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  • Laura Robson (a1)

In the immediate aftermath of World War I, the newly formed League of Nations saw Middle Eastern refugees—particularly displaced Armenians and Assyrians scattered in camps across the Eastern Mediterranean—as venues for working out new forms of internationalism. In the late 1940s, following the British abandonment of the Palestine Mandate and the subsequent Zionist expulsion of most of the Palestinian Arab population, the new United Nations revived this concept of a refugee crisis requiring international intervention. This paper examines the parallel ways in which advocates for both the nascent League of Nations and the United Nations made use of mass refugee flows to formulate arguments for new, highly visible, and essentially permanent iterations of international authority across the Middle East.

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Author's note: Many thanks to Ilana Feldman, Peter Sluglett, Keith Watenpaugh, and Benjamin Thomas White for their comments and suggestions at various stages of writing this article. I presented versions of it at workshops on Global Histories of Refugees in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries at the University of Melbourne and Middle East and North African Migration Studies in a Time of Crisis at the Khayrallah Center for Lebanese Diaspora Studies at North Carolina State University; I thank Joy Damousi and Akram Khater for these invitations. I am also very grateful for the thoughtful and valuable suggestions of the three anonymous reviewers and the IJMES editors.

1 Nansen, Fridtjof, “Report on the work of the Secretariat and the Council Sep 14 1926,” in League of Nations, Scheme for the Settlement of Armenian Refugees: General Survey and Principal Documents (Geneva: League of Nations, 1927), 197.

2 For more detailed discussion on this point, see my States of Separation: Transfer, Partition, and the Making of the Modern Middle East (Oakland, Calif.: University of California Press, 2017), chaps. 2 and 3.

3 Sanders and [illegible] to Information Section of the League, 28 December 1935, League of Nations Archives (LNA) R3940 4/20968/11757.

4 UNRWA, A Brief History of UNRWA, 1950–1962, Information Paper no. 1 (Beirut: UNRWA, 1962), 26.

5 The extensive anthropological literature on Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Gaza, and the West Bank (some of which is cited here) represents an admirably historically conscious and vibrant body of scholarship; but historians’ general lack of focus on the subject has meant that there is little work on the topic which opens up the possibility of comparisons or acknowledgment of historical precedents.

6 On the distinctions between the League of Nations and the United Nations, see especially Mazower, Mark, Governing the World: The History of an Idea (New York: Penguin, 2012), as well as his multiple articles on the subject, including “An International Civilization? Empire, Internationalism and the Crisis of the Mid-Twentieth Century,” International Affairs 8 (2006): 553–66; “The Strange Triumph of Human Rights,” Historical Journal 47 (2004): 379–98; and “Minorities and the League of Nations in Interwar Europe,” Daedalus 126 (1997): 47–63.

7 It is centrally important to note this vagueness about what exactly internationalism and international authority were supposed to look like or accomplish. In practice, 20th-century internationalism—both pre– and post–World War II—most often looked like a discursive recasting of 19th-century imperial racialist hierarchies as modernization, development, and aid. For an extremely valuable look at this process through the lens of American intellectual history, see Vitalis, Robert, White World Order, Black Power Politics: The Birth of American International Relations (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2015).

8 It should be noted that the very term refugee underwent a redefinition during and especially after World War I that for the first time gave it a prominent place in the lexicon of international law. On this point, see especially Peter Gatrell, The Making of the Modern Refugee (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), chap. 1.

9 Skran, Claudena, Refugees in Interwar Europe: The Emergence of a Regime (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995), 84 .

