of peace; that we encourage them and will be supportive and patient. For far too long there has been an enormous political cost attached to risk-taking on Middle East peace, and it's up to those of us who have largely created this atmosphere to dispel it. Similarly, we need to show Israelis, Palestinians and others in the Middle East that Jewish and Arab Americans can come together and work constructively for the interest of our country and our own interests. We must overcome the mutual suspicion that while we ourselves are sincere, the other side is not.

It is essential that we recognize the deep attachment and history of both Palestinians and Jews to the land of Palestine and Israel. Both national narratives are valid and both national projects are legitimate. The two narratives are not fully compatible, and I doubt they ever will be. But in the context of a two-state agreement, there is no need to reconcile the two national narrative into a single narrative that all must accept. It is enough to accept that both narratives are legitimate in their own way and that both should be expressed through separate, sovereign and independent states living side by side in peace. Here I think, even among those elements in our communities, on both sides, that support a two state agreement there is much work to be done. Too many people who profess support for such an agreement continue to deny the legitimacy of the other side's national narrative and suggest that only one national project is genuinely legitimate. This attitude must be challenged because it undermines the mindset required to accommodate the core minimal national interest of both parties.

Many Israelis and their American friends are concerned about the “delegitimization” of Israel, and that's reasonable and understandable. ATFP has taken a strong stance opposing any form of delegitimization of Israel. We believe that a peaceful future for the Palestinians and the entire region, can only be built when Israel is legitimized and accepted in the context of an agreement that ends the occupation and the conflict by creating a viable Palestine. However, while we firmly oppose Israel’s delegitimization, we also oppose the occupation and support peaceful, nonviolent efforts to end it. We have strongly supported Palestinian efforts to build the institutional, infrastructural, economic and administrative framework of the Palestinian state under occupation, in order to end the occupation. We have also supported nonviolent protest efforts such as popular boycott of settlement goods that call attention to the important and undeniable distinction between Israel itself on the one hand and the occupation and the settlements on the other hand. Some Israelis are not comfortable with this distinction and see such efforts as part of a delegitimization campaign. We respectfully disagree. The occupation is not and cannot be synonymous with Israel since the occupation must end for peace to be accomplished. In pursuit of their own civil rights and liberties, Palestinians should be able to peacefully oppose the occupation as they pursue a non-violent quest for their own independence. We are not always going to be comfortable with everything each other says or does, but we have to try to understand the motivations and the effects of our words and deeds in light of their contribution to a peaceful end to the conflict. Israel is legitimate and must not be delegitimized, but the occupation is not legitimate and it should not be legitimized. There is a distinction between the two, and the essence of peace must be built on recognizing this distinction.

Almost everything I've spoken about here today has to do with communications, even though I'm no specialist in strategic communications. But my experiences over several decades of activism on this issue have impressed upon me the centrality of clarity and messaging to break through the fog of stereotypes, anger, bitterness and negative assumptions. The best weapon against these regressive tendencies is clarity about our commitment to a two state agreement and to respect each other's narratives and national legitimacy in theory as well as in practice. ATFP has been consistent and, if I may say so, courageous in firmly rejecting any efforts to demonize or delegitimize Israel and opposing any form of violence or incitement. These positions, over the past seven years, have come at a considerable political and personal cost to us, but we believe that they are essential to playing a constructive role to end the conflict. I will be frank: we are hoping to see more courageous positions by mainstream pro-Israel Jewish American organizations on policies that not only delegitimize but actually threaten the potential existence of a Palestinian state such as settlement expansion. We feel that clarity about the outcome we seek and what policies promote and facilitate that outcome is essential. When we established ATFP, we did so with the understanding that there were difficult choices to make and that we have to be prepared to make them, and we have. All parties have their own difficult choices to make.

One final note on political messaging: I cannot think of a more powerful statement that the mainstream institutions of Jewish and Arab American communities can make than the emergence of a serious and influential coalition for a two state agreement. Were we to succeed in building such a coalition, we would send the most effective and profound message to our own government and political leaders, to our friends in the Middle East, and, not least, to each other as well. ATFP is committed to trying to develop such a coalition, and I hope we will have the support of groups like The Israel Project in working towards that aim.

