The international community needs to decide whether it support UNWRA’s perpetuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict or a peaceful two-state solution in a post-UNWRA future.
The US recently announced that it is ending its support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
Like Israel, the Trump administration sees UNWRA as part of the problem rather than the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Critics argue that Washington’s cut of nearly 300 million dollars to UNWRA will radicalize those whose livelihood depends on it and undermine prospects for peace.
Why has UNWRA become such a divisive factor in the Arab-Israeli conflict? What impact will the end of American aid to the controversial UN agency have on Israel and her Arab neighbors?
As with so many other issues relating to the conflict, Europe views the situation through a very different lens than Washington. In response to the American decision, Germany said it would boost funding to UNWRA. Britain’s opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn urged his country to follow suit.
UNWRA was created in 1949 and tasked to deal with the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who became refugees during the Arab-Israeli war in 1948. However, it stands out among agencies dealing with refugees as is the only UN agency that deals with only one group of people.
Instead of solving the Arab refugee issue, UNWRA has perpetuated it by uniquely making the refugee status hereditary. This has led to a bizarre situation where the number of registered Arab “refugees” has swelled to over five million, almost a tenfold increase since 1948.
By contrast, Israel successfully absorbed hundreds of thousands of refugees from Europe and the Arab world. The children of Jewish refugees from the Arab world have reached the highest echelons in Israeli society and include the current IDF Chief of Staff, Gadi Eizenkot.
UNWRA embodies the tragedy of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Instead of encouraging the Arab population to settle down peacefully and become economically productive, UNWRA and the Palestinian Authority (PA) cynically keep millions of Arabs in poverty and financial dependency.
To make things worse, the aid is conditioned on embracing hatred of Jews and the destruction of Israel.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas urged the world to step in and help save the UN agency. “The loss of this organization could unleash an uncontrollable chain reaction,” Mass said, according to Reuters.
UNRWA Hurts Jews and Arabs
What chain reaction was he referring to? It is UNWRA that is responsible for the radicalization of the Arab population. Ending funds to it will therefore gradually reduce the extreme anti-Semitic indoctrination that sustains the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Financial assistance and genuine development aid to the Arab population can be provided through channels other than UNWRA. The controversial UN agency’s perpetuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict hurts both Arabs and Israelis. It denies peace to Israel and it denies a decent and realistic future for the Arab population.
UNWRA and the PA cynically enrich themselves by embracing an unachievable fantasy: Israel’s destruction. Europe’s embrace of UNWRA, therefore, contradicts its official support for a peaceful two-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
A collapse of UNWRA could eventually lead to a realistic peace between Arabs and Israelis. It could also give the Arabs the opportunity to a meaningful and realistic future.
Washington has already indicated that it seeks to assist the Arab population through other means.
Europe and other international actors need to decide whether they support UNWRA’s perpetuation of the conflict or a peaceful two-state solution in a post-UNWRA future.