UNITED NATIONS, N.Y. (Nov. 17)
Ambassador Yosef Tekoah said today that the United Nations aid should not be given to Arab refugee camps that pass into the control of “terror organizations.” He told the UN’s Special Political Committee, which today took up the report of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), that the UN “cannot give assistance to persons engaged in warfare against a member state.”
Mr. Tekoah’s reference was to the 14 or 15 UNRWA camps in Lebanon which have been taken over by terror organizations. He said that UNRWA is not entitled to continue the administration of a camp and the supply to it of relief and services when it becomes “barracks of terror organizations.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for UNRWA said here today that the guerrillas who have taken control of the camps have not in any way interfered with the health and welfare services provided to the Arab refugees in Lebanon.
Mr. Tekoah charged in his speech that the refugee camps have become a base for mobilization and training of terror squads. An UNRWA spokesman said meanwhile that the agency regarded the control of camps by guerrilla elements as “temporary” and hoped that the normal control would be restored to the Lebanese Government which is charged with maintaining law and order.
The spokesman said that apart from the abnormal activities of recent weeks of crisis in Lebanon when the Government and guerrillas were at war, there has not been “overt” recruitment in camps by guerrillas for their organizations.
URGES REVISION OF ROLLS TO ELIMINATE MANY WHO ARE SELF-SUPPORTING
Mr.Tekoah said that UNRWA should revise its rolls to eliminate many Arabs in the occupied territories who have become self-supporting and thereby help relieve some of its own severe financial burdens. His address coincided with a detailed report on the refugee situation delivered by Dr. Laurence Michelmore, Commissioner General of UNRWA. Dr. Michelmore stressed the urgency of his agency’s financial needs and urged greater contributions from member nations and other sources.
Ambassador Tekoah noted that the Commissioner General’s report placed the number of self-supporting refugees as high as 148,004. He observed, however, that there may be many more who are self-supporting because an “accurate assessment”is complicated “by the fact that UNRWA’s working rule has in effect been once a refugee always a refugee.” Mr. Tekoah said “this perpetuation of the refugee status is also encouraged by UNRWA’s assumption in practice that such status is handed down from the original refugees to their children and their children’s children and all subsequent generations.”
The Israeli envoy, supporting his contention that there may be many on the refugee rolls no longer in need of full or even partial UNRWA support cited a study carried out by the research team of the Hebrew University in one of the large refugee camps on the West Bank. It found, Mr. Tekoah said, that “the average family income and level of employment was nearly equal to local standards, and even a little higher, when adding the cash value of UNRWA rations.”
Ambassador Tekoah noted that thousands of refugees have found employment in Israeli highway construction, soil reclamation, afforestation and other public works projects.”Almost all persons who have sought work through the Government labor exchanges in the West Bank have been employed,” he said. “In Gaza, about 20,000 job-seekers are employed through Israel labor exchanges.” He observed further that “refugees have been among the 2,000 persons who have received instruction in newly established governmental vocational schools and training courses in building trades,” are benefiting from expanded health and education services and are sending more children than in the past to the expanding network of Israel Government schools.
Mr. Tekoah reiterated Israel’s charge that the Palestinian refugee problem was created at its outset by the Arab invasion of Israel in 1948 and has been deliberately perpetuated by the Arab governments ever since as a political and potential military weapon against Israel. He contrasted Israel’s absorption and care for nearly a million Jewish refugees from Arab country’s during the same period with what he described as the Arab countries’ callous disregard for the refugees within their own boundaries. He vehemently rejected Arab demands for the wholesale repatriation of refugees to what is now Israel. Nevertheless, he said, Israel is doing its best to facilitate the return of persons who left the West Bank during the June, 1967 war. He said they were “persons who left the area of their own will, in an orderly fashion, and without being obliged to do so. This is undoubtedly why so many who have been granted permission to return have not availed themselves of this possibility.” Of 16,374 permits granted during the 12 month period Nov. 1, 1968 to Oct. 31, 1969, only 8,535 were used, Mr. Tekoah reported.
He said that Israel was conscious of the plight of Arab refugees and continues to contribute to UNRWA to improve their situation. He noted that Israel contributed over $3.7 million for that purpose during the year ending on June 30,1969 and “will announce its cash contribution for the forthcoming year at the pledging conference.” Mr. Tekoah pointed out that Israel has proposed immediate action toward an over all solution of the refugee problem without waiting for a general peace settlement.”