In This Review

Refugees Unto the Third Generation: U.N. Aid to Palestinians
Refugees Unto the Third Generation: U.N. Aid to Palestinians
By Benjamin N. Schiff
Syracuse University Press, 1995, 337 pp

The debate surrounding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, created in 1950, sounds a bit like the debate over welfare in the United States. Some believe UNRWA has created a culture of dependency, aggravating the serious humanitarian problem it was designed to ameliorate. Others maintain that it is responsible for a substantial improvement in Palestinians’ quality of life. UNRWA was never intended to last as long as it has. The reason for its longevity, of course, is the failure of the nations and factions involved to resolve the status of Palestinian refugees, now in their third generation. On balance, the author sees UNRWA as having adapted fairly well to the multiple pressures from donors and clients, Israeli and Arab; by now no one wants to see it disappear. Schiff analyzes the ways in which UNRWA has had to adjust to a very difficult environment, and he envisages a time when the agency may be part of a Palestinian state rather than the United Nations, yet still concerned with welfare and education.