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Defunding UNRWA

by Hugh Fitzgerald

“UK says funding cut to UNRWA could lead to instability,” Middle East Eye, January 26, 2018:

A senior British diplomat has backed the United Nations agency responsible for Palestinian refugees, saying that a cut in US funding could lead to instability in the region.

Speaking at a meeting at the United Nations Security Council in New York, Stephen Hickey, acting UK deputy ambassador to the UN, said the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA) provided “vital services” to millions of Palestinian refugees scattered across the Middle East.

“The United Kingdom remains a firmly committed supporter of UNRWA and we recognise its unique and important mandate from the UN General Assembly, providing vital services to the Palestinian refugee population, both in the occupied territories and in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

“Although we do agree that there is an urgent need for UNRWA to become more efficient and cost-effective by stepping up the pace of reform, UNRWA must continue to be able to carry out its important functions.

“Any unexpected reductions or delays in predicted donor disbursements can have damaging impacts and undermine stability in the region.”

So goes the standard argument for not cutting funding to UNRWA: it would “undermine stability,” UNRWA has a “unique and important mandate,” and provides “vital services.” What is the case for cutting that funding?

UNRWA — the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees In the Near East — purports to be a non-political samaritan organization, distributing aid to “Palestinian refugees” all over the Middle East. Nine of the top ten donors to UNRWA are North American and European; only one is Arab — Saudi Arabia, which provides less than 5% of UNRWA’s budget. Apparently Arabs and Muslims are content to let the West do all the heavy lifting.

Of  the tens of millions of refugees that have been created since World War II, there is only one group of refugees — the “Palestinians” — for whom that refugee status is inheritable. That is, the child or grandchild of a “refugee” is also declared to be a “refugee,” and as the status is handed down, the number of “refugees” on UNRWA’s rolls keeps increasing. There are now over five million such “refugees” in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, the West Bank, and other Arab countries. They are mostly kept in camps by the host countries, and with the exception of Jordan, denied even the right to citizenship. The Arab states, with UNRWA as their handmaiden, don’t want to allow these “refugees” to be integrated; they want them to remain as geopolitical pawns, tugging at the heartstrings of the U.N. and the sentimental and gullible West, as they wait — how long, O Lord, how long — to “return” to their “homeland” of “Palestine.”

There are now said to be 5.2 million “Palestinian refugees.” (The numbers vary wildly, if “Palestinians” in Gaza and the West Bank are included, if “Palestinians” in the West are excluded, and depending, of course, on which Arabs are using which statistics, true or false to make which political point.) Were we to apply the received definition of a “refugee” — a person who flees from one country to escape intolerable political or economic conditions,  or even persecution or death, then only 20,000 such people (called “Arab refugees” until after the Six-Day War, when they were renamed “Palestinian refugees”) are still alive, who left “Palestine” (Israel) seventy years ago, in 1948-49. It could even be argued that, since those Arabs were not fleeing intolerable conditions, or persecution, or death, but almost all of them simply left to get out of the way of the five invading Arab armies (for they had been led to believe that they would soon be returning to their homes after the Jewish state was destroyed), that they were not  refugees, as normally understood. But for now, let’s accept the notion that 20,000 elderly Arabs, all of them aged at least 69, who left “Palestine” between 1947 and 1949, can be described as “refugees.”

How UNRWA managed to persuade the world — was it the Muslim and Arab bloc at the UN?  — that children and grandchildren and all descendants of any “Palestinian refugees” are  also entitled to be considered to be “Palestinian refugees” — remains a mystery. Of the 36 million refugees in the world in the early 1950s, only the approximately half-million “Palestinian refugees” alive at that time have received this unique treatment.

Think of Jews who fled the Nazis and came to America. They can be described, correctly, as “refugees.” But their children and grandchildren are not “refugees.” Henry Kissinger was a German “refugee.” His son is not. His grandson is not. A Cuban refugee’s daughter, born in Miami, is not herself a “refugee.” A Russian refugee’s children, born in New York City, are not “Russian refugees.” An Iranian who fled Khomeini in1979 is a refugee; her granddaughter is not. And no one otherwise gives it a thought.

None of that matters to UNRWA, which is staffed almost entirely by “Palestinians,” and has insisted that no matter when or where a descendant is born of someone who left Palestine, that person is also automatically a “refugee” and is included on the UNRWA rolls. A key difference, then, between UNRWA and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is that UNRWA routinely allows refugee status to be passed down from generation to generation. Another is that it does not remove people from its list those who have acquired citizenship in a new country, so the number always increases. You could be the grandson of someone long dead who had left “Palestine” in 1948, and you may, like your parents,  have lived your whole life in Jordan, even become, like them, a Jordanian citizen, but for UNRWA you remain a “Palestinian refugee” on its rolls, and entitled to UNRWA benefits. And it turns out, unsurprisingly, that UNRWA finds it hard to remove dead people from its rolls, so that by not reporting a death, their families can continue to receive benefits intended for someone long dead.

