HAVING escaped the Balkan War when he was young, academic Dr Admir Skodo has devoted much of his career to the plight of the world’s migrants.

As Bosnian refugees, his family were lucky enough to find sanctuary in Sweden where Skodo completed a BA in history before moving to Italy for his PhD and then the US for a postdoctoral scholarship.

Now his consultancy advises governments and non-governmental organisations on refugee and migration policy, but despite his knowledge of the horrors of war, he is particularly appalled by what is happening in Gaza.

He has no doubt the Israeli government is pursuing a policy of genocide on the Palestinians and is travelling to Scotland this month to encourage Scots to understand the history of the occupation and keep campaigning for justice.

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As part of this year’s Scottish Refugee Festival, he will speak in Glasgow on the future of Palestinians and the Palestinian aid agency UN Refugee and Works Agency (UNRWA).

“It’s very personal for me to be doing what I do professionally, and what is going on in Palestine at the moment is just unbearable,” he told the Sunday National. “I can’t comprehend the level of apathy to what is happening.”

He believes the shift in attitude of the Israeli government to UNRWA is evidence of how Israeli hawks want to destroy Gaza.

Skodo pointed out that until recently, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu supported UNRWA because the agency was a useful way of curtailing Palestinian unrest by providing humanitarian assistance in a mock state which in reality is little more than an open prison.

However, after Israel’s invasion of Gaza following the Hamas attack of October 7, Netanyahu accused UNRWA of aiding terrorism. There is no evidence to back up this claim but Skodo said this did not matter to Netanyahu’s government.

“They supported UNRWA because it was a good way to contain the political aspirations of Palestinians but now they want it gone,” he said. “This signals a shift in Israeli politics from containment to destruction and effectively genocide.”

He said Netanyahu’s changed stance towards UNRWA was because he was making overtures to his “openly Jewish supremacist ministers, the likes of (Bezalel) Smotrich and (Itamar) Ben-Gvir”.

“They are the ones who are bent on the annihilation angle as they are Jewish supremacists,” said Skodo. “They see absolutely no reason why they should even contain Palestinians and want to annihilate them in any way possible, whether that is through forced displacement or by indiscriminately and continuously bombing and assaulting the Gaza Strip.”

At the moment, with most of Gaza reduced to rubble, it’s difficult to see how it could ever be rebuilt but, despite this, Netanyahu has reportedly drawn up a plan for its reconstruction which will also enable the Israeli government to exploit the gas fields discovered off Gaza’s shores.

While the hostages are alive and awaiting rescue, Skodo said the growing tension between liberal Israelis and the supremacist government is being contained but is almost certain to erupt again when the hostilities are over.

“It should be remembered that secular-minded Jews were at loggerheads with Jewish supremacists and there were open street fights on the streets of Tel Aviv before October 7,” he said. “That really came at a very convenient time for the government but most commentators agree those tensions are going to come back. It is not only what happens in Gaza but what happens in Israeli politics after this that we should be looking at.”

There is widespread anger over the West’s reluctance to step in and prevent the slaughter of civilians in Gaza but Skodo said Palestinians had occupied an anomalous position since the creation of the modern Israeli state in 1948 and the displacement of 750,000 Palestinians as a result.

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Rather than be covered by the Geneva Convention’s definition of a refugee, they are the only national group to have their own refugee category, and unlike the Geneva Convention’s definition, this does not include any references to persecution.

Skodo said the special category was created in 1949 to avoid any accusations against Israel. It also means that, unlike other refugees, Palestinians do not have a right to permanent resettlement in other countries.

“Palestinians, in particular, Gazans, are effectively banned from leaving Gaza and the West Bank without permission from Israeli authorities and those who do want to leave face impossible barriers,” said Skodo.

He said Israel’s actions since October 7 were part of a long history of legal, symbolic and physical collective punishment of Palestinians that would only end if the US decided to stop backing Israel at any cost.

Skodo said Scots could help by supporting an already broad movement that’s demanding “an end to the genocide, an end to the illegal occupation and settlements, an end to the collective punishment of Palestinians and Palestinian refugees, and either a fully free Palestinian state that co-exists with Israel or one state that includes both Israelis and Palestinians on equal terms, with equal political rights – including the equal right to vote regardless of religious or ethnic belonging”.

www.refugeefestivalscotland.co.uk/events/event/the-future-of-unwra -and-palestinian-refugees/