My letter to the Guardian RE Why this obsession with Israel and the Palestinians?

RE: Robert Fowke: Why this obsession with Israel and the Palestinians? I'm not alone in my disproportionate interest in Israel – but why do so many of us pick away at this conflict like it's a giant scab?

Dear Sir,

I very much appreciated Robert Fowke's "Why this obsession with Israel and the Palestinians? I'm not alone in my disproportionate interest in Israel – but why do so many of us pick away at this conflict like it's a giant scab?"

What Fowke says rings true for me too, although I wish he had also glanced at Islamists as I very much believe that Israel is not the only party we need to be VERY wary of.... Israel
uses deceit and propaganda campaigns to gain popular support- and Islamists do too.

I totally agree with Fowke's conclusion that this relatively small conflict has the potential to destroy on a colossal scale. However I also believe that worldwide our growing awareness of Israel's ongoing crimes against the people of historic Palestine has the potential to help shape a just and lasting negotiated peace to stop state sponsored terror as well as rising religious extremism now before there is nothing left of Israel or Palestine to salvage: For everyone's sake, we need to be calmly and compassionately advocating a fully secular two state solution that will rein in Israel AND Islamic militancy.

Anne Selden Annab

Peacemaking takes courage, leaders

Israel must clarify Palestine's status

The Arab Peace Initiative
MIDDLE EAST: Palestinian refugee factbox/timeline

My letter to the Washington Post RE Israel's feeling of isolation is becoming more pronounced

RE: Israel's feeling of isolation is becoming more pronounced

Dear Editor,

Israel has spent the past 60 sovereign years using both legal maneuvers as well as illegal maneuvers in order to impoverish, displace and disenfranchise Palestinians where ever they might be. I wish Elton John would write songs about that, rather than performing his beautiful music for the rogue nation state that has helped create so much misery, terror, institutionalized bigotry and religious extremism in the Middle East.

There are, according to most reports, 7.1 million displaced Palestinians. Many were displaced in 1948 when Israel was founded, but more and more are being displaced day after day after day- decade after decade by Israel: "1967-present day: Estimates vary greatly on the annual rate of new displacements, but Palestinian sources cite up to 20,000 newly displaced persons per year. Reasons for new displacement include Israel’s construction of a separation barrier in the West Bank and Jerusalem, the construction of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, the revocation of residency rights and house demolitions. " (MIDDLE EAST: Palestinian refugee factbox/timeline)

Clearly Israel needs to end its bad habit of persecuting, impoverishing and displacing the native non-Jewish population of historic Palestine. The Israel/Palestine conflict needs to end- and so does the largest, longest running refugee crisis in the world today: A fully secular two state solution is the best way forward. A two state solution that is based on full respect for international law and basic human rights across the board- including but not limited to the Palestinian refugees very real right to return to original homes and lands.

Anne Selden Annab

Peacemaking takes courage, leaders

Israel must clarify Palestine's status

The Arab Peace Initiative

(IRIN NEWS) MIDDLE EAST: Palestinian refugee factbox/timeline
MIDDLE EAST: Palestinian refugee factbox/timeline

Photo: Serene Assir/IRIN
A Palestinian refugee living in al-Rashidiye refugee camp near Tyre, in south Lebanon
MADRID, 22 June 2010 (IRIN) - International attention has been focused on the Palestinian question in recent weeks in the wake of Israeli military actions against marine activists trying to deliver aid to the Gaza Strip and recent Israeli moves to ease the blockade. IRIN takes a fresh look at the background.


- 29 November 1947: By approving Resolution 181, the UN General Assembly adopted a plan to partition the 1923-48 British Mandate of Palestine.

- November 1947-July 1949: War in the British Mandate of Palestine led to the flight of over 720,000 Palestinians, according to the UN. Non-UN estimates for the number of refugees displaced in 1948 range from 400,000 to almost one million.

- 9 April 1948: The Deir Yassin massacre just outside Jerusalem in which over 100 Palestinians were killed, shocked civilian Palestinian populations throughout the British Mandate of Palestine

- 11 December 1948: By issuing Resolution 194, the UN General Assembly recognized the Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homes. To date, this resolution has not been implemented.

