RAFAH, Gaza Strip (Reuters) – By day, Awad al-Qiq was a respected science teacher and headmaster at a United Nations school in the Gaza Strip. By night, Palestinian militants say, he built rockets for Islamic Jihad.
The Israeli air strike that killed the 33-year-old last week also laid bare his apparent double life and embarrassed a U.N. agency which has long had to rebuff Israeli accusations that it has aided and abetted guerrillas fighting the Jewish state.
In interviews with Reuters, students and colleagues, as well as U.N. officials, denied any knowledge of Qiq’s work with explosives. And his family denied he had any militant links at all, despite a profusion of Islamic Jihad posters at his home.
But militant leaders allied to the enclave’s ruling Hamas group hailed him as a martyr who led Islamic Jihad’s “engineering unit” — its bomb makers. They fired a salvo of improvised rockets into Israel in response to his death. [my emphasis]
The UN agency which operates the school is UNRWA, of course. UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) was set up by UN resolution 302 in 1949 specifically to deal with Palestinian refugees; no other refugee group has had its own UN agency. The UNRWA 2007 budget was $487 million. The largest contributors are the US, the European Commission, Sweden, the Norway and the United Kingdom. UNRWA has more than 27,000 employees, 99% of whom are Palestinians, almost all ‘refugees’.
UNRWA is a major employer in Gaza and other locations, and one of the biggest contributors to the Palestinian ‘economy’ (the other is Palestinian Authority salaries, mostly for ‘security’ forces).
More details about the ‘refugees’, from the UNRWA site:
One-third of the registered Palestine refugees, about 1.3 million, live in 58 recognized refugee camps in the area of operations in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the West Bank and Gaza Strip…
The other two-thirds of the registered refugees live in and around the cities and towns of the host countries, and in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, often in the environs of official camps. While most of UNRWA’s installations such as schools and health centres are located in refugee camps, a number are outside camps and all of the Agency’s services are available to both camp and non-camp residents.
UNRWA’s mandate is to provide services to the 4-5 million descendants of the 750,000 1948 refugees, not to resettle them. Resolution 302 clearly intends it to be a temporary agency, and the implication is that the host governments will ultimately take responsibility for the refugees and also, reading between the lines, that they would eventually be resettled.
As everyone knows, the Arab nations (except Jordan) refused to allow any change in the status of the refugees, and chose to keep them and their descendants miserable in order to create an army that they hoped would ultimately overwhelm Israel either as an inexhaustible source of terrorist recruits or by way of a ‘right of return’. There is no precedent for a refugee situation lasting 60 years, and none for refugee status to be passed to descendants. Yet somehow the Palestinians are different.
UNRWA is the mechanism by which this unnatural growth is fed and nurtured. Were it not for UNRWA, the original refugees would have found homes and employment in host countries (and indeed, had the Arabs been prepared to make peace, many would have been able to return to Israel).
The Arab nations haven’t had to pay for the development of this army. We have, and continue to do so, just as we pay for the Palestinian Authority security forces, many of whom are terrorists or gangsters.
The Palestinian employees of UNRWA share the politics of Palestinians everywhere, and that means that a majority of them approve of ‘armed struggle’ as the best way to ‘liberate Palestine’ and solve the refugee problem. So it entirely unsurprising that rocketry buffs like Awad al-Qiq are UNRWA employees.
But the irony of a teacher moonlighting as a terrorist that the Reuters dispatch plays on is actually not ironic at all.
Because there isn’t any contradiction between the mission of UNRWA and that of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.