Recently the UNWRA rep in NY spoke the truth. He stated that Palestinians need to give up their false dream of returning to Israel. For this he was fired and forced to apologize.
Recently, I wrote about the case of Andrew Whitley, who is the New York Director of UNWRA, the UN agency tasked with aiding Palestinian refugees. Whitley told a conference in Washington that the so-called "right of return" is unlikely to ever be exercised, and that efforts would be better expended on integrating Palestinian refugees into the countries where they have been living for decades.
I noted that outside the confines of UNRWA, Whitley's observations were hardly groundbreaking, since the truth that he articulated has been known for decades, above all by Palestinian and Arab leaders. Nonetheless, coming from an UNRWA official, these remarks were of enormous import. They could - and should - have launched a much needed discussion on how to liberate the Palestinians from the "cruel illusion" (Whitley's phrase) that they will one day claim homes in the towns and cities of Israel.
This was an illusion when it was first imposed, more than sixty years ago, upon the 700,000 Arab refugees of the 1948 war, and it remains an illusion now, when the number of Palestinians registered by UNRWA has ballooned to almost five million - for the simple reason that Palestinians, in contrast to other refugee populations, are obliged to transfer refugee status to their descendants.
Whitley's candor has cost him his job and, it would seem, his dignity too. Angrily criticized by everyone from Hamas to the Jordanian government, Whitley was compelled to recant in a letter to UNRWA's spokesman, Christopher Gunness. His tone is so supine and humble that the reader is bound to wonder if these words are actually Whitley's, or whether they were authored, in the manner of the KGB, by someone else. "I express my sincere regrets and apologies over any harm that my words may have done to the cause of the Palestine refugees and for any offence I may have caused," the letter says. It ends thus: "The Agency is at liberty to use my statement in whatever ways it sees fit. There is no need for a reply."