Monday, December 12, 2011
UNWRA spokesman Chris Gunness
Barely five days after it was released, The truth about the Refugees, Danny Ayalon's third video, is racking up tens of thousands of views and some strong comments, the Chinese News agency Xinha reports. One angry reaction has come from UNWRA's spokesman Chris Gunness. In order to dismiss Ayalon's parallels between Jewish and Arab refugees, Gunness refers to a 1950 UN document in which the Israeli government refuses UN intervention, as it was willing to absorb the Jewish refugees as full citizens. Gunness not only admits that the new arrivals were refugees, but proves Ayalon's point: that the Jewish refugees were offered the full rights that Palestinians are denied.
A brief animated YouTube video recently released by the Foreign Ministry focusing on the Palestinian refugee issue has drawn tens of thousands of page views so far, as well as arousing strong pro and con sentiments.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon last week posted the five- and-half-minute long clip, entitled "Israel Palestinian Conflict: The Truth About the Refugees." In it, he compares the disparity in treatment by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) of Palestinian refugees, to that of other refugee groups which have been resettled in other areas.
"While the UNHCR has found durable solutions for tens of millions of refugees, the agency created specifically for the Palestinian context has found durable solutions for no one," since Israel's inception in 1948, Ayalon said.
However, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Spokesman Christopher Gunness told Xinhua on Sunday that Ayalon's "arguments distract from the real issue which is resolving the plight of the 'Palestine' refugees, because all internationally accepted paradigms for resolving the conflict envisage the refugee question resolved within the context of a just and durable solution, in consultation with the refugees themselves, based on international law and UN resolutions."
"Abolishing UNRWA and handing the refugees to UNHCR simply pass the issue to another refugee agency without dealing with the root causes; moreover the refugees are human beings with fundamental rights and whoever is assisting them those rights must be fully respected," Gunness added.(...)
"The refugee issue is a core element towards finding a solution to our conflict and in its broader context would have to address both the Palestinians and the Jewish refugees from Arab lands," Ayalon said, noting that "Jewish refugees also require redress."
But according to Gunness, a UN document in 1950 shows that the Israeli government has specifically requested that the UN not intervene in the resettlement of Jews from Arab lands, since the Jewish state was willing to absorb them.
"Recent discussions with the Israel Government indicate that the idea of relief distribution is repugnant to it," read the early report of the UNRWA, "It was stated that they (Jewish refugees) all have status as citizens of Israel and are entitled to treatment as such."(My emphasis)
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