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Jersey-on-the-Med

Gaza Marathon points to the smallness of the land

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The Holy Land.(Wikipedia)

Next month will see the running of the first-ever Gaza Marathon (barely a month after the first Jerusalem Marathon). It is explicitly being cast as a U.N. Relief and Works Agency fundraiser, and nearly as explicitly as a political statement. “Kids in Gaza just want to be like kids anywhere else,” said a UNWRA spokesperson. “They don’t want to live in this terrible and locked-up environment.”

So have that out in the comments if you want. What struck me, though, is the course the marathon will take: It will begin at Gaza’s northernmost point and then go down the seashore. Because here’s the thing: Gaza, north to south, is almost exactly the length of a marathon course (26.2 miles). Those of us who do not spend substantial time in the region may lack the requisite sense of just how physically small it is. So, for future reference (all information via Wikipedia):

Gaza (139 square miles) is roughly the same size as Queens and Manhattan combined.

• The West Bank (minus East Jerusalem, 3,652 square miles) is about the same size as Delaware and Rhode Island combined, or, roughly, Los Angeles County minus the Valley.

Israel (8,522 square miles) is basically New Jersey. Also, they are roughly the same size.

• The Golan Heights (695 square miles) is exactly five Gazas.

See, doesn’t that make all of this easier? Wait, it doesn’t?

UNWRA Hopes for Big Crowds at First-Ever Gaza Marathon [JPost]

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This is by the former head of UNRWA’s legal affairs, James G. Linday. (full paper available online):

“UNRWA — is it part of the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict or part of the problem?
The humanitarian aspect of the recent conflict between Israel and Hamas has cast a fresh spotlight on the presence in Gaza of the nearly sixty-year-old United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), raising important questions about why the UN still operates schools, hospitals, and clinics for “refugees” six decades after the partition of Mandatory Palestine.
UNRWA began providing assistance to Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon in May 1950, in the wake of the 1947-1949 Arab-Israeli war. Since then, the organization has survived wars, coups, uprisings, and, in Gaza and the West Bank, even the creation of the first-ever Palestinian governing body — the Palestinian Authority — which operates in parallel with, not in place of, UNRWA institutions.
Over the course of its long history, UNRWA has rarely been the subject of comprehensive external evaluation, and virtually nothing has been written on the organization’s strategy and operations by a senior staff member with knowledge of how UNRWA actually works.
This path-breaking study by James G. Lindsay, UNRWA’s former general counsel, offers one of the first insider accounts of the organization. In it, Lindsay analyzes the agency’s evolution over the past half century, evaluates recent criticisms of its operations, and recommends bold new policies for the U.S. government — UNRWA’s largest single-country donor — that will help repair an aid and relief system that has strayed from its original mission.”

More from the executive summary of Lindsay’s paper:

“Initially, UNRWA provided emergency relief (food and shelter) to refugees who suffered as a result of the 1947–1949 struggle over Palestine, an area from which the United Kingdom withdrew in 1948.

Gradually, UNRWA segued from an organization that supplied only emergency relief to one that provided governmental and developmental services in areas such as education, health, welfare, microfinance, and urban planning. Along with the obvious changes in function, several other processes or “themes” stand out in UNRWA’s history: the incomplete shift from status based aid to need-based aid; the also incomplete content correction of textbooks used in UNRWA schools; the gradual assumption of a mission to enhance the political and humanitarian rights for refugees and Palestinians in general; and the immense increase in the number of persons considered refugees entitled to UNRWA services.

Initially, UNRWA provided emergency relief (food and shelter) to refugees who suffered as a result of the 1947–1949 struggle over Palestine, an area from which the United Kingdom withdrew in 1948.

Gradually, UNRWA segued from an organization that supplied only emergency relief to one that provided governmental and developmental services in areas such as education, health, welfare, microfinance, and urban planning. Along with the obvious changes in function, several other processes or “themes” stand out in UNRWA’s history: the incomplete shift from status based aid to need-based aid; the also incomplete content correction of textbooks used in UNRWA schools; the gradual assumption of a mission to enhance the political and humanitarian rights for refugees and Palestinians in general; and the immense increase in the number of persons considered refugees entitled to UNRWA services.”

Sorry for the dual copy:

“The most important change, the one most required and least subject to rational disagreement, is the removal of citizens from recognized states — persons who have the oxymoronic status of “citizen refugees”—from UNRWA’s jurisdiction. This would apply to the vast majority of Palestinian “refugees” in Jordan, as well as to some in Lebanon. If a Palestinian state were created in Gaza and/or the West Bank, such a change would affect Palestinian refugees in those areas. Meanwhile, for those who are still defined as refugees, UNRWA’s move toward greater emphasis on need-based assistance, as opposed to status-as-refugee-based assistance, should be accelerated.

No justification exists for millions of dollars in humanitarian aid going to those who can afford to pay for UNRWA services. In addition, UNRWA should make the following operational changes: halt its one-sided political statements and limit itself to comments on humanitarian issues; take additional steps to ensure the agency is not employing or providing benefits to terrorists and criminals; and allow the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), or some other neutral entity, to provide balanced and discrimination-free textbooks for UNRWA schools.”

Steve Stein says:

One longs for the day when this marathon can be run from Gaza City to Sderot and back, which is also about the right length. It won’t happen in my lifetime, but perhaps someday.

Gene says:

UNRWA is definitely part of the problem. And a very big part. UN has two refugee agencies – one (UNWRA) that deals exclusively with Palestinian refugees and the other (UNHCR), which deals with all other refugees from five continents. Why UN needs two? 25 thousands UNWRA employees are on a payroll from UN: 22, 23 thousands work directly in refugee camps and about 2 thousands in New-York and Geneva. Now imagine that Palestinian refugees one day disappear. No Palestinian refugees “problem” anymore. What will happen to all UNWRA workers? They all will lose their jobs. So, name me one person, who would sacrifice his or her lifehood for the sake of Palestinian refugees, no matter how honest that person is. Therefore UNWRA works very hard (both politically and diplomatically) to maintain the “problem”.
So, why not to demand from the UN to close this real obstacle to the peace in the Middle East – UNWRA and put care of Palestinians on UNHCR?

Jerome says:

So the UNWRA is having kids do marathons now!

Israel may have imposed a blockade, but it least it is not forcing malnourished children to stagger around exhausted, half-starved across a booby-trapped obstacle course!

Gene says:

Doesn’t it look like an attempt to emulate 1936 Olympic games in Berlin, to show a normality in the state (entity) run by a gang of criminals?

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Jersey-on-the-Med

Gaza Marathon points to the smallness of the land

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