10 Noel-Baker, Philip, The League of Nations at Work (London: Nesbet & Co., 1927), 113 .

11 Article 22, Covenant of the League of Nations, 28 June 1919; full text available at, accessed 13 April 2016. On the Mandate system itself, see especially Cyrus Schayegh and Andrew Arsan, eds., The Routledge Handbook of the Middle East Mandates (London: Routledge, 2015); Sluglett, Peter, “An Improvement on Colonialism? The ‘A’ Mandates and Their Legacy in the Middle East,” International Affairs 90 (2014): 413–27; and Méouchy, Nadine and Sluglett, Peter, eds., The British and French Mandates in Comparative Perspective (Leiden: Brill, 2004). On the differences between previous colonial administrations and the Mandates, see Pedersen, Susan, “The Meaning of the Mandates System: An Argument,” Geschichte und Gesellschaft 32 (2006): 560–82, and her broader study of the subject, The Guardians: The League of Nations and the Crisis of Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).

12 See Cabanes, Bruno, The Great War and the Origins of Humanitarianism, 1918–1924 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 135–37. On the question of increasingly restrictive immigration policies, see especially Skran, Refugees in Interwar Europe, 95–100.

13 For a look at the evolution of the Nansen Passport, see particularly Hieronymi, Otto, “The Nansen Passport: A Tool of Freedom of Movement and of Protection,” Refugee Survey Quarterly 22 (2003): 3647; and Cabanes, Bruno, The Great War and the Origins of Humanitarianism, 1918–1924 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), esp. chap. 3.

14 This had important parallels in other League policies as well. Political scientist Jane Cowan has outlined how the League's (theoretical) enforcement of minority rights treaties in Eastern Europe was intended as much to delineate categories of sovereign versus “supervised” states within the emerging global order; see “The Supervised State,” Identities 14 (2007): 545–78. On the question of the degree and nature of the League's interventions in British- and French-controlled Mandate territory, see Sluglett, “An Improvement on Colonialism? The ‘A’ Mandates and Their Legacy in the Middle East,” which outlines how League “oversight” operated and how it impacted British and French Mandatory authority.

15 Much of the following material on the League's resettlement practices is drawn from my recent book, States of Separation.

16 On the histories and international responses to Russian refugees, see especially Gatrell, Peter, A Whole Empire Walking: Russian Refugees in World War I (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1999); and Gatrell, The Making of the Modern Refugee, esp. chaps. 1 and 2.

17 The most detailed investigation of the collapse of international support for the Armenian republic, its subsequent dissolution, and the emergence of the Soviet republic of Armenia is Hovannisian, Richard, The Armenian Republic, 4 vols. (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1971–96).

18 Some scholars have begun to refer collectively to the “Armenian Assyrian Greek genocide” to describe this violence; for discussions, see Gaunt, David, Massacres, Resistance, Protection: Muslim-Christian Relations in Eastern Anatolia During World War I (London: Gorgias Press, 2006); Travis, Hannibal, Genocide in the Middle East: The Ottoman Empire, Iraq, and Sudan (Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 2010); Travis, “The Assyrian Genocide: A Tale of Oblivion and Denial,” in Forgotten Genocides: Oblivion, Denial, and Memory, ed. Rene Lemarchand (Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2011); Carmichael, Cathie, Genocide before the Holocaust (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2009); and de Courtois, Sébastien, Le génocide oublié: chrétiens d'orient, les derniers araméens (Paris: Ellipses, 2002).

19 On NER's refugee relief programs, see especially Watenpaugh, Keith, Bread from Stones: The Middle East and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism (Oakland, Calif.: University of California Press, 2015).

20 On the Armenian refugee presence in Palestine, see particularly Matossian, Bedross Der, “The Armenians of Palestine, 1914–1948,” Journal of Palestine Studies 41 (2011): 2444 . On refugee settlements in Iraq, particularly the enormous camp at Baʿquba just outside Baghdad, see especially Robson, Laura, “Refugee Camps and the Spatialization of Assyrian Nationalism in Iraq,” in Modernity, Minority, and the Public Sphere: Jews and Christians in the Middle East, ed. Murre-van den Berg, Heleen (Leiden: Brill, 2016), 237–57.

