The highlighted sentence in this quoted passage is truly remarkable, because the EU’s foreign policy chief basically agrees here with the preposterous Arab notion of “positive discrimination,” which is simply a euphemism for the cynical policies of the Arab states that claim they are doing the Palestinians a favor by barring them from integrating into the countries they live in and forcing them to artificially preserve a distinct identity that focuses on the unrealistic demand of a “right of return”. (See e.g. “No refuge: Palestinians in Lebanon.” Working Papers Series No. 64, Refugee Studies Centre, Oxford Department of International Development, University of Oxford, June 2010; pdf)
To be sure, Ashton is in a way quite right, because UNRWA is indeed “special”: while the many millions of other refugees from the late 1940s were expected to adjust themselves pragmatically to changed political realities, UNRWA enabled the Arab states that had failed in their efforts to undo Israel’s establishment to keep the Palestinian refugees as political pawns who would pass on their refugee status for generations in order to keep their grievances alive and politically potent.
The problematic role of UNRWA has often been criticized, most recently by the Palestinian writer and academic Mudar Zahran, who passionately argued that “UNRWA's persistence in keeping the Palestinians refugees in abysmal, overcrowded slums is harming the Palestinians” and suggested that it might be time to conclude that UNRWA has become “an obstacle to peace in the Middle East.”
Zahran also points out that “UNRWA is now the UN's largest entity with over 30,000 employees. It is such a boondoggle of a jobs program, it almost cannot let the Palestinian refugee problem be solved: if it did, 30,000 people would be out of work.”