Sunday, January 21, 2018

  • Sunday, January 21, 2018
  • Elder of Ziyon


The people supporting funding UNRWA say Arabs are naturally attracted to extremism.

Let's read between the lines of an op-ed in The Guardian by Mick Dumper, a Middle East politics professor at Exeter University, that castigates the (then rumored) idea of the US cutting UNRWA funds:

If UNRWA were defunded by the US in this dramatic, sudden, and unplanned way, it would be forced to suspend within a few months most of its services to nearly 5 million Palestinian refugees. Half a million children in the Gaza Strip, West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon would be without schools, consigning them to the already volatile streets at a time when extremists are in full recruitment mode.
The first question one must ask is, why can the existing governments of these areas accommodate Palestinian children in their schools? Why have they avoided doing that for decades, creating a different class of people in their borders, even as they took in refugees from Iraq after the Gulf War and from Syria more recently?

The second issue is the implication that Dumper is making - that the average child in "moderate" Jordan, and Lebanon is a potential target for ISIS or similar terrorist recruitment. What does that say about the host countries? Isn't that a much bigger problem than just for Palestinian children in those countries? Shouldn't the solution be more targeted to children altogether, and not just Palestinian children?

Furthermore, what does this say about Palestinian responsibility for their own children in areas under their own control? Dumper is saying that they are targets of jihadists. He is saying that gravitating towards terrorism a natural state for Arabs that UNRWA is heroically fighting against. 

Has the US, and Israel for that matter, thought this through? Do they really want 270,000 children in Gaza attending Hamas-run schools? Does Washington really know what it is doing?
Suddenly, people care about hundreds of thousands of children who might attend Hamas-run schools. Yet for the past decade, more than that amount already attended Hamas-run schools in Gaza, and no one has complained about it one bit.  

And UNRWA schools have been using the Hamas curriculum.

If you take Dumper's concern seriously, than he is saying that the average Palestinian child in Gaza has already been recruited to terrorism. Where are the studies about the impact of Hamas on students in Gaza? Where has this concern been for the past ten years?

If anyone would have said that the average Gaza child is being indoctrinated into terror under Hamas rule a month ago, they would be castigated as a right-wing, Zionist, anti-Arab bigot. But suddenly, when UNRWA funding is in crisis, now Hamas schools are problematic.

The implication of these arguments is that Arab parents, media, peer pressure, and governmental messages are tacitly or explicitly supportive of terror, and only UNRWA can save these children from Muslim extremism.

That is bigoted.

But if that's the case, then the UN should take over the entire educational system in the Middle East, right? Or is it only Palestinians who naturally gravitate toward terror?

The impact of all these cuts on the political stability in the Middle East is incalculable. Such a move would produce instability affecting some of the key strategic allies of the US, the EU and the UK in the Middle East. Jordan, for instance, has been touted as a beacon of stability in a region that is still reeling from the convulsions of the Arab spring, the Syrian civil war and the Saudi Arabian-Iranian proxy wars.
Yet Jordan is host to 2 million Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA. It would be unable to cope with replacing the services provided by UNRWA, with the result that its already high unemployment rate would rocket, poverty – already widespread – would accelerate and, with school-age children on the streets, protests would inevitably ensue, threatening the viability of the government. 
The vast majority of children in UNRWA schools in Jordan are Jordanian citizens. Jordan has had the option for nearly 70 years of mainstreaming them into its kingdom. Because of UNRWA, it has ignored basic responsibilities to its own citizens. It has promoted the idea in Jordan that Palestinians are not really Jordanian. The liberals of the West have never had a problem with this.

I agree that any cuts to UNRWA in Jordan (and elsewhere) should be managed intelligently, with the funds being redirected into the government and earmarked for services that would be lost, with the funds eventually reduced as the Palestinians of Jordan, Lebanon and Syria are treated equally with real refugees and with citizens alike. But to defend a system that treats Palestinians differently than their neighbors is to defend apartheid.

And this is what liberals like Dumper are really saying.
There are also long-term costs. Apart from such a decision further sidelining the US from resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and thus lessening its ability to influence the shape of the outcome, one lesson learned from the Middle East since 9/11 is that tearing down institutions is easy. Rebuilding them is exponentially more costly in terms of lives and money.
Once the human capital of teachers, doctors, accountants, administrators, social workers and lawyers accumulated over decades is dispersed or degraded, it will take years to marshal the skills and expertise again to run societies and communities.
He has a point. Yet the solution isn't to maintain UNRWA forever; it is to come up with a plan to eliminate it and allow Palestinian "refugees" to be treated equally with others (including in areas under PA control itself!)

After seventy years, there is absolutely no one who is seriously looking at reducing the need for UNRWA. Trump's move may be hastier than it needs to be, but it will start this conversation that is long, long overdue of forcing Arab leaders to take responsibility for all the people under their control, and treat them equally.

Continuing to support UNRWA indefinitely without a plan to reduce the need for its services is the real recipe for instability in the Middle East. It maintains an ever growing "refugee" population that is treated differently. It promotes discrimination by giving different levels of services to people depending on where their great-grandparents lived.

It is indeed apartheid.





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