21 Republique francaise, Ministere des Affaires étrangeres, Rapport sur la situation de la Syrie et du Liban (juillet 1922–juillet 1923) (Paris: Imprimerie nationale, 1923), 19–22. Alternative estimates that place the Armenian numbers a bit higher can be found in Thomas Greenshields, “The Settlement of Armenian Refugees in Syria and Lebanon, 1915–1939” (PhD diss., University of Durham, 1978), 60–61.

22 Simpson's, John Hope The Refugee Question (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1939) estimated that there were approximately 205,000 Armenian refugees in 1924, of whom 31.7 percent were in Syria and Lebanon; by 1936–37, the number had grown to about 225,000, of whom a higher proportion (nearly 50%) were in Syria and Lebanon. Aleppo represented the most significant concentration of Armenian refugees, with more than 40,000 already there in 1919.

23 Socialist encouragement of a kind of internationalism that broadly supported principles of liberal imperialism was not limited to the ILO; see, for instance, Laqua, Daniel, “Democratic Politics and the League of Nations: The Labour and Socialist International as a Protagonist of Interwar Internationalism,” Contemporary European History 24 (2015): 175–92. On Thomas himself, see particularly International Labour Office, Some Publications on Albert Thomas, 1878–1978 (Geneva: International Labour Office, 1978). On some of the labor issues that arose within the French Mandate for Syria, see Schad, Geoffrey, “Colonial Corporatism in the French Mandated States: Labor, Capital, the Mandatory Power, and the 1935 Syrian Law of Associations,” Revue des mondes musulmans et de la Mediterranee 105–6 (2005): 201–19.

24 See Gatrell, Peter, “Displacing and Re-placing Population in the Two World Wars: Armenia and Poland Compared,” Contemporary European History 16 (2007): 515 .

25 On this point, see especially Grahl-Madsen, Atle, The Land Beyond: Collected Essays on Refugee Law and Policy (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 130–31.

26 League of Nations, Scheme for the Resettlement of Armenian Refugees (Geneva: League of Nations, 1927), 68.

27 The League's Joint Armenian Committee included four League officials and staff (including Nansen himself) alongside representatives of “Phil-Armenian” organizations based in Belgium, France, Italy, and Britain and officials from the Red Cross, Near East Relief, and the International Near East Association. On the history of this philo-Armenianism, see especially Laycock, Jo, Imagining Armenia: Orientalism, Ambiguity, and Intervention (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2009); and Kaplan, Sam, “Territorializing Armenians: Geo-Texts and Political Imaginaries in French-Occupied Cilicia, 1919–1922,” History and Anthropology 15 (2004): 399423 .

28 League of Nations, Russian and Armenian Refugees: Report to the Eighth Ordinary Session of the Assembly (Geneva: League of Nations, 1927), 6.

29 “Report by Fridtjof Nansen of an Enquiry by a Committee of Experts Made in Armenia under the Auspices of the International Labour Office,” July 1925, in League of Nations, Scheme for the Settlement of Armenian Refugees: General Survey and Principal Documents (Geneva: League of Nations, 1927), 66. This formulation of goals for refugee resettlement has continued to represent an important aspect of internationalist refugee policy to the present day.

30 On the deliberate construction of communal divisions in Mandate Syria, see especially White, Benjamin Thomas, The Emergence of Minorities in the Middle East: The Politics of Community in French Mandate Syria (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011); and Thompson, Elizabeth, Colonial Citizens: Republican Rights, Paternal Privilege, and Gender in French Syria and Lebanon (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000). On French fears about Communist sympathies among Armenian refugees, see Greenshields, “The Settlement of Armenian Refugees in Syria and Lebanon,” 238.

31 League of Nations, Scheme for the Settlement of Armenian Refugees, 78–79

32 Cited in Watenpaugh, Keith, “Between Communal Survival and National Aspiration: Armenian Genocide Refugees, the League of Nations, and the Practices of Interwar Humanitarianism,” Humanity 5 (2014): 173–74.

