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B’nai B’rith International CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin and AJIRI-BBI Chair Richard P. Schifter sent a letter to the New York Times regarding its recent, misleading article about UNRWA and aid to Palestinians (“What to Know About the U.N. Aid Agency for Palestinians” New York Times, January 26, 2024).

From Daniel S. Mariaschin, B’nai B’rith International CEO and Richard P. Schifter, AJIRI-BBI Chair:

To the editor,

The New York Times, in purporting to present an objective overview of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (“What to Know About the UN Aid Agency for Palestinians,” January 26, 2024) misses the mark by far. The egregious abuses by UNRWA and its staff notwithstanding—hate education, UNRWA employees celebrating the Hamas massacres of Oct. 7, UNRWA employees participating in the planning of the massacres of Oct. 7, etc.—the real problem with UNRWA is much more fundamental.

The real problem with UNRWA is its very existence. Why is there a separate UN agency only for Palestinian “refugees”? Why are numerous generations of descendants of Palestinian “refugees” still considered refugees (unlike refugees’ descendants in any other conflict)? How are any Palestinians in Gaza considered refugees, when they live, and have always lived, within the territory of mandatory “Palestine” (and purportedly within the territory of a potential Palestinian state)?

The answers to these questions are troubling. UNRWA has encouraged generations of Palestinians to believe they will “return” to what is now, and has been for 75 years, the State of Israel. It is this evil dream and the incitement that accompanies it, that has fueled the violent hatred of Israelis and Jews that led up to Oct. 7. Far from being a humanitarian agency that is “a vital lifeline” and merely “a point of contention with Israel,” UNRWA is a major obstacle to any peaceful outcome for Israelis and Palestinians.

Daniel S. Mariaschin, CEO, B’nai B’rith International AND Richard P. Schifter, Chair, American Jewish International Relations Institute-B’nai B’rith International (AJIRI-BBI), Washington, D.C.