Sep 11,2018 – JORDAN TIMES – HASAN ABU NIMAH
Clearly, the motive behind defunding UNRWA is the termination of the 70-year-old Palestinian refugee problem. It is of course an Israeli idea. It is not new. Roughly, it has been constantly pursued by various Israeli administrations since the Madrid peace conference in 1991, if not earlier.
No doubt the existence of over 5 million Palestinian refugees still attached to their historic homeland, still awaiting the moment of their return to where they lived for centuries before they were forced out, still determined to fight for their rights despite massive and overwhelming odds and obstacles, no doubt, such factors and more constitute a source of major worry for Israel.
Much of the Zionist colonial scheme for Palestine has indeed been realised. The entire land of Palestine is now under Israeli control, in addition to parts of Syria and Lebanon. Militarily Israel is a powerful state that can defend itself against any threat. It can suppress any Palestinian moves against its ongoing occupation, against its continued displacement and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from what little is left of the West Bank, to make room for additional expansion of illegal Jewish colonies, it can continue to deny Palestinian rights, regardless of how they are defined and recognised by international law, with complete impunity thanks to American protection of Israeli violations at the United Nations Organisation; and Israel seems to be certain that with the situation regionally and internationally so seemingly favourable, its gains so far are irreversible.
But still there remains a major hurdle. The Palestinians, who were supposed, expected or destined to vanish after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and the ethnic cleansing of around three-quarters of a million Palestinians from their Palestinian towns and villages, did not. The figure of 300,000 Palestinians who remained in Palestine in 1948, either in what became Israel or in the West Bank and Gaza, have now grown to top 6 million. In total, realistic estimates put the number of Palestinians at over 13 million worldwide. UNRWA is handling the needs of 5 million of them, those who are officially registered as refugees. The mere existence of so many Palestinians, the figures keep rising, is a major problem for Israel. Many of Israel’s leaders referred to it as the demographic bomb which, in fact, it is.
UNRWA’s continued existence, in Israel’s view, legitimises a recognised international existence of a Palestinian refugee body, which also ascertains the validity of the right of return, also as a recognised UN inalienable right.
Therefore, again in Israel’s view, if UNRWA disappears, the Palestinian refugee problem disappears too; and with that the right of return becomes consequently redundant.
UNRWA was created by a United Nations General Assembly resolution back in 1949. Attempts by Israel and its supporters to abolish UNRWA at the UN have regularly failed. The last resort is to kill UNRWA by drying up its financing.
This last resort option is now possible with the US fully adopting the plan. The US has always been on Israel’s side in more matters than one. Under the current administration, however, the US is fully compliant. Israel’s standard list of consolidating its illegal gains is being steadily implemented by the current Washington administration.
The United States is ending its funding to UNRWA, in the hope that the host countries, mainly Jordan and Lebanon, but there are also others, will settle the refugees on their lands and handle all their needs. The refugees would then lose their refugee status and the right of return would disappear in the same way as the refugee problem, according to this absurd logic.
Not only is none of this going to work, but it will most certainly aggravate the situation indefinitely.
UNRWA and the comprehensive programme it offered the Palestinians, including education, health, employment, housing and other basic needs, has in fact been of enormous help in sustaining Palestinian patience, hope and orderly handling of their national aspirations; though relatively if not entirely. There have in fact been Palestinian eruptions nevertheless, which means things would have been far worse without UNRWA’s services and if such was the case, with many Palestinians left in deprivation, hopelessness, destitution and despair, God only knows what would have happened to the region.
UNRWA’s mission has also been helpful to the host countries, which, with their restricted economic means and mounting tasks, would have been exposed to all kinds of difficulties without UNRWA sharing the task.
Hosting the largest number of Palestinian refugees, Jordan spends hundreds of millions of US dollars annually on their basic needs on top of what UNRWA offers.
Drying up UNRWA resources, therefore, is not going to withdraw the refugee and the right of return cases from the list of pending issues the way Washington claims it did with the Jerusalem case. On the contrary, such an ill-advised measure will inflame the situation, stir the Palestinians, play into the hands of the extremists and the terrorists by creating helpful incubators for their evil plans and on top of that it seriously threatens host countries’ stability, not just because of the increased economic burdens, but for the serious political implications involved as well. How is it possible to just pour oil on the many raging fires in the Arab world and how helpful to Israel may this be?
Defunding UNRWA is an irresponsible miscalculation, based on a miserable perception of the real nature of the problem. It complicates rather than facilitates the resolution of the historic conflict. It punishes both the Palestinians and the host countries, while at the same time distances any chance of future reconciliation between the parties. This is an unnecessary escalation that is certain to explode in the faces of its instigators.
So far, Israel has blocked any attempt at reconciliation and normalisation by its persistent denial of Palestinian rights as well as its endeavour to maintain its hegemony over its victims and indeed over the region by manipulation and imposition of force. This has not given Israel the peace it hoped for.