UNRWA is hardly the apolitical humanitarian body it pretends to be. In its schools all over the Middle East, “Palestinian” children are fed a steady diet of anti-Israel, or more exactly, antisemitic propaganda. Israel has brought this to the attention of the UN, without result. American and Israeli researchers studied hundreds of textbooks used by UNRWA, and concluded that on the subject of Israel and Jews, the textbooks are not improving, but getting worse. The theme of violent liberation of “all of Palestine” has been further intensified in the books published since 2016, as they now include, for the first time in the history of the PA curriculum, a reference to what will happen to the 6 million Jews living in Israel  after its supposed liberation. According to the texts, “the Jews” will endure expulsion from the land and “extermination of its defeated and scattered remnants.” Does that textbook sound like something UNRWA should be using, or Western governments financing?

A 2017 text  reveals a shocking attitude to murdered Israelis by describing a Molotov- cocktail attack on an Israeli civilian bus as a “barbecue party,” and another such text exalts a Palestinian female terrorist responsible for the killing of more than 30 civilians in an attack on another Israeli bus. “This list of items taught in UNRWA schools is incriminating,” the researchers concluded. “UNRWA, in fact, not only does propagate a non-peaceful line contrary to UN resolutions on the Middle East, and not only does allow the presentation of Israel and its Jewish citizens as illegitimate with heavy layers of demonization. UNRWA also betrays its moral obligation toward the Palestinian children and youths’ human rights and well-being, by letting the PA prepare  them for a future war with Israel.” Using these textbooks, they added, is the UN agency’s contribution to perpetuating the conflict.

“It is now high time that UNRWA change its policy of nonintervention in the contents of local curricula taught in its schools,” they added. “An international organization of this caliber committed to the ideal of peace and relying in its funding on democratic countries mostly, should have a say in this matter, especially in view of its relatively large share of Palestinian educational activity.” Of course, nothing at all has been done. UNRWA is the most effective propaganda outlet of the “Palestinians” — presenting itself as a purely humanitarian mission to its outside, almost exclusively Western, donors, and at the same time, spreading the most vicious anti-Israel propaganda imaginable, which those donors have until now chosen to ignore.

UNRWA schools in Gaza have been used as weapons storehouses by Hamas, which could not have happened without UNRWA’s knowledge and cooperation. When UNRWA finally acknowledged finding stockpiles of rockets in its schools in Gaza, in at least one case, it promptly gave them back to Hamas, a terrorist organization.

The function of UNRWA is not to help “Palestinians” to integrate into the countries they now live in, but to prevent them from doing so. It does not help them to better their lives, to become economically independent, but works to keep them in the permanently dependent status of  “refugees.” Only Jordan, among all the Arab states, allows them to acquire citizenship. UNRWA does not try to help them obtain citizenship elsewhere, for both it, and the Arab governments, want to use these people as political and economic pawns, kept where possible in camps, treated as permanent outsiders, banned from a host of occupations, and  waiting for their “right of return” to “Palestine” to be recognized, their sense of grievance constantly nurtured by UNRWA.

President Trump has, thankfully, cut by more than half the latest American pledge of money — by far the biggest — to UNRWA. But now that he has brought attention to the problem of UNRWA, with his initial cut, it would be good if he could publicly raise five issues, forcing them into the public consciousness, where they can no longer be ignored.

First, he should publicize a document, prepared by the American government, showing what UNRWA textbooks now teach. He should, at a press conference, read aloud some of the more horrifying excerpts from those texts, and ask why the American government, or any decent government, should be financing such stuff. He should remind the world that objections have repeatedly been made, over many years, to these textbooks, but nothing has been done to change them.

Second, he should take head on the definition of refugees that is unique to UNRWA. Let him ask aloud: why are these “Palestinian refugees” the only ones in the world whose refugee status is inheritable? What is so unique about them, that someone born in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan should be called a “refugee” just because, seventy years ago, his grandfather, then still a baby, was taken by his parents out of “Palestine”? What entitles such people to be called “refugees”? Isn’t it only the power of the Arab and Muslim bloc at the U.N. that explains the continued insistence that “Palestinian refugee” status can be inherited?

Third, he should ask why UNRWA does not direct its efforts to actually improving the lives of those it pretends to help, by pushing for their integration into the Arab societies in which almost all of them still live, among people who are identical to them in religion, language, and customs. The camps could long ago have been shut down, if the Arab states had wanted to do so. Those “Palestinians”  who are still being kept in camps are thereby kept apart, unable to integrate into the host economy, or society. Those who are in these camps, where heartstring-tugging photographs or videos can be taken by the world’s media, can much more effectively remind the world of their current misery (which is always blamed on Israel, though it is the Arab states they live in, and UNRWA itself, that are responsible), and of that chimerical “right of return,” which propagandists for the “Palestinians” never fail to mention.

Fourth, he should demand that all those who work at UNRWA — with its bloated staff of 30,000 — be vetted for political views and activities. Those found to be supporters of Hamas or, still worse, to have aided that group in any way, should be discharged. 95% of those who are employed by UNRWA are Arabs, almost all of them “Palestinians.” More non-Arab administrators should be hired, so UNRWA becomes less of a cozy UN sinecure for tens of thousands of “Palestinians” — as it has been since its founding, people who have a vested interest in keeping the enterprise going, and in expanding the numbers of those it is supposedly helping. More non-Muslims should be hired, too, because at present UNRWA, especially in Gaza, to which fully one-third of its personnel are assigned, promotes an unchanging agenda of violent jihad.

