January 24, 2022

UN Resolution 302, “Assistance to Palestine Refugees,” 1949

Image of tapestry with young girl holding Palestinian flag in front of wall with UNRWA logo
Image from Palestinian History Tapestry: https://www.palestinianhistorytapestry.org/tapestry/0530-unrwa-founded-1949/

This document established the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the first and to date the only refugee assistance body at the UN devoted to working with a single national community, the Palestinians. The establishment of UNRWA legally and administratively separated the Palestinian refugee question from other issues of mass displacement, creating the distinct category of “Palestine refugees” who were not eligible for asylum elsewhere (for the ostensible reason that their position would be temporary) and whose refugee condition would be heritable.

UNRWA is still theoretically a temporary institution, whose mandate must be renewed every three years at the General Assembly.

List of reading

Karim Makdisi and Vijay Prashad, eds., Land of Blue Helmets: The United Nations and the Arab World (University of California Press, 2017)

Ilana Feldman, “The Challenge of Categories: UNRWA and the Definition of a ‘Palestine Refugee,’ “Journal of Refugee Studies 25, no. 3 (2012)

Anne Irfan, “Educating Palestinian Refugees: The Origins of UNRWA’s Unique Schooling System,”Journal of Refugee Studies 34, no. 1 (2021)

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