To the editor: It is unfortunate that rather than share factual insights based on even the most elementary research and fact-checking, Mr. Ben Barber chooses to rehash old and repeatedly discredited charges against UNRWA — the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.
Much of his commentary "Eternal Palestinian Refugees" relies on a fringe-element film fraught with baseless allegations and outright fabrications. Given the frequent and thorough monitoring of UNRWA's operations, programs and staff by the U.S, Israeli and various European governments, it defies reality that the international community, including the U.S. and Israel, would continue to provide support to UNRWA if any of Mr. Barber's claims could be substantiated.
With very generous and much appreciated contributions from the American people, UNRWA provides basic humanitarian services including education, health, nutrition and job training to almost 5 million registered Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and the West Bank. Eliminating UNRWA will not make these refugees or their rights disappear — it will only condemn them to further anguish and increase instability in an already volatile region.
Indeed, the final status of the refugees lies in a negotiated political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, one which comprehensively addresses all outstanding matters, including the refugee issue.
Directly quoting an official joint cable from three American embassies in the region, "Continued strong U.S. Government support for UNRWA is essential to our strategic interests in the region." Clearly, these American diplomats on the front lines are more legitimate and expert sources on UNRWA.
Matthew A. Reynolds Washington Representative, UNRWA