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    ON THE AGENDA
What to Do About UNRWA


 
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As US envoy to the UN during its first years of existence, Ambassador Warren Austin was asked once whether he didn’t find the prattling organization’s endless debates exhausting.

Austin, who during much of World War II was a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the UN’s deliberations were indeed boring, but then ruled: “It’s better for old diplomats to be bored than for young men to die.”

Sadly, that spirit quickly vanished from the UN which, while still notorious for its colorless documents and vain debates, has all too often been indifferent to young men’s death, and also to war’s many other victims.

That is how, for instance, the UN could not bring itself to say anything effective, let alone moral, in the face of the Syrian government’s genocide, gas attacks, and ethnic cleansing.

Still, while not nearly as bloody as the Syrian crisis, the Palestinian tragedy is even more shameful in terms of the UN’s treatment, because in this arena the organization that was built to make peace has become an instrument of war.

Now, with Washington finally losing patience with this aberration, the question is whether its threatened divestment is the best course to take. It isn’t.



THE UN’s war on the Zionist project has been waged on two plains: the declaratory and the practical.

The declaratory war – besides its repeated twisting of truth – is deformed in its quantity. Comprising multiple anti-Israeli statements passed annually in multiple forums while ignoring other, often more urgent, conflicts, this absurdity alone reflects the UN’s political hijacking and moral derailment.

Yet the UN’s more lethal war is waged not in the glass menageries overlooking the East River and Lake Geneva, but in the squalid alleys of Gaza, Hebron, Beirut and dozens of other Middle Eastern locations where some 700 UN-run schools educate nearly half-a-million students.

Managed by the 69-year-old UNRWA (UN Relief and Works Agency), this school system is part of a network that also provides health services and welfare payments. The sheer size of this project – 30,627 “area staff” beside 21,571 “educational staff” according to UNRWA’s own figures of January 2016 – comes at the expense of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which makes do with 10,966 workers.

This means that the UN deploys at least three times more people for what it defines as “Palestinian refugees” than it does for the rest of the world’s “forcibly displaced people” who, by the UNHCR’s count, totaled last year 65.6 million victims of countless political conflicts from Congo to Myanmar.

This means that even if one accepts UNRWA’s absurd definition of refugees as not just the Palestinians displaced in 1948, but also their descendants – the Palestinians still get about 30 times more UN personnel per capita than the rest of the world’s refugees get, not counting UNRWA’s educational staff.

This disproportion is the institutional extension of the UN’s declaratory obsession with Israel. Evidently, the UN has been commandeered, and UNRWA is the main instrument of this diplomatic ruse. UNRWA is where the minds of Palestinian kids are poisoned daily in schools that deny Israel’s existence, preach hatred, hail war, and glorify terrorism.

This is besides UNRWA’s innovative redefinition of “refugee,” designed to multiply their number, from the 600,000 displaced in 1948 to more than 5 million cash recipients today, and to keep them readily available – in UNRWA’s camps – and emotionally fueled – in UNRWA’s schools – for confrontation with the Jewish state.



SET AGAINST this backdrop, Ambassador Nikki Haley’s threat to cut Washington’s dominant share in UNRWA’s budget is only understandable. Undermining America’s interests and scorning its values, UNRWA mocks Uncle Sam every day of its existence, so why finance it?

That is of course true, but before defunding UNRWA one must ask what will happen the morning after it loses the American taxpayer’s annual $370 million grant. Well what will happen is that Russia, Turkey, Qatar, or a billionaire like Carlos Slim will volunteer to fill the void, as conservative historian Daniel Pipes warned in the Middle East Forum.

Israel’s position, that UNRWA should be dismantled and Palestinian refugees should be treated through the UNHCR along with the rest of the world’s refugees, is very good as a longer-term goal, but cannot be expected to happen in the short term.

Pipes suggests the US continue its funding, but at the same time demand that recipients of US aid who are not among the 20,000 living refugees of 1948 – formally forego their refugee status. That too is a good idea, but it won’t affect UNRWA’s daily damage to the future of peace.

A more practical path can be a hostile takeover.

Rather than cut its contribution, the US can actually expand it, then fire the agency’s executives, replace them, and review all UNRWA policies and activities.

UNRWA’s new executives will then shed its existing textbooks and replace them with entirely new ones, and tell its teachers that to retain their jobs they must declare in writing that they recognize Israel’s right to exist, that they believe in peace with it, and that the Jews are a nation as respectable as any other.

Under new management, UNRWA’s schools will teach the next generation of Palestinians that the Jews are not the “sons of apes and pigs” that their preachers portray, but the descendants of Moses who banned murder, idolatry, and theft; Isaiah who envisioned world peace; Amos who scolded the rich who abuse the poor; and the Sages who made it law to teach every boy and girl to read and write, and to establish in every community a school; a school of the sort that UNRWA has yet to produce; a school that will teach tolerance, debate and enlightenment; a learning house whose graduates will enter adulthood knowing that never since antiquity was there even one day in which there was no Jewish community in this land, and that the quest to deprive the Jews of their land is at least as immoral as the quest to deprive the Palestinians of theirs. (Jerusalem Post 12 January)




 

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