According to a new report by UNRWA, despite modest economic good news in the West Bank, the number of unemployed refugees grew by nearly one per cent in the first half of the year, to over 50,000 people, as unemployment generally in the West Bank declined. At 27.4 per cent, the unemployment rate for refugees is about 5 percentage points above the average of the West Bank as a whole.First, let's get beyond the absurdity of referring to Palestinian Arabs living in the Palestinian Arab territories "refugees." They aren't refugees by any definition of the term. They live in their own homeland!
“These figures show once more that the refugees continue to bear the brunt of economic hardship in the West Bank,” said UNRWA spokesman, Chris Gunness, “making the need for our emergency services greater than ever.”
The report finds that “in the context of 3.7 per cent overall employment growth, refugees lost ground in the public sector, where their employment declined 2.9 per cent in the sequential period. Total employment growth of refugees was about 1.5 per cent year over year, well below the overall rate of job growth for non-refugees in the West Bank.”
But lets look at these numbers. Palestinian Arabs who do not live in these camps have been doing better economically and their unemployment rate has gone down; those who live in these camps and are dependent on UNRWA handouts saw their lives worsen as their own unemployment rate has gone up.
The logical conclusion is that these so-called "refugees" must, at long last, be fully integrated into PA society. It would help them and it would help the PA take the responsibility that any government is supposed to for their own people. If the PA had any sense of pride, it should be insulted that some 15 years after they gained autonomy, they still allow an outside agency to take care of their people. The PA should have built permanent housing and communities for the camp residents and mainstreamed them into their society.
Why on Earth are these still "refugee" camps in the West Bank and Gaza? Moreover, why is there no plan to get rid of them?
UNRWA is not helping these people - it is crippling them. UNRWA's hollow excuse that they cannot get rid of any of their facilities before a comprehensive peace is found is absurd in this context. An agency that truly cared about these people would have put into place a plan to diminish its services years ago until they are no longer needed. The massive UNRWA budget should be transferred to the PA so that the government, so lavishly praised for its institution building, can take basic responsibility for its own people.
The fact that "refugees" are in such poor financial shape even after they take advantage of free education and health services is all the proof you need that UNRWA is hurting the people it pretends to help in the territories. it is not teaching self-sufficiency - instead, it has created a culture of laziness and entitlement.
While perhaps an argument can be made that UNRWA is necessary in Lebanon or Syria, there is no reason at all for it to exist in the Palestinian Arab territories. -
Unless, of course, it is meant to used not to help people but only to use them as a weapon against Israel.
By the way, the UNRWA report mentions that employment of Palestinian Arabs in Israel increased by 5.51% between the second half of 2010 and the first half of 2011 and 1.64% compared to the first half of 2010 (which accounts for seasonal jobs.)
And it also grudgingly admits that Palestinian Arabs enjoy "relatively high wage jobs in Israel."