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Palgrave Macmillan

Religion, Politics, and the Origins of Palestine Refugee Relief

ISBN 9781137378163
Publication Date December 2013
Formats Hardcover Ebook (EPUB) Ebook (PDF) 
Publisher Palgrave Macmillan

This book examines the leading role of the Quaker American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in the United Nations relief program for Palestine Arab refugees in 1948-1950 in the Gaza Strip. It situates the operation within the context of the AFSC's attempts to exercise new influence on the separate issues of pacifism and disarmament at a time marked by US efforts to construct a Cold War security regime in the Middle East and British efforts to retain influence and bases in Arab countries. Using archival data, oral histories, diplomatic documents, and biographical and autobiographical accounts, the authors provide a detailed look at internal decision-making in an early non-governmental organization where beliefs regarding the requirement to provide refugees with skills for self-reliance clashed with intractable political and cultural realities and the realization that only full repatriation or resettlement elsewhere would solve the problem (a lesson that UNRWA and the international community learned only decades later). Faced with impossible solutions, the Quakers withdrew. The story of AFSC involvement in Gaza shows that refugee relief is always political and that humanitarianism can prolong the problems it seeks to solve.

Asaf Romirowsky is a Middle East historian. He holds a PhD in Middle East and Mediterranean Studies from King's College London, UK and has published widely on various aspects of the Arab-Israeli conflict and American foreign policy in the Middle East, as well as on Israeli and Zionist history. He lives in Philadelphia.

Alexander H. Joffe is an archaeologist and historian. He holds a PhD in Near Eastern Studies from the University of Arizona, USA and has published widely on topics in archaeology, ancient and modern history, and contemporary politics. He lives in New York.

Introduction: The Palestine Arab Refugee Problem and the International
1. Studying the Palestine Arab Refugee Problem
2. The Quakers and the American Friends Service Committee
3. The AFSC in the Middle East
4. AFSC in the Field: December 1948-December 1949
5. AFSC and The Politics of Regional Development
6. AFSC, the Economic Survey Mission, and Regional Development
7. The AFSC and UNRWA: The End of UNRPR
8. International Security and the Question of 'Reintegration'
9. Assessing the AFSC as an Early NGO
10. Conclusions


'Romirowsky and Joffe trace the involvement of the American Friends Service
Committee (AFSC)—a Quaker organization founded long before 1948 to assist civilians caught up in the maelstrom of war—in its pivotal role as relief provider to Arab refugees in Gaza under the auspices of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees (UNRPR). Painstakingly combing through personal memoirs, cables, and diplomatic communiqués, the authors construct a rich history of the immediate post-1948 period. […] As the authors illustrate, both field personnel and those at the policy-making level within [the] AFSC understood that the refugees were being used as pawns by the Arab governments in their propaganda war against Israel. […]This ill-conceived approach continues to this day, sustaining the most powerful weapon in the Arab arsenal against the legitimacy of the Jewish state.' -Susan M. Jellissen, Belmont University, USA, Middle East Quarterly
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