Fifth, he should demand that the 22 Arab states, some of them fabulously wealthy from oil and gas revenues, and with small populations, should  contribute far more to support their “Arab brothers” than they do at present. It is absurd for Saudi Arabia to pledge only $50 million to an annual budget of more than one billion dollars; it is maddening that the Emirates contribute only $13 million, Kuwait $9 million, and other Arab and Muslim states contribute minuscule amounts, while the United States in 2017 gave $364 million. Though the Arabs consider themselves one people, the Arab states are far less generous to their fellow Arabs — those “Palestinian refugees” — than are the Western countries, judging by their contributions to UNRWA. Furthermore, not only do these states — save for Jordan — prevent “Palestinians” born and raised in their countries from becoming citizens, but those “refugees” are treated harshly in other ways as well. For example, in 2001, “Palestinians” in Lebanon were stripped of the right to own property, or to pass on the property that they already owned to their children – and they had previously been banned from working as doctors, lawyers, dentists, pharmacists or in 20 other professions. 250,000 “Palestinians” were expelled overnight from Kuwait for siding with Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War; similarly, almost all “Palestinians” fled Iraq after Saddam Hussein was toppled.

The Arab states have to allow these “refugees’’ to become citizens where they reside and allow them to own property, and to work in all professions. If those Arab governments insist on keeping them in their “refugee” status, without the possibility of obtaining citizenship, and banning them from certain professions, or limiting their property rights, then it is they alone, not the Western Infidels, who should be paying for UNRWA.

Until these questions are satisfactorily addressed — it would be wonderful to see the head of UNRWA trying to explain why “refugee” status is uniquely inheritable by “Palestinian” refugees and no others — Trump should announce that all American contributions to UNRWA are to end.

UNRWA’s grotesque farce of “aiding” the refugees, by doing nothing to help them integrate into the Arab countries where they now live, has gone on for 70 years. It has made these “Palestinians” more dependent than ever, but it’s part of the Arab plan to keep them excluded from their larger societies, and resentfully harboring that demand for the  “right of return.”

By asking these questions, in public, and then not receiving any satisfactory answers, Trump will have his rationale for ending all American funding for that most corrupt and corrupting of international organizations, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. It keeps in deliberate dependence those whom it purports to help, teaches violent jihad in its schools, hides terrorist weapons for Hamas, and long ago abandoned its only legitimate function, that of providing humanitarian relief for real refugees, those who left “Palestine” in 1948-49 (now numbering, if we define “refugee” correctly, about 20,000, not five million) until they could get on their feet. It’s time to shut UNRWA down, or at the very least, to leave it entirely to the Arabs to support. It’s their problem. They have done nothing to help these “refugees” integrate into the Arab countries where they now live. Over the past 70 years, UNRWA has made these “Palestinians” more dependent than ever, for it’s part of the Arab plan to deliberately keep them distinct from their hosts as much as possible, denying them both political rights — for example, they cannot vote — and the possibility of full participation in the economies of their host countries.

Ralph Galloway, former director of UN aid to the Palestinians in Jordan, summarized this situation succinctly. He wrote that

“The Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don’t give a damn whether the refugees live or die.” (quoted in The Palestinians: People, History, Politics by Terence Prittie, p. 71)

And another forgotten voice, from a time when it was still possible for some to state home truths, is that of Elfan Rees, the World Council of Churches’ Adviser on Refugees, who declared in 1957:

“I hold the view that, political issues aside, the Arab refugee problem is by far the easiest post-war refugee problem to solve by integration. By faith, language, race and by social organisation they are indistinguishable from their fellows of their host countries. There is room for them in Syria and Iraq [and even more room, and need, now, in Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf oil states]. There is a developing demand for the kind of manpower they represent. More unusually still, there is the money to make this integration possible. The United Nations General Assembly, five years ago, donated a sum of $200,000,000 to provide, and here I quote the phrase “homes and jobs” for the Arab refugees. That money remains unspent, not because these tragic people are strangers in a strange land — because they are not, not because there is no room for them to be established — because there is, but simply for political reasons.”

Let the Arabs be forced to recognize that the “refugee” problem they created, and that they have allowed to fester and to grow, can be solved — but not through that “right of return” which would mean the death of Israel, and which Israel cannot possibly permit. Perhaps they can be made to see the wisdom of promoting, rather than preventing, integration of the “Palestinians” into their countries.  Or if they won’t, then let them pay for UNRWA and its ever-growing rolls of pseudo-refugees on their own. As for the West, it has been the major support for UNRWA for nearly 70 years, with the dismal results we all see. Not a penny more for UNRWA should be given by the world’s kuffars. We have spent too much, allowed too much, turned a blind eye too often, to the fantastic scam and moral morass that is UNRWA. Basta.

First published at Jihad Watch.



 

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