Lindsay Toledano

The UNRWA farce: Nothing more than a blatant travesty of human integrity based on a political agenda

“And what I think at this point, realistically, we can do is to try to rebuild trust – not through a big overarching deal, which I don’t think is probably possible in the next year, given the makeup of the Netanyahu government, given the challenges I think that exist for President Abbas – but if we can start building some trust around, for example, relieving the humanitarian suffering inside of Gaza and helping the ordinary people in Gaza to recover from the devastation that happened last year; if we can do more to create business opportunities and jobs inside the territories – if we can slowly rebuild that kind of trust, then I continue to believe that the logic of a two state solution will reassert itself,” President Obama

Every time I read a statement like this I start to feel like Alice in Wonderland….although there is nothing at all wondrous going on; just a plethora of reasons to be amazed…but only in a negative sense.

There was no reason for Gaza to be ‘devastated’ last year. There is no reason for poverty and poor living conditions to prevail in a place that receives billions of dollars every year (between 2003 and 2012 the West Bank and Gaza Strip received US$6.3 billion in official development assistance). If the same amount of money was allotted to an area of identical size in Israel, one would have seen the construction of modern residential buildings, schools and hospitals, as well as parks for children to play in and a beach that would boast a boardwalk with cafes and public amenities. What’s more the residents would have smiles on their faces and the thought of killing people would not enter their minds.

Why is it that the Palestinian method of inciting hatred and killing people over what they term as the “Naqba’ that occurred 67 years ago, is still considered a valid cause? Why is it that we never hear about the millions of other people around the world who were displaced from the lands of their forefathers owing to war or political unrest? The list of people who were forcibly exiled or who fled their war ravaged homelands for safety zones in recent history is so long that it makes the mind boggle, it represents far greater numbers of refugees than the Arabs of Palestine, whose status of ‘refugee’ has been maintained by a special United Nations Agency (UNRWA) that functions with a different set of criteria than any other UN refugee agency. Hence the facts that nearly all of Europe’s forty million refugees were settled in under two years following the end of WW11, whilst nearly seven decades later the Palestinians have been left to stagnate as ‘pawns’ to be used in their immoral struggle against Israel. It is flabbergasting that according to the ‘special criteria’ set out by UNRWA, the Palestinian refugee count stands at around 6.5 million worldwide…one in three refugees worldwide being Palestinian! Currently 3.8 million of those ‘Palestinian refugees’ and their descendants are registered with UNRWA; a staggeringly big number considering that there remains only a mere 30,000 to 50,000 of the originally displaced people created by the Arab Israeli war in 1948.

All other refugees have learned to cope and move on. But the United Nations is maintaining and prolonging this farce of millions of people known as ‘Palestinian refugees’ which is nothing more than a blatant travesty of human integrity based on a political agenda.

There has never been much interest or horn-blowing shown to any of the world’s far worse refugee problems.

1,500,000 Russians fled the violence in Russia during the revolution and the civil war between 1917 -1921; whereupon Lenin revoked citizenship of about 800,000 of them, forcing them to leave definitively.

One million Armenians fled Turkey around the same period to escape persecution and genocide and settled all over the globe.

In 1923, the Treaty of Lausanne that had the support of the international community, dealt with the population exchange between Greek and Turkish nationals, which in practice meant that an estimated two million people were forcibly expelled and denaturalized from their ancient homes and then settled elsewhere!

Then there was the Spanish Civil War that witnessed hundreds of thousands of terrified Spaniards fleeing their country in the 1930’s, mostly to France.

World War 11 created millions of refugees from many areas including Czechoslovakia, Poland, and the Ukraine, and of course millions of Jews from all across Europe. Six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis in WW2, leaving Europe with a devastated and vastly reduced Jewish population. In Poland alone only 45,000 Jews remained from a community that had only a few years earlier comprised over three million. Most of the survivors subsequently left Europe to make new lives elsewhere, in Israel, the United States, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, South America, and South Africa.

