Canada has just taken a bold, unilateral step by announcing it will no longer fund the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). This move will undoubtedly draw the ire of Palestinian supporters who consider such financial aid essential and sacrosanct. Nevertheless, UNRWA has drawn criticism for decades, and at the very least, the organization has needed a shake-up for a long time.
Canada, it should be remembered, was present at UNRWA’s birth in December 1949; indeed, the agency’s first director was a Canadian*. That Canada should be the first major donor to pull out of UNRWA funding is significant at many levels, and the move will undoubtedly affect G8 support of the organization.
The real challenge, however, may be the present Conservative government's ability to survive long enough to see any change. Many expect the Conservatives, whose draconian domestic policies have ruffled feathers across Canada's left-leaning populace, to lose the next Federal election. Support for the Conservatives, which presently rules with a minority government, has been falling. A recent poll shows them essentially tied with the Liberals who, if in power, would almost certainly reverse the UNRWA decision.
* "Canada subsequently voted for the establishment of the Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) in the General Assembly resolution of 8 December 1949 whose first director was General Howard Kennedy of Canada. ..." (Zachariah Kay, The Diplomacy of Prudence: Canada and Israel, 1948-1958 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1996): 24-28.)
The National Post has an editorial on the decision here.
In this still from a Reuters video, terrorists are seen
loading weapons into a UN ambulance.
Here are a few articles for background information on UNRWA's controversial history.
How UNRWA became a barrier to peace
By Jonathan Spyer, 27 May 2008
Gaza Bedfellows UNRWA And Hamas
by Claudia Rosett, 08 January 2009
How they keep each other in business.
Ex-UNRWA official blasts agency for politicizing Palestinian refugee issue
by Natasha Mozgovaya, 08 February 2009
James G. Lindsay's report, mentioned in the above article, can be read here. (Note: a pdf file will open)
The UN’s Palestinian Refugee Problem
Arlene Kushner, 2005 (Note: a pdf file will open)
UNRWA`s Gina Benevento responds to the Kushner article here. (Note: a pdf file will open)