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Palestine & the UN

In response to:

Palestine: The Search for a New Golden Age from the October 7, 1971 issue

To the Editors:

In Mr. Atallah Mansour’s article “Palestine: The Search for a New Golden Age” in your issue of October 7, he says on page 19: “The United Nations promised them [the refugees] ‘the free choice’ of repatriation, but in fact supplied them with some flour, oil and secondhand clothing,” and a footnote refers to UN General Assembly resolutions 194 (111) of December 11, 1948, to that of December, 1970. It is true the choice of repatriation has never been given to the refugees but that is no reason for denigrating the United Nations’ other efforts on behalf of the refugees, and Mr. Mansour should know better.

If Mr. Mansour had referred also to the annual reports of UNRWA he would have found information about UN programs of supplementary feeding to vulnerable groups, maternal and child welfare and other health services, and, especially, education. The education program, described by the Director-General of Unesco, in co-operation with whom it is run, as “the most ambitious educational undertaking under international administration,” provides nine years of schooling for over a quarter of a million refugee children, employs over 7,000 Palestinian teachers in more than 500 UNRWA/ Unesco schools, and includes eight centers for teacher and other vocational trade training from which more than 10,000 young men and women have graduated to supply badly needed skills in the Middle East and at the same time assist in the rehabilitation of their families.

Unfortunately, the education program, which accounts for 47 percent of UNRWA’s budget, is now threatened by shortage of funds, and unless adequate income to match growing numbers in the schools and rising costs is assured in the course of the current session of the General Assembly—an increase on the order of $6 million is required in 1972—cuts in this most constructive part of UNRWA’s work seem inevitable.

J. S. Rennie

Commissioner-General

Relief and Works Agency

for Palestine Refugees

United Nations, New York

Atallah Mansour replies:

I did not intend to denigrate the work done by UNRWA on its limited budget. But Mr. Rennie’s letter confirms what I said about the UN: the organization has been unable to resolve the Palestinian problem by implementing any political solution so far. The weakness of the UN is increasing to the extent that the aid which UNRWA has given the Palestinian refugees in the past is now being reduced. But still we may expect during the coming weeks the passage of yet another resolution strengthening the illusion that the Palestinians will be offered a free choice between repatriation and compensation.

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