33 Cited in Grahl-Madsen, The Land Beyond, 130.

34 “Report by M. Carle on the Present Position of Armenian Refugees in Syria, 1925,” in League of Nations, Settlement of Armenian Refugees, 80.

35 This was not, of course, an unprecedented use of displaced peoples, recalling a number of earlier Ottoman resettlements for similar purposes—for instance, the creation of frontier settlements of Circassian and Chechnyan refugees as a buffer between the Bedouin and local peasants of the Maʾmoura in Syria and Jordan. See Louise Hille, Charlotte Mathilde, State Building and Conflict Resolution in the Caucasus (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 5051 .

36 Many (though by no means all) Armenians cooperated with the French High Commission during the early years of the Mandate, particularly in the context of the revolt of 1925–27 when many Armenians fought with French forces against Syrian Arab resistors. Keith Watenpaugh has called this collaboration a “survivors’ bargain”; see his article “Towards a New Category of Colonial Theory: Colonial Cooperation and the Survivors’ Bargain—The Case of the Post-Genocide Armenian Community of Syria under French Mandate,” in The British and French Mandates in Comparative Perspective, ed. Peter Sluglett and Nadine Meouchy (Leiden: Brill, 2004), 597–622. On Armenian–French relations in the 1920s and 1930s, see also Provence, Michael, The Great Syrian Revolt and the Rise of Syrian Nationalism (Austin, Tex.: University of Texas Press, 2005); and Migliorino, Nicola, (Re)constructing Armenia in Lebanon and Syria: Ethno-Cultural Diversity and the State in the Aftermath of a Refugee Crisis (New York: Berghahn, 2008).

37 Marrus, Michael, The Unwanted: European Refugees from the First World War through the Cold War (Philadelphia, Pa.: Temple University Press, 1985), 112–13; Grahl-Madsen, The Land Beyond, 130–31.

38 On the territorial issues surrounding Mosul, disputed between Britain and Turkey, see especially Sarah Shields, “Mosul Questions: Economy, Identity, and Annexation,” in The Creation of Iraq, ed. Simon, Reeva Spector and Tejirian, Eleanor; and Schofield, Richard, “Laying It Down in Stone: Delimiting and Demarcating Iraq's Boundaries by Mixed International Commission,” Journal of Historical Geography 34 (2008): 397421 .

39 On the history of the “Levies” and the military recruitment of Assyrians, see Robson, Laura, “Peripheries of Belonging: Military Recruitment and the Making of a Minority in Wartime Iraq, 1914–1919,” First World War Studies 2 (2016): 120; Zubaida, Sami, “Contested Nations: Iraq and the Assyrians,” Nations and Nationalism 6 (2000): 363–82; and Donabed, Sargon, Reforging a Forgotten History: Iraq and the Assyrians in the Twentieth Century (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2013). For the details of Iraq's transition to a limited form of independence in the early 1930s, see particularly Tripp, Charles, History of Iraq, rev. ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), chaps. 2 and 3; and Sluglett, Peter, Britain in Iraq: Contriving King and Country (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007).

40 Yacob Malik Ismiel, Malik Baite, Yoko Shlimun, Malik Warda, Rais Eshi, Rais Iskhaq, Malik Marozlr, Tooma Markhmoora, Yoshia Eshi, Malik Selim, Shamasha Ismail, Rais Mikhail to Minister of Interior Baghdad, 23 July 1933, LNA R3923 4/6523/3314.