- 14 May 1948 - July 1949: Hours after British withdrawal from the British Mandate of Palestine on 14 May 1948, the state of Israel was declared on 78 percent of that territory. Following the Arab rejection of the UN Partition Plan to divide Palestine between Jews and Arabs, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq invaded Israel.

Fast facts
The total number of displaced Palestinians worldwide is 7.1 million, including:
6.6 million refugees, and
427,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs)
67 percent of all Palestinians worldwide are refugees or IDPs
4,766,670 refugees registered with the UNRWA
UNRWA definition of Palestinian refugees: “People whose normal place of residence was 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.” As a rule, those displaced after 1948 do not qualify for UNRWA assistance
More than one million refugees whose displacement dates back to 1947-1948 are not registered with UNRWA
340,016 Palestinians are registered with UNHCR
- July 1949: Israel reached armistice agreements with Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt.

- 1 May 1950: UNRWA began its field operations.

- 5-10 June 1967: War broke out between Israel and Egypt, Syria and Jordan. As a result of the conflict, an additional 100,000-300,000 Palestinians became displaced.

- 1967-present day: Estimates vary greatly on the annual rate of new displacements, but Palestinian sources cite up to 20,000 newly displaced persons per year.

Reasons for new displacement include Israel’s construction of a separation barrier in the West Bank and Jerusalem, the construction of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, the revocation of residency rights and house demolitions.

(Sources: BADIL, UNRWA, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and The Institute for Middle East Understanding)

COUNTRY BY COUNTRY: Where do the Palestinians live?

The overwhelming majority of Palestinians live in the Middle East. UNRWA operates in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the occupied Palestinian territory. There are also sizeable numbers of refugees living in Iraq, Egypt and outside the Middle East. See Google map of where UNRWA works.


  • Around 1.9 Palestinian refugees are registered with UNRWA
  • Unlike any other host country, Jordan granted Palestinian refugees full citizenship rights, except for 120,000 people who originally came from the Gaza Strip
  • There are 10 official and three unofficial refugee camps in Jordan
  • Click here for more information on UNRWA’s operations in Jordan
    (Source: UNRWA)


  • Around 425,000 Palestinian refugees are registered with UNRWA
  • There are 12 official refugee camps
  • Given their condition as stateless, Palestinians in Lebanon are denied many basic rights. For instance, they are barred from around 20 professions and have no access to public social services. Even access to health and educational services is limited, often rendering registered refugees heavily dependent on UNRWA.
  • Around 3,000 Palestinians in Lebanon are not registered with UNRWA and have no other form of identity documents. They are barred from practically every form of assistance, and survive thanks to NGOs.
  • Click here for more information on UNRWA’s operations in Lebanon.
    (Sources: UNRWA, Danish Refugee Council)

Photo: Suhair Karam/IRIN
Palestinian children play at Beach refugee camp, west of Gaza City

  • Around 427,000 Palestinian refugees are registered with UNRWA.
  • There are nine official and three unofficial camps.
  • Palestinians enjoy the same rights as the Syrian population, barring citizenship rights.
  • Click here for more information on UNRWA’s operations in Syria.
    (Source: UNRWA)


  • An estimated 1.1 million Palestinians out of Gaza’s 1.5 million population are UNRWA-registered refugees.
  • There are eight UNRWA-administered camps in the Gaza Strip.
  • As a result of Israel’s occupation since 1967 and an ongoing blockade on the Gaza Strip, the population suffers severe economic problems.
  • UNRWA’s activities in the Gaza Strip have been severely restricted by the blockade.
  • Military conflict, including Israel’s 23-day military offensive starting 27 December 2008, has led to the frequent destruction of homes and other infrastructure in Gaza, much of which has not been rebuilt because of the blockade.
  • Click here for more information on UNRWA’s operations in Gaza.
    (Source: UNRWA)

West Bank

  • 779,000 Palestinians are registered with UNRWA.
  • There are 19 overcrowded and poorly serviced camps.
  • The ongoing occupation and military checkpoints and closures implemented by the Israeli army put a huge strain on the West Bank economy.
  • Click here for more information on UNRWA’s operations in the West Bank.
    (Source: UNRWA)

