U.N. Commissioner Reports on Arab Refugees; His Views Held Biased
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U.N. Commissioner Reports on Arab Refugees; His Views Held Biased

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A report on the Arab refugee problem, which is considered by most observers here as taking the side of the Arabs against Israel, was presented here today to the United Nations General Assembly by Dr. John H. Davis, Commissioner-General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. Dr. Davis stressed in his report that:

1. Not only the refugees but “the Arab people as a whole feel deeply that an injustice has been committed against the Arabs of Palestine.”

2. Implementation of a 1948 resolution calling for “repatriation” of the refugees or their compensation or are settlement is “demanded” because this 14-year-old resolution has “not yet been realized. “

3. Sponsoring work projects for refugees, especially such as might lead to resettlement, should not be attempted by the UN agency.

4. The Arab refugees must “cross an international boundary, ” making it clear that he means they must cross into Israel.

These were only some of the statements made by Dr. Davis, in his formal report on the activities of the UN body whose job it is to aid the refugees but not to enter into politics, Viewing the Arab refugee situation over the past 14 years, two years prior to the creation of UNRWA in 1950, Dr. Davis declared.

“It now seems quite clear that the dominant forces responsible for the continuation of the refugee problem are the impasse in regard to the basic issues involved, resulting from the deep feelings of the peoples in the Middle East with regard to those issues; the general unemployable status of dependent refugees; and the overall economic limitations of the host countries in absorbing refugees in addition to their own growing populations.” The “host” countries are Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria who, according to Dr. Davis, could not “absorb” the refugees.

“With respect to the feelings of the inhabitants of the Arab countries of the Middle East, ” he held, “it is, in the opinion of the Commissioner-General, the Arab people as a whole, and not just the million-odd displaced refugees, who feel deeply that an injustice has been committed against the Arabs of Palestine. As they view the situation, they see a country obliterated and a people uprooted and dispossessed, a majority of whom have been subjected to conditions which have deprived them of their means of livelihood and left them dependent on international charity.

“Perhaps even worse has been the psychological damage inflicted on them by their prolonged dependence on charity. As one would expect, such an experience inevitably has had a corroding effect on the personality of the individuals involved,” Dr. Davis commented.


He then reiterated the “demand” of the refugees for implementation of the 1948 resolution, singling out of that lengthy document only one article, paragraph eleven, the article which the Arab spokesmen constantly hammer against Israel, ignoring other vital clauses in the same resolution which provide for peaceful settlement of the Israeli-Arab issues as a whole.

He insisted that, aside from the “political aspects” of the Palestine problem, “one cannot but be struck by the limitations” of the capacity of the Arab states “to absorb the refugee population.” “A major proportion of the refugees, ” he declared, “must cross an international boundary if they are to find suitable employment without resort on the part of the host countries to uneconomic investment. “

Here he made it clear that in his “considered judgment” the Arab states could not afford to develop an economy that would employ the refugees. Thus he disregarded completely the plan for overall integration of the Middle East economy, proposed by the late Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold. The Arab states had fought bitterly against the Hammarskjold proposal, succeeding in shelving it.

Dr. Davis told the Assembly that UNRWA’s past efforts to settle refugees “and the virtually fruitless outcome of past broader efforts, under other auspices to negotiate a settlement of the Palestine problem, indigenous to the region, and to the Governments which represent them. ” Due to these feelings, he said, it is his “considered opinion” that “UNRWA Should not again attempt to undertake works projects designed to settle the refugees.”

Further in his report, he made the point clear again by asserting: “It is not UNRWA’s responsibility to solve the Palestine problem in its broader aspects and, in the opinion of the Commissioner-General, experience has indicated that, at least pending progress toward a general solution, UNRWA is not an appropriate agency to attempt works projects to provide rehabilitation. “


Again he made it clear that any “boundary crossing” by the refugees must be in the direction of Israel only by declaring that “any absorption of the refugees into the economy and society of the Arab world would not, of itself, dispose of the underlying, more basic issues of the Palestine problem. “

Dr. Davis devoted a section of his report to explaining UNRWA’s efforts to “rectify” the agency’s ration rolls. UNRWA has for years been criticised for giving relief an ration cards held by the families of deceased refugees who fail to report the deaths. Conceding that such “rectification” efforts depend “on the cooperation of the refugees as well as of the host Governments,” he absolved two of the “host” governments, Jordan and Syria, by stating that the “rectification” efforts were “somewhat delayed owing to political developments. “

He claimed that, nevertheless, there has been some “rectification. ” and referred the Assembly to a statistical table allegedly showing such progress. However, that table, printed 12 pages further down the lengthy report, showed merely that, among the refugees taken off the ration rolls, were included 40, 930 of them absorbed by Israel between July 1950 and June 1953. He said that, in the year ending June 1962, 18, 660 dead refugees were removed from the ration rolls.

Dr. Davis said in his report that, as of June 30, 1962, there were 1,174, 760 refugees. He told the Assembly that UNRWA 1963 budget will require $37, 000, 000 in governmental contributions, “an increase of about $3, 000, 000 or nine percent over 1962. ” Dr. Davis took note in his report that UNRWA’s current mandate will expire on June 30, 1963, and expressed the hope that the United Nations would find some way of continuing refugee relief in one form or another.

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