A New York Times Magazine article two weeks ago by Rachel Kushner, “We Are Orphans Here: Life and Death in East Jerusalem’s Palestinian Refugee Camp,” describes her observations of the miserable daily life of the residents of the Shuafat refugee camp.
The reader isn’t told that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), not Israel, is responsible for this “camp.” Unexplained is why there still are Palestinian refugees living in this slum.
Nowhere are we informed that Shuafat is a highly armed, crime-ridden community, harboring Hamas terrorists like Ibrahim al-Akari who killed an Israeli policeman and wounded 14 Israelis. The article gives the impression that somehow the squalid existence of this camp is the fault of uncaring Israeli military overseers bent on punishing peaceful, helpless Palestinians.
Five million Palestinian refugees receive assistance from UNWRA. Why, Ms. Kushner, long after the 1948 war when five Arab armies attacked the fledgling Jewish state, are there almost 2 million Palestinian Arabs still living in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem?
The Palestinian Arabs are the only refugees who, after almost seven decades, have not been resettled. In contrast, Israel welcomed and integrated the 850,000 Jews forced to flee from Muslim countries after 1948.
Established in 1949, UNRWA’s sole purpose was to care for the 650,000 Arab refugees displaced by the 1948 conflict. Because of its unique definition of a refugee, UNWRA now cares for 5 million people, including all the progeny of those originally displaced.