Photo: Shabtai Gold/IRIN
Palestinian women walk near Israel's barrier near Ramallah in the West Bank

  • Palestinians whose forbears were displaced in 1948 but remained within the borders of what is now Israel are estimated to number 335,204.
  • They have the right to Israeli citizenship but are denied the right to return to their home towns or villages.
    (Source: BADIL)


  • Palestinians fled to Egypt during the 1948, 1956 and 1967 wars.
  • It is estimated that there are up to 50,000 Palestinians in Egypt.
  • However, they do not have permanent residency rights, nor can they register as refugees.
  • There is no UNRWA presence in Egypt.
    (Source: Forced Migration Refugee Studies programme of the American University in Cairo)


  • Up until May 2006, UNHCR estimated that 34,000 Palestinians lived in Iraq. Today, only 11,544 UNHCR-registered Palestinian refugees remain.
  • Palestinians have been targeted and scores have been killed by militant groups since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. As such, many Palestinians who were living in Iraq have suffered forced displacement twice: once from their original homes, and then from their host country.
  • Most fleeing Palestinians have sought refuge in neighbouring Syria and Jordan.
    (Source: UNHCR)

Such is the scale and uniqueness of the Palestinian refugee problem that the UN has one agency for Palestinian refugees alone and another for all other refugees across the world.

After the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was established by the UN General Assembly on 8 December 1949 “to carry out direct relief and works programmes for Palestine refugees”.

UNRWA began operations on 1 May 1950 and because no solution to the Palestine refugee problem has been forthcoming, the General Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA's mandate, most recently extending it until 30 June 2011.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) was established on 14 December 1950 to help Europeans displaced by World War II. It is mandated to “to lead and co-ordinate international action to protect refugees and resolve refugee problems worldwide”.

The BADIL Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights describes the situation of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) as “the largest and longest-standing case of displaced persons in the world today.”


Theme(s): (IRIN) Refugees/IDPs


Monday, June 21, 2010

Erekat: Israel destroying talks by razing Silwan homes
Erekat: Israel destroying talks by razing Silwan homes

Bethlehem - Ma'an/Agencies - Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat reportedly said Israel's decision to demolish 22 homes in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem reveal Israel seeks to destroy indirect talks, Israeli media reported.

Erekat called on the international community to "halt these dangerous steps" and said that the move "proves that Israel has decided to destroy the indirect talks with the Palestinians," according to Israel's Army Radio.

The PLO officials comments follow approval from the Israeli Jerusalem municipal planning committee to raze 22 homes in the flashpoint neighborhood to make way for a national park.

According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, conflict erupted during the meeting between committee members and the residents of Silwan. Silwan residents starkly objected to the plan and demanded the committee discuss their alternative plan, which does not include razing homes.

Several lawyers representing the residents spoke out against the committee's decision.

"I also want to have a park in the neighborhood where I can sit on the weekends and dip my feet in the water, but if the committee has the courage to approve a plan against the will of the residents, and to raze their homes for it, then it should have the same courage to discuss their alternative plan as well," a lawyer told the Israeli daily.

Residents have been pushing an alternative plan for the area that would see no forced evictions or demolitions, despite the rezoning of areas to allow for a park. However, the initiative continues to be disregarded by the Israeli planning committee.

Israeli authorities say the homes are illegally built. However, several reports, including one issued by the EU in December 2009, reveal that since Israel's occupation of the eastern part of the city in 1967, Silwan has received the least building permits from the Israeli municipality, despite applying, forcing residents to build illegally.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"They took my HOME but they can't take my FUTURE"....Today is World Refugee Day: Help us help them to find a place to call home.

World Refugee Day 2010

This year's World Refugee Day on June 20 has as its theme, "Home," in recognition of the plight of more than 40 million uprooted people around the world. Around 10 million of them are refugees of special concern to UNHCR.

At UNHCR we help people find new homes and new futures through resettlement, through voluntary repatriation and through local integration. Most of the time, and where it's possible, refugees prefer to return to their home countries. Nonetheless, and with conflict continuing or escalating in many countries, finding new homes and allowing people to restart their lives is increasingly difficult.

