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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

UNRWA's long term problem

UNRWA has again warned that it is running with a large deficit and will be forced to close schools or other programs if it does not get some cash quickly.

Filippo Grandi, the Commissioner General of UNRWA, said that a deficit of $84 million needs to be covered this month or else services will be affected.

Given that the real or imagined population of "refugees" that UNRWA takes responsibility for is increasing at a high rate, UNRWA has done surprisingly little planning on how to reduce the problem. In 2005, UNRWA came out with a five year plan that pretended "to create conditions for the human development and sustainable self reliance for Palestine refugees." Yet the only concrete tactics were a microfinance plan and vocational training - important but largely symbolic initiatives that are not designed to make a real dent in reducing Palestinian Arab dependence a UN welfare agency.

I have yet to see a real, long-term strategy by UNRWA to continue its operations for the next decade. It is obvious that they cannot continue to receive more and more money from the West (Arab nations pay only a small part of the UNRWA budget, and often renege on their pledges.)

Even if there was a peace plan tomorrow and a Palestinian Arab state the day after that, there would still be nearly five million officially registered "refugees", a continuously growing population. The PA cannot afford to keep its own economy going; they sure couldn't absorb millions of Arabs kept stateless by their host countries, many of them radicalized by being stuck in miserable conditions for so many years.

And nobody is thinking about how to solve this issue.

Arab states are more than happy to keep the status quo - it costs them nothing to give these squalid camps to UNRWA and they have no responsibility. The millions of pseudo-refugees are being kept in limbo for Phase 2 of the plan to destroy Israel, namely, the non-existent "right of return." No matter what agreement Israel signs that says that it will never happen, that issue will come up as a legitimate issue within a few years.

There is only one solution: The Arab states need to assume responsibility for their role in keeping the Palestinian Arabs stateless, discriminated against and in misery. They need to start implementing plans to integrate their "guests" into their own societies, the way every other refugee population in history has been integrated in their host countries.

The only way this can happen is by shaming them.

Publicize the endemic discrimination that the Palestinian Arabs have been subject to since 1948. Tell the world how desperate these people are to become a normal part of society. Show how Palestinian Arabs, alone among all Arabs, cannot become citizens of other Arab countries - at the urging of the Arab League itself.

UNRWA could actually do something positive for once. They can tell the world a simple fact: Even if the events in 1948 were a catastrophe for Palestinian Arabs, the problems that they have 62 years later are squarely the responsibility of the Arab states that have treated them like subhuman pawns. If UNRWA would publish a single, simple press release laying out these facts that everybody knows, they could do more to help the population of "refugees" than they have accomplished in six decades.

Human rights organizations that pretend to care about Palestinian Arabs should also be in the forefront of this initiative. The time to use Palestinian Arabs as pawns needs to end, and they should be given the choice of becoming citizens in any Arab country they want, under the same naturalization laws that any other Arab citizen would go through.

Everyone has their heads in the sand pretending that a "peace plan" can solve the problem. But this fact is clear: The status quo is unsustainable and something needs to be done to reduce and eliminate the scourge of stateless people being cynically used solely as a weapon to hurt Israel.