Friday, July 27, 2007

Still working on next PalArab history post

I find myself with less and less free time, but I am still working on the Psychological History of Palestinian Arabs series.

Today I have been researching the UN's role during the 1950s and it is fascinating. The UN at the time did make an honest effort to solve the refugee problem in very fair and realistic ways, and was stymied by a combination of Arab intransigence and Palestinian Arab fantasies about returning to their homes (stoked by the Arabs who didn't want them).

The UNRWA stands for UN Relief and Works Agency, and the "Works" was the important part initially - it was meant to create a Marshall Plan for the Middle East where work projects would provide jobs to Palestinian Arab refugees and also pump up the Arab economies so they could afford to absorb a majority of them. In classical Western style, the UN tried to create a win/win situation, thinking naively that a solution where everyone ends up ahead is something that the Arab countries would embrace as well. The UNRWA only intended to provide relief for a short time while the Palestinian Arabs would resettle or repatriate.

They didn't count on Arab hatred for Israel as well as Arab hatred of their Palestinian brethren, who reminded them of their own impotence in 1948. Even as late as 1959, the Arabs were complaining to the UN about Jewish immigration into Israel! They said that this was "the principal factor which has been the source of danger and anxiety in Palestine for the past thirty years", neatly blaming Jewish immigration for the 1929 Arab riots and every Arab atrocity since then.

Some time during the next couple of decades, the UNRWA was going to turn into a self-perpetuating terrorist-supporting entity, but during its first ten years it did not reflexively take the Arab side and it really tried to solve the refugee problem.