Menu JTA Search

Arabs Accused of Perpetuating Refugees’ Plight for Political Reasons

An Israeli United Nations spokesman accused the Arab governments today of perpetuating the distress of Arab refugees for 20 years “as an instrument of warfare against Israel,” saying the problem could have been solved long ago “had the Arab states been willing to treat it as a humanitarian question.” The spokesman was commenting on debate of the refugee problem which opened in the General Assembly’s special political committee yesterday.

The Israeli said that the only Arab reaction to a refugee proposal by Foreign Minister Abba Eban placed before the General Assembly Oct. 8 was a “negative” one given by Egyptian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Riad. Mr. Eban called for a conference on the refugee problem in which all the countries concerned in the Middle East would participate. His proposal involves governments contributing to refugee relief and UN assistance in a five-year plan. The spokesman said that Arab reaction on this proposal”confirmed” the Israeli view that the Arabs are not prepared to treat the refugee problem as a “human question.” He noted that Israel has declared its readiness to expedite the reunion of Arab families separated by the June, 1967 hostilities and to “intensify arrangements for utilization of unused permits for the return of displaced persons.” The spokesman said that the refugee problem, which arose from the Arab-Israel 1948 war, would be solved within the framework of a “just and lasting peace” provided for in the Security Council’s Nov. 22, 1967 resolution setting forth peace principles.

UNRWA COMMISSIONER-GENERAL TELLS COMMITTEE OF AGENCY NEEDS, PROBLEMS

The Commissioner-General of UNRWA said here yesterday that his agency anticipated a deficit of at least $5 million in 1969 and warned that 75,000 refugees housed in canvas tents in Jordan and Syria will face severe hardships when winter sets in because UNRWA lacked the funds to replace tent camps with solid structures.

Laurence Michelmore stated in his report to the special political committee that the situation would be eased if refugees and other persons displaced by the June, 1967 Arab-Israel war could return to the homes and the camps where they were living before hostilities began. He said this had been recommended many times by UNRWA on humanitarian grounds and noted that it was mentioned by Mr. Thant when he appeared yesterday. Mr. Michelmore said that if the refugees and displaced persons could return to their previous domiciles, his agency could provide better care at less cost.

UNRWA has submitted a budget of $42.5 million for 1969. Mr. Michelmore noted however that based on the years 1964 through 1967 its income next year was not likely to exceed $37.5 million – about $5 million less than required. “If adequate funds are not forthcoming, a reduction in services to the refugee population would be inescapable, with resulting human hardship and suffering,” Mr. Michelmore said. He noted that UNRWA’s costs have increased in part due to the need to establish an additional field office because of the separation of the West Bank from east Jordan and because of “the higher price level for goods and services which now exists, especially in Gaza and the West Bank, and the consequent need to increase the rates of compensation to UNRWA staff.”

NEXT STORY