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A "conscious decision"

Reader comment on item: [UNRWA:] The Refugee Curse

Submitted by Jonathan Rick (United States), Feb 23, 2004 at 21:10

Abba Eban, Israel's Foreign Minister, put it best, at the opening of the 1973 Geneva conference. The refugee crisis is "not basically intractable" he said. Rather, a "conscious decision" to propagandize it has perpetuated it. For instance, when Israel controlled the Gaza Strip, it consistently tried to move the Palestinians into permanent housing. But the Arab states opposed such uplift; they preferred to keep their brethren as symbols of Israeli "occupation."

Ditto for Arab contributions to UNRWA. While the single state of Israel initially gave $3 million, all the combined Arab countries could pledge was $600,000. As recently as 1994, Israel's contributions continued to exceed those of the Arabs, except Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Morocco. So extreme is the Arab position that a former director of UNRWA, Ralph Gall[rr?]oway, summarized it this way in August 1958. "The Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore . . . against Israel. Arab leaders don't give a damn whether the refugees live or die." Forty years later, the managing editor of Ha'aretz observed the same motives. "When I see children and their parents living in dire poverty in refugee camps . . . I wonder why their Arab neighbors, especially those who have enjoyed immense oil riches all these years, have never come to their aid. The sad truth is that the Arab countries have abandoned them to a bitter fate in order to foment hatred of Israel."

But it's more than deceptive statistics, which even UNRWA admits "cannot be considered statistically valid." UNRWA's handing out free food and cash to those claiming refugeehood is, in one professor's formulation, "as if a new TV show were invented . . . called ‘Who Wants to Be a Palestinian Refugee?'" And, like money, the numbers talk; out of a total population of almost 8 million creative and entrepreneurial Palestinians, 4.25 million voluntarily submit themselves to "refugee" status—thereby condemning themselves to what Dr. Pipes describes as "lives of exclusion, self-pity and nihilism."
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