By ARYEH SAVIR
Tazpit News Agency
The Palestinians, according to a recent study by the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, have received 25 times more aid per capita than did the Europeans to rebuild war-torn Western Europe under the Marshall plan after the Second World War.
Most of these funds, according to the study, reach the Palestinians through the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).
UNRWA is the only UN refugee agency dedicated to a single group of people, and the only agency that designates individuals as original refugees if they have lived in areas affected by the Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, for a minimum of only two years, before being displaced. UNRWA is also the only UN agency that designates the descendants of the original refugees as refugees as well, even though 90% of UNRWA-designated refugees have never actually been displaced.
UNRWA, furthermore, violates the UNHCR Refugee Convention by insisting that two million people, 40% of UNWRA’s beneficiaries, who have been given full citizenship in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, are nevertheless still classified as refugees.
Although, since World War II, 50 million people have been displaced by armed conflict, the Palestinians are the only ones in history to receive this special treatment.
The total 2012 UNRWA budget was $907,907,371. Although the permanent supportive rhetoric for the “Palestinian case” from the Muslim world might lead one to believe that UNWRA is funded mainly by Muslim countries, the fact is that UNRWA is almost entirely funded by Western taxpayers: The USA, EU, UK, Sweden, Norway, Germany, The Netherlands and Japan. These countries contribute a total of $644,701,999, or 71% of the annual UNRWA budget. The funds from the second largest donor, the EU, are composed of EU taxes from its member states.
Saudi Arabia is #15, with $12,030