UNRWA's reconstruction of Jenin refugee camp following the massive destruction by Israel in April 2002 was the largest humanitarian intervention during the second intifada. This article uses the Jenin project as a lens through which to critically examine the minimalist humanitarian paradigm underwriting the agency's relief-centered mandate. Reviewing the negotiations between UNRWA planners and local refugee committees, the author highlights the tension between the agency's politically “neutral” technical vision and the refugees' needs and wishes. While recognizing UNRWA's crucial role, the author regrets that in expanding its operations beyond relief provision, the agency opted for a more traditional (liberal) community-based development framework rather than a rights-based approach, resulting in a depoliticization that undermines the community's struggle for its rights.

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