by David Bedein
Jerusalem - An American citizen, Karen Abu Zayd, retired last week as the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which services Palestinian Arab refugees from 1948 and their descendants.
Ms. Abu Zayd has been succeeded by a Spanish citizen, Filippo Grandi, who had been her lieutenant.
Mr. Grandi’s inaugural letter to the UNRWA staff, dated Jan. 26, provides insight into his attitude toward Israel:
“I need not tell you how difficult this period is for the Palestinian people. We are all painfully aware of the counterproductive policies collectively punishing the people of the Gaza Strip; conscious decisions that have caused untold suffering and a dramatic deterioration in the lives of the population, in contravention of international law. One of my key priorities will be to continue to advocate strongly on behalf of the 1.5 million Gazans, and to do so not only until the end of the blockade and the occupation, but also until a just and lasting solution to the plight of the refugees is achieved.
“Despite some recent economic improvements for some, the lives of most Palestinians in the West Bank continue to be made almost impossible by obstacles, walls, movement limitations and other restrictions, and by the expanding threat of settler violence. For those residing in East Jerusalem, as I do, it is cause for daily anguish to watch the situation deteriorate rapidly under our very eyes, especially the ruthless evictions of Palestinians from their homes. UNRWA will continue to stand with the affected families and all of those in need of our protection and will tirelessly lend our voice to their calls for justice.”
UNRWA’s mandate is purely humanitarian - however, the new UNRWA director has inaugurated his new role with a political stance that seems to be beyond his purview.