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The aftermath of World War II saw many large-scale transfers of population, often with many deaths, including those of Germans, Koreans, Indians, Pakistanis, and Jews from Arab countries. Yet, only one refugee problem from that era remains alive today, the Palestinian. Indeed, it's not just alive, but growing: according to U.N. figures, the refugees numbered less than a million in 1950 but nearly three million today. How much has the persistence of this problem had to do with the fact that Palestinians alone have had an international organization (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, to use its full title) uniquely devoted to their welfare?

Unfortunately, Schiff does not answer this question, though he provides the most informative account of UNRWA yet published, tracing the organization from its optimistic origins (it was modeled on the Tennessee Valley Authority) to its mendicant status of later years. Instead, he focuses on UNRWA as an institution, showing it to be a "colonial organization" in which a handful of Westerners order about the many "locals," as well as a "non-political" organization "saturated by politics." Still, he does provide information for the reader to reach his own conclusions about the ultimate impact of UNRWA; this reviewer finds that while far from the decisive factor in keeping Palestinians as refugees unto the third generation, UNRWA certainly contributes to their incapacitation.The sooner it dissolves, then, the better for all.