This year, for World Refugee Day, we are planning events around the world to highlight the plight of refugees under our care and to advocate on their behalf for the help they need. We will be asking you to think about what it means to be one of those millions of individual human beings. And we will ask you to contribute in whatever way you can to helping them rebuild their lives.

Help us help them to find a place to call home.

How You Can Help

UNHCR: Today is World Refugee Day. We ask you to think about what it means to be one of those millions of uprooted people around the globe. Please contribute in whatever way you can to help them rebuild their lives. Help us help them to find a place to call home.

What flag can we wave? .... Father's Day Poetry: The Best Poetry, Old And New, To Celebrate Dad

Naomi Shihab Nye was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1952. Her father was a Palestinian refugee and . . . MORE »



by Naomi Shihab Nye

“A true Arab knows how to catch a fly in his hands,”
my father would say. And he’d prove it,
cupping the buzzer instantly
while the host with the swatter stared.

In the spring our palms peeled like snakes.
True Arabs believed watermelon could heal fifty ways.
I changed these to fit the occasion.

Years before, a girl knocked,
wanted to see the Arab.
I said we didn’t have one.
After that, my father told me who he was,
“Shihab”—“shooting star”—
a good name, borrowed from the sky.
Once I said, “When we die, we give it back?”
He said that’s what a true Arab would say.

Today the headlines clot in my blood.
A little Palestinian dangles a truck on the front page.
Homeless fig, this tragedy with a terrible root
is too big for us. What flag can we wave?
I wave the flag of stone and seed,
table mat stitched in blue.

I call my father, we talk around the news.
It is too much for him,
neither of his two languages can reach it.
I drive into the country to find sheep, cows,
to plead with the air:
Who calls anyone civilized?
Where can the crying heart graze?
What does a true Arab do now?

Naomi Shihab Nye, “Blood” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Portland, Oregon: Far Corner Books, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Source: Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Far Corner Books, 1995)

Suheir Hammad - What I Will

Obama!!! Stop Blind support to Israel

Palestinian youths hold signs during a protest against the closure of the Shuhada Street to Palestinians in the West Bank city of Hebron, Saturday, June 19, 2010 (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)

Poll: Palestinians want elections

Poll: Palestinians want elections
Published today (updated) 20/06/2010 09:44
Bethlehem - Ma'an - An opinion poll carried out by Fafo in February and May provides reveals Palestinian electoral preferences are changing, the Norwegian-backed research center found.

On domestic issues, the poll found that Palestinians are split over a unilateral proclamation of a Palestinian state. They are generally more confident in the Fayyad government and less confident in the Haniyeh government when compared to Fafo’s poll a year ago.

The security services in the West Bank have gained popular confidence, while the security services in Gaza have not, the poll revealed.

Respondents voiced more confidence in the leadership of Fatah than that of Hamas but three in ten respondents said neither was qualified to lead the Palestinian people.

People are greatly in favor of new legislative elections this year (89%) but only if held in both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and beleive Hamas should participate (84%). If there were elections today, Fatah would have received considerably more electoral support than Hamas, according to the poll.

Fafo’s polls for 2008, 2009 and 2010 suggest that Hamas received a boost in support after the war in Gaza last year whereas Fatah lost voters, but that the relative strength of the two parties is now back to what it was two years ago. The backing of Hamas in Gaza may even be lower than in 2008, the poll suggests.

However, Fafo said there is considerable uncertainty surrounding the poll data as it said it lacked the party preference of nearly half the electorate. "These are people who refuse to answer the question, claim they do not intend to cast their votes, or do not know which party (or candidate) to support," researchers wrote.

Turning to relations with Israel, the poll found that a larger share of the population favor a halt to rocket attacks from Gaza against Israel than a year ago (61%, up from 53%). Seven in ten think that Palestinians should resist Israel by putting more weight on civil, non-violent means.

Seventy-three percent are favorable to peace negotiations with Israel and believe a freeze in Israeli settlement construction should be a precondition for such talks. The poll recorded enhanced support for a two-state solution.