All of these refugees took it upon themselves to get on with their lives and none of them were excluded from obtaining nationalities in their new homelands. Even Palestinians were able to obtain citizenship in those countries, unlike most Arab countries who until today deny basic rights to their Palestinian residents!

In recent times the world has watched apathetically as thousands of Sri Lankan Tamils suffered cruel discrimination and were forcibly displaced to end up living nearby in India or to seek asylum elsewhere. And where is the global outrage over the millions of refugees that have been produced by the wars in Iraq and Syria?

And while the Palestinians continue their cycle of terror based on the premise that they have ‘rights’ the world has a responsibility to take an equal interest in the ‘rights’ of the Jewish refugees that were created in parallel to the Palestinians. Of course the media is not interested in circulating this kind of information, because the only items concerning the Palestinian Israeli conflict that are considered newsworthy are those that revolve around Palestinian suffering. Nevertheless, in 2007 resolutions were passed in both the US Senate and the House of Representatives stating that any future Palestinian Israeli peace plan must also recognize the issue of the Jews and the losses they incurred when they were forced out of Arab countries; an estimation of their numbers that far exceeds that of the Palestinian refugees.

It is true that humanitarian suffering exists in Gaza, but these are not helpful, constructive comments. Until Obama and other world leaders start to address the problem as it really is there can be no solution.

There are no excuses! Not even that Israel restricts the import of construction materials, because if the Israeli authorities saw that those materials were being used for the development of infrastructure in Gaza as opposed to building tunnels to use as a means for killing Israelis, there would never have been any restrictions in the first place.

When Israel returned Gaza to the Palestinians in 2005 after uprooting all the Jewish families that had lived there, it was an area with beautiful homes, buildings and a sophisticated agricultural business model. It hadn’t been easy….the lands the Jewish families had constructed their homes on (lands the Palestinians apparently only really wanted in order to have proximity to fire rockets at Israel) were large arid sand dunes, which were described as so desolate “no birds, insects, or even weeds” would live there. The Arabs who lived in adjacent lands called this region, “the cursed land” or El Gerara. But the Jewish settlers proved them wrong and when they were ousted by the Israeli government in 2005, they left behind Greenhouses that produced over $120 million per year of produce in exportable cut flowers and natural produce, and had also employed over 5,000 local Arabs who lived in peace with them.

Then in a grand gesture to kick start the Palestinian economy in Gaza, American Jewish donors paid $14 million to the ousted Israeli’s for the greenhouses and donated them lock stock and barrel to the Palestinian Authority. Obviously the idealists amongst us were once again duped by believing that this was the turning point that would generate a strong economy in Gaza and bring it closer to becoming the Hong Kong of the Middle East. But instead, the Palestinians looted and destroyed the greenhouses and in a few hours there was nothing left that resembled the lucrative business that had been so generously bestowed upon them.

It would be so easy to have peace. The Palestinians already live in areas that are virtually the ‘second state’ of the ‘two state solution’….they are autonomous in those areas living under Palestinian rule. Why don’t the Palestinians simply relinquish violence and start living normally. Wouldn’t this be the best way to start the ‘living side by side in peace’ scenario? It wouldn’t mean that negotiations for land swaps would cease; because Israel wants peace with her neighbors more than anything else, so she would be willing to find a way that would ensure that both the Palestinian and Israeli people are happy and secure in their respective lands.

But unfortunately that is not the aim of the leaders of the Palestinian people, regardless of the Pope calling Abbas ‘An Angel of Peace’. The Palestinian goal is NOT to live in peace alongside the Jewish State of Israel, but instead to DESTROY the Jewish State. The Palestinians have long promoted an agenda that is full of myths and lies; they teach their children the lie that the Jews have taken their country from them and that they must never give up the struggle to vanquish ‘the Zionist enemy’.  Every dime that enters Gaza is spent on rockets, ammunition and terror tunnels. Sadly this is why the poor people of Gaza still live in squalor and why there was ‘devastation’ last year.