Refugees unto the Third Generation

This book examins UNRWA and shows that the agency is trapped in a political cauldron. Clients suspect it of being an agent of Western imperialism. Host states seek to control it.

Schiff Benjamin, Refugees unto the Third Generation, Syracuse University Press, 1995.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency was originally established in 1950 as a temporary, nonpolitical response to the Palestinian refugee crisis. The forty-four-year-old agency has become a fixture in the drama of the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Designed to solve refugee problems through massive Jordan Valley water development projects, today UNRWA runs schools, health clinics for millions, and relief programs for the poorest refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.

As Benjamin Schiff shows, the agency is trapped in a political cauldron. Clients suspect it of being an agent of Western imperialism. Host states seek to control it. In the Israeli occupied territories it is squeezed between authorities striving to quell riotous refugees and Palestinians seeking shelter from the occupation's brutalities. Pro-Palestinian critics charge that the agency helps lull refugees into quiescence, while pro-Israeli critics assail it for perpetuating refugee intransigence.

The fascinating evolution of this agency amidst the regional tumult is Schiff's story in Refugees unto The Third Generation. His book reflects upon lessons applicable to many other international organizations caught up in similar circumstances, as well as on the role of the UN in such situations.

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