End of UNRWA would be the beginning of peace, peers told

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End of UNRWA would be the beginning of peace, peers told

Crossbencher Baroness Deech tells House of Lords the Palestinian aid agency is 'the problem, not the solution'

UNRWA sign in Jerusalem, 2007
UNRWA sign in Jerusalem, 2007

The United Nations’ Palestinian aid agency must be abolished, ministers have been told.

The end of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) would be the “beginning of peace”, crossbench peer Baroness Deech said.

The lawyer and academic also said the right of return afforded to Palestinian refugees who had settled in other countries in the Middle East should be abandoned, as allowing for it “would mean the destruction of Israel and the obliteration of its seven million Jews”.

UNRWA is currently under investigation after accusations that members of its staff may have colluded with Hamas.

Baroness Ruth Deech

The allegations have led major donors to the agency, including the US and UK, to temporarily halt funds.

As the House of Lords debated the UK’s position on foreign affairs, Lady Deech described UNRWA as “the problem, not the solution”.

She said: “UNRWA’s mission is not to help people but to perpetuate a political conflict, that is to keep the so-called refugees in a state of misery until they can return to Israeli territory.

“That would mean the destruction of Israel and the obliteration of its seven million Jews.”

The aid agency’s definition of Palestinian refugees includes the descendants of those displaced by past conflicts in Israel and Palestine who currently live in refugee camps in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

Lady Deech added: “The only way to resettle refugees and bring peace is to treat Palestinians like all the other refugees in the world. As with millions of others post-war there was upheaval and new national boundaries.

“They cannot return any more than Jews can return to their former homes in Syria and Iraq and elsewhere.

“The host countries where the refugees are resident must take over their care and resettlement and full civil liberties, just as every other civilised country does eventually with displaced persons.”

She later added: “The millions who live in Syria, Lebanon, Egypt and elsewhere should have citizenship and full rights in those countries, as would be the case for refugees in any other country of refuge.

“They are not refugees in any case, being neither born nor driven out of the land of their birth.

“Will the minister accept that the continued existence of UNRWA fuels terrorism, twists the minds of future generations and perpetuates the refugee illusion, rather than putting an end to it?

“The end of UNRWA would be the beginning of peace.”

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