Fafo implemented the opinion poll in the West Bank between 9 to 15 February and in the Gaza Strip between 8 to 12 May 2010. Interviews took place at 66 fieldwork points in both areas. The respondents were randomly selected individuals aged 18 and above: 960 in the West Bank and 933 in the Gaza Strip — all interviewed face to face.

Report: Israel revoking Jerusalem residency of hundreds

Report: Israel revoking Jerusalem residency of hundreds
Bethlehem - Ma'an/Agencies - Many Palestinians from Jerusalem who choose to study and work abroad are finding out that they have imperiled their right to return to their hometown, an Israeli newspaper reported Saturday.

The 1952 Law of Entry into Israel determines that anyone who is not an Israeli citizen or the holder of an immigrant's permit or immigrant's certificate does not have the right to live in Israel, and his residency in Israel is conditional on a residency permit that has been granted to him according to this law, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported regarding a Palestinian deportee.

According to the report, 289 Jerusalemites' residencies were revoked in 2007. In 2008, the residency of Murad Abu-Khalaf, 33, a native of Ras al-Amud, who has a doctorate in electrical engineering, was revoked, the newspaper reported. Some 4,577 Jerusalemites' residencies were revoked in 2008, according to the data provided by the Interior Ministry quoted by Haaretz.

Israeli Discrimination: Beyond Borders By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

Date posted: June 16, 2010
By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

As much as I try to avoid it, the situation inevitably arises from time to time. If I tell people that traveling with my children is a nightmare, most mothers in particular would probably nod their heads understandingly, thinking I am referring to keeping two wayward children under control on an international flight. While that has also been an issue with me like most other mothers, this is not the "nightmare" to which I am referring.

To put it in a nutshell, I cannot leave the country with my two children – aged 10 and 7 – from the same borders. As crazy as this sounds, it is true, courtesy of Israel's complicated and discriminatory system of ID cards among Palestinians. I am one of thousands of people who fall between the cracks – stuck between two oppressive Israeli sets of restrictions for travelling Palestinians, the result of which is that mother and children cannot travel together across Israeli borders.

My two kids were born in Jerusalem (a prerequisite for their eligibility to become Jerusalem residents). I was born in the United States. After the Oslo Accords were signed and the PA made its grand entrance into the West Bank and Gaza, I was also afforded a West Bank Palestinian passport since I had been living in Ramallah for over a decade. When I married, I came to Jerusalem with one Palestinian ID card, one American passport and the hope that Israel would somehow grant me family reunification with my husband, therefore transforming my green (Palestinian ID) to the more coveted blue Jerusalem ID. Of course, this did not happen overnight. To be exact, it took 11 years after which I still have not been granted a Jerusalem ID card but rather a one-year residency permit in Jerusalem (renewable upon security check every 12 months). To travel across checkpoints between Jerusalem and the West bank, I must always carry my permit, which allows me (after a fingerprint check) to cross into the city.

But back to my issue with traveling. Israel bans Palestinians (with Palestinian Authority ID cards) from traveling through its Ben Gurion Airport. On rare occasions, a special permit is given to Palestinians to travel via the airport, but usually only in cases of serious medical conditions. Even then, the process is lengthy and is not guaranteed. You may be given an answer about whether a permit has been issued or not mere hours before your flight; in some cases, even afterwards.

Palestinians, therefore, must leave the country through Jordan via the Allenby Bridge. My children, given that they have neither a Jordanian nor a Palestinian passport, cannot travel from Jordan. I of course, cannot travel from Ben Gurion. So, this is what we do when their father, the original Jerusalemite, is not traveling with us. The first time, I was taking my then much younger kids to the United States to issue them US passports. My father (who only has US citizenship) flew them out of Ben Gurion and met me later that night in Jordan (after I crossed the bridge earlier that day). On the way back, I had my sister, who is also only an American citizen, meet me in Jordan to take the kids back with her to Tel Aviv's airport. I crossed the bridge the second day.

The occasion has arisen once more. I am to fly to Geneva with the two of them in a few days. This time, there is no one to take them out of the country and I do not have the luxury of time to try and convince the Israelis to give me a permit to fly out of the airport. Hence, I am sending them on a flight alone from Ben Gurion (with an escort from the airline) and will meet up with them in Europe. The same goes for their return trip. I, of course, will have the much less enviable task of crossing the bridge to Jordan.

