The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees employs and provides benefits for terrorists and criminals, asserts a former legal adviser to UNRWA who left the organization in 2007. James G. Lindsay, now a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served as an attorney with the US Justice Department for two decades before leaving to work for UNRWA in 2000Yet nowhere does Lindsay say anything remotely like this. He says that the UNRWA hires refugees, that the refugees support violence against Israel, and that, in his opinion, better steps should be taken to screen employees. But he rejects Israeli demands for screening, and, bottom line, he basically exonerates the organization:
As shown in the previous chapter, area staff are drawn from a Palestinian population that overwhelmingly supports violence against Israelis, so it would not be surprising if some staff members were involved in such attacks. Yet, of the nearly 5,000 area staff in West Bank and 10,000 in Gaza, few have been convicted of terrorism-related charges. Morever, the relatively few examples of staff involvement in anti-Israeli violence that critics often cite are, for the most part, not clearly convincing.And in commenting on the Nahd Atallah case, "[Atallah's] use of the UNLP [for allegedly transporting militants] within Gaza..and of the UNRWA vehicle were never established...Despite request from UNRWA, the Israeli authorities did not provide the dates or times when Atallah allegedly misused an agency vehicle." So, in fact, Lindsay refutes the critics of UNRWA on this point. The problem with the report is that once again it stakes out a position in the "middle," which represents what I call the liberal Israeli narrative (perhaps I should now include Fatah within that.) I have written about getting stuck in the middle elsewhere. Thus Hamas is entirely demonized; there is no attempt to understand the group as anything but a terrorist organization. Once again, we go back to the ridiculous issue of the Palestinian textbooks, as if bombing civilians and keeping them in a prison were not textbook enough for Palestinian hatred. So, yes, the textbooks don't promote peace, no, they aren't as bad as the critics say they are, etc., etc., Love that middle! The real purpose of the report is to deligitimize the political rights of the refugees and their supporters, to view the issue of the refugees a humanitarian one that should be solved by resettling them. The author clearly rejects calls for the return of the refugees because he accepts the liberal Israeli narrative. That is his prerogative. But his appeal to "depoliticize" UNRWA is itself a political one, a partisan stance, just as political as those who want UNRWA to foster Palestinian nationalism. The report would have been less disappointing had it been less partisan, had it attempted to present both sides of the story without landing in the (liberal Zionist) middle that is the accepted discourse in such circles. It has now been presented to the Obama administration. Let's hope the folks there take it with more than one grain of zahatar.