41 This episode has attracted more scholarly attention than any other in post-1918 Assyrian history, though recent literature on it is not extensive. Early British chroniclers of the Assyrians tended to present the massacre as a straightforward example of Iraqi Arab/Kurdish brutality; see, for example, the accounts in R.S. Stafford, The Tragedy of the Assyrians (London: Allen and Unwin, 1935) and “Iraq and the Problem of the Assyrians,” International Affairs 13 (1934):159–85; Sykes, Percy, “A Summary of the History of the Assyrians in Iraq,” Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society 21 (1934): 255–68; Main, Ernest, “Iraq and the Assyrians, 1923–1933,” Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society 20 (1933): 664–74; and Mumford, Philip, “Kurds, Assyrians, and Iraq,” Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society 20 (1933): 110–19. These accounts relate closely to the interpretations of local and (especially) diaspora Assyrian writings, which tend to present the community as a coherent and ancient national entity for whom the 1933 massacre represented the callous abandonment of the British and the culmination of many centuries of persecution; see, for instance, Shimun's, Mar own The Assyrian Tragedy (privately published, 1988); Malik, Yusuf, The British Betrayal of the Assyrians (Chicago: The Assyrian National Federation and the Assyrian National League of America, 1935); Shimmon, Paul, The Assyrian Tragedy (Annemasse, France: n.p., 1934); and, more recently, Solomon, Solomon, Chapters from Modern Assyrian History (privately published, 1996). An Arab-oriented interpretation of the massacre can be found in Husry's, Khaldun two articles, “The Assyrian Affair of 1933 [I] and [II],” International Journal of Middle East Studies 5 (1974): 161–76 and 344–60, which presents a version of events more sympathetic to the cause of Iraqi Arab nationalism and the Iraqi army. More recent scholarly accounts have tended to examine the longue durée of Assyrian history, placing both the community and the massacre in a frame of longstanding nationhood and persecution; for examples, see Donabed, Sargon, Remnants of Heroes: The Assyrian Experience: The Continuity of the Assyrian Experience from Kharput to New England (Chicago: Assyrian Academic Society Press, 2003); and Donabed, Reforging a Forgotten History.

42 Sanders and [illegible] to Information Section of the League, 28 December 1935, LNA R3940 4/20968/11757.

43 Minutes of meeting of financial subcommittee appointed by Assyrian Committee, 9 October 1935, LNA R3928 4/20492/3314.

44 “Report of the Committee of the Council on the Settlement of the Assyrians of Iraq,” 2 July 1926, LNA R3926 4/9022/3314.

45 Minutes of meeting of financial subcommittee appointed by Assyrian Committee, 9 October 1935, LNA R3928 4/20492/3314; White, Benjamin Thomas, “Refugees and the Definition of Syria, 1920-1939,” Past and Present 235 (2017): 141–78. The latter has higher figures derived from the French sources.

46 Alexis Leger to LN Secretary-General, 23 June 1936, LNA R3926 4/9022/3314.

47 For a total of about 1,450 Assyrian settlers. See “Note from the French Government on the Existing Assyrian Settlement on the Khabur,” 10 September1935, LNA R3938 4/192691/11757.

48 Migliorino, (Re)constructing Armenia, 57.

49 Al-Yawm, 14 October 1931, cited and discussed in White, “Refugees and the Definition of Syria,” 153–54. White correctly points out that the idea that the French might divide Syria represented an entirely reasonable fear during this period, when partition represented a prominent and frequently discussed geopolitical tactic throughout the region and beyond.

50 Memo on the session of the Assyrian Committee, 21–22 July 1937, LNA T 161/758.

51 They were unsuccessful. “When it was explained to them that the Government of ʿIraq would not permit them to recross the Tigris,” one observer reported, “they finally settled down to make the best of a bad bargain.” See Dodge, Bayard, “The Settlement of the Assyrians on the Khabur,” Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society 27 (1940): 310 .

52 Burnier to Monsieur le Général d'Armée Paul Beynet, Délégué Général et Plénipotentière de France (7 February1946), Ministère des Affaires étrangères, Nantes, Mandat Syrie-Liban, 1er versement, Box 576. Many thanks to Benjamin Thomas White for this reference. For a useful look at the collapse of the League's refugee regime as pressure mounted from the expansionist Nazi state after 1933, see Marrus, The Unwanted, 158–207.

53 For details, see Buehrig, Edward, The UN and Palestinian Refugees: A Study in Nonterritorial Administration (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1971).