Mine are not the only woes in regards to traveling via Israeli borders. Internationals (especially pro-Palestinian) run the risk of being stamped with a one-month or even one-week visa – or worse, being turned back at the border altogether. Palestinians from Jerusalem and inside Israel are harassed, strip searched and humiliated by Israeli security personnel at the airport, sometimes missing their flight because of the hours-long interrogations. At the Allenby Crossing, Israeli border personnel are known to take people into the "room" where they hold them for hours, interrogate them on where and why they are coming to the country, only to send them packing back to Jordan. No one is immune either. High profile personalities such as Noam Chomsky have been returned at the Allenby Bridge and others such as Norman Finkelstein have been given a five-year ban at Ben Gurion, stamped clearly on their US passports.

Israel's security checks, whether at internal checkpoints inside Palestine or at their international borders are infamously grueling and oftentimes just plain ridiculous. Questions such as "do you have any weapons?" or "did you pack your own bags?" are ones that have obvious answers, at least to those who know Israel's security paranoia. Other questions are equally as ridiculous – "Do you know any Palestinians?", or worse yet if you say you are traveling to Jerusalem, "Do you know any Arabs there?"

In my case, it is not the hassle or the harassment of Israeli security that irks me the most. Our skins have thickened after so many years of enduring such questioning. What disturbs me to no end is the fact that mother and children are not allowed to travel together, that the racist system of segregation Israel has imposed upon Palestinians living under its occupation has been allowed to continue unabated. Freedom of movement, democracy and family unity are principles that Israel may very well embrace, at least for Jewish Israelis. Such things are obviously not for us.

Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Department at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at

U.S. Will Contribute $60 Million to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

U.S. Will Contribute $60 Million to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced today that the United States will be making an additional contribution of $60.3 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) to support UNRWA's core budget and special projects in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.

The $60.3 million contribution will provide critical services, including health, to 4.7 million Palestinian refugees. Of this contribution, $5.7 million will support nine special projects, including reconstruction and rehabilitation of schools in Jordan, Syria, and the West Bank, an afterschool program for refugee children in Lebanon, and a referral system to help refugees facing gender-based violence.

UNRWA currently faces a shortfall of $161 million, including $91 million for core expenses such as salaries for teachers educating nearly 500,000 Palestinian refugee children across the region.

With this contribution, the U.S. will have provided more than $225 million to UNRWA in 2010, including $120 million to its General Fund, $75 million to its West Bank/Gaza emergency programs, $20 million to emergency programs in Lebanon, and $10 million for the construction of five new schools in Gaza.

The U.S. commitment to the welfare of the Palestinian people was further underscored by the President's June 9 announcement that the United States will move forward with $400 million to increase access to clean drinking water, create jobs, build schools, and address critical housing and infrastructure needs in the West Bank and Gaza. As UNRWA's largest bilateral donor, the U.S. recognizes the critical role UNRWA plays in assisting Palestinian refugees and maintaining regional stability and calls upon other donors to enhance their support for UNRWA.

Occupied territories: "Systematic and continuing human rights violations must stop," says UN Committee on Israeli practices

Occupied territories: "Systematic and continuing human rights violations must stop," says UN Committee on Israeli practices

DAMASCUS (18 June 2010) – The UN Special Committee on Israeli Practices in the Occupied Territories* expressed serious concern about the human rights situation in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank -including East Jerusalem, and the occupied Syrian Golan.

"Victims of the systematic and often arbitrary restrictions on human rights and basic freedoms have the right to see justice prevail," said Ambassador Palitha T.B. Kohona, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN in New York, and Chairman of the Committee, at the end of a 13-day fact-finding visit to Cairo, Amman and Damascus. "Violations must cease," he added.

"The testimonies that we have heard attest to a failure to address the long-standing pattern of serious violations of human rights," Ambassador Kohona noted. In the past two weeks, the three-member Committee has heard the testimonies of dozens of witnesses from across the occupied Palestinian territory and the occupied Syrian Golan, recounting their first-hand experiences of life under occupation....READ MORE