54 The parallels were also more philosophical; as Gardiner Shattuck observes, many Anglican and Episcopalian leaders in particular “decried the displacement of a native population, especially its Christian members, at the hands of a non-Christian power.” See “‘True Israelites’: Charles Thorley Bridgeman and Anglican Missions in Palestine, 1922–1948,” Anglican and Episcopal History 77 (2008): 142.

55 Gatrell, Making of the Modern Refugee, 136.

56 Akram, Susan, “UNRWA and Palestinian Refugees,” in The Oxford Handbook of Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, ed. Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Elena et al (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 228.

57 UNGA Resolution 194 (1948), full text available at, accessed 25 June 2017.

58 On the negotiations over Palestinian return and resettlement, see especially Fischbach, Michael R., Records of Dispossession: Palestinian Refugee Property and the Arab–Israeli Conflict (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003); and Shlaim, Avi, “Husni Za'im and the Plan to Resettle Palestinian Refugees in Syria,” Journal of Palestine Studies 15 (1986): 6880 .

59 For a useful account of the process of land appropriation, the construction of a legal regime of absentee property, and the disposal of Palestinian refugee property to incoming immigrants, see Fischbach, Records of Dispossession, esp. chap. 1.

60 Ilana Feldman notes that the UNCCP is technically still extant and issues an annual statement restating that it is unable to carry out its Mandate due to the relevant parties’ unwillingness to commit to the requirements outlined in UN Resolution 194. See her “The Challenge of Categories: UNRWA and the Definition of a ‘Palestine Refugee,’” Journal of Refugee Studies 25 (2012): 390. Also useful here is Akram, Susan and Rempel, Terry, “Temporary Protection as an Instrument for Implementing the Right of Return for Palestinian Refugees,” Boston University International Law Journal 22 (2004): 1162 .

61 Defined, in contradiction to the international legal definition of refugee that was established in 1951, as “anyone whose normal place of residence was in Mandate Palestine during the period from 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948 and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab–Israeli war.” The definition was later expanded to include “the children or grandchildren of such refugees are eligible for agency assistance if they are (a) registered with UNRWA, (b) living in the area of UNRWA's operations, and (c) in need.” The problems with this distinction between a refugee and a “Palestine refugee” are well articulated in Feldman, “The Challenge of Categories.” For a briefer overview of the legal issues surrounding the category of Palestinian refugee, see Terry Rempel, “Who Are Palestinian Refugees?,” Forced Migration Review 26 (2006): 5–7.

62 UNGA, Progress Report of the UN Mediator, 52.

63 UNCCP, Final Report of the United Nations Economic Survey Mission for the Middle East (New York: UN, 1949), viii. Such conversations represented early forays into a later perpetual controversy over the extent to which refugee assistance should support broader development plans—a conversation then, as now, complicated by the material and political interests of the developers in such purportedly humanitarian enterprises. For an overview of these questions, see especially Jacques Cuenod, “Refugees: Development or Relief?,” in Refugees and International Relations, ed. Gil Loescher and Laila Monahan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989), 219–54. For a critical look at the practice of linking refugee aid to development, see Crisp, Jeffrey, “Mind the Gap! UNHCR, Humanitarian Assistance and the Development Process,” International Migration Review 35 (2001): 168–91.

64 See, for instance, Timothy Mitchell's analysis of development policy in Egypt, Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2002). David Ekbladh traces the particularly American incarnations of this idea in several geographical contexts in The Great American Mission: Modernization and the Construction of an American World Order (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2010).

65 Again, this was not a new idea and had precursors in the Ottoman era some decades prior. For a detailed look at Ottoman uses of refugees for development and land claims, see Isa Blumi, Ottoman Refugees, 1878–1939: Migration in a Post-Imperial World (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013).

66 UNCCP, Final Report of the United Nations Economic Survey Mission for the Middle East, 9.

67 Ibid., 6.

68 UNRWA HQ Jordan, Operation in Jordan (Amman: UNRWA, 1956), 40.

69 Peretz, Don, Palestinians, Refugees, and the Middle East Peace Process (Washington, D.C.: Institute of Peace Press), 104 . The bank, which received 80 percent of its funding from UNRWA, was dissolved in 1966–67.

70 “UNRWA–Egyptian Agreement on Cooperation in the Sinai and the Gaza Strip,” 30 June 1953, UN Doc A/2717, Annex C. See also United States Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation report on Northeast Sinai Project (Republic of Egypt), 1955. On the Gaza plans, see UNRWA Reviews Information Paper No 5 (Beirut: UNRWA, 1962), 16.

71 Memo from Howard Wilson to AFSC, “The Future of the Palestine Refugees,” 11 March 1949, cited in Schiff, Benjamin, Refugees unto the Third Generation: U.N. Aid to the Palestinians (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1995), 19.

72 See Gatrell, The Making of the Modern Refugee, 131.

73 Committee on Foreign Affairs, Hearings on Palestine Refugees (Washington, D.C.: USGPO, 1950), 9; also cited and discussed in Buehrig, The UN and the Palestinian Refugees, 36.

74 Cited in Gatrell, Making of the Modern Refugee, 131.

75 For further details, see Schiff, Refugees unto the Third Generation, 35–47.

76 UNRWA Reviews, Information Paper no. 5 (Beirut: UNRWA, 1962), 11.

77 Gatrell, Making of the Modern Refugee, 133. Yet, as Gatrell points out, there were significant variations in attitudes and state policies toward the refugees among the Arab states.

78 Akram, “UNRWA and Palestinian Refugees,” 228.

79 On this point, see especially Feldman, Ilana, “Home as a Refrain: Remembering and Living Displacement in Gaza,” History and Memory 18 (2009): 1048; and Feldman, “Government without Expertise? Competence, Capacity, and Civil-Service Practice in Gaza, 1917–1967,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 37 (2005): 485–507.

80 For all these practices see the extensive anthropological literature on Palestinian refugee camps, including (among many others) Sayigh, Rosemary, Too Many Enemies: The Palestinian Experience in Lebanon (London: Zed Books, 1994); Sayigh, Palestinians: From Peasants to Revolutionaries: A People's History (London: Zed Books, 1979); Peteet, Julie, Landscape of Hope and Despair: Palestinian Refugee Camps (Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005); Feldman, Ilana, Governing Gaza: Bureaucracy, Authority, and the Work of Rule, 1917–1967 (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2008); and Allan, Diana, Refugees of the Revolution: Experiences of Palestinian Exile (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2014).

81 Schiff, Refugees unto the Third Generation, 49. UNRWA's approach to categorizing, formalizing, “rehabilitating,” and educating Palestinian refugees in these designated spaces through particular, bureaucratized programs had the effect of further nationalizing the camp populations. As Julie Peteet has put it, “UNRWA inadvertently prepared a generation of educated youth for secular, militant nationalist activities.” Peteet, Landscape of Hope and Despair, 88.

82 On the militarization of the camps in Lebanon, in particular, see Roberts, Rebecca, Palestinians in Lebanon: Living with Long-Term Displacement (London: I.B.Tauris, 2010).

83 Preface to UNRWA HQ Jordan Public Relations Office, Operation in Jordan (Amman: UNRWA, 1956).

84 UNRWA, A Brief History of UNRWA, 1950–1962, 26.

85 This is an argument that continues, in a somewhat different form, to the present day. UNRWA has now become one of the UN's largest agencies, with 30,000 employees working across five regions advertising their role in providing “assistance and protection” for Palestinian refugees “to help them achieve their full potential in human development.” See its statement at UNRWA,, accessed 25 June 2017.

86 See, for instance, Peteet's convincing analysis in Landscape of Hope and Despair of the way refugee interests came almost accidentally to be represented in the UNRWA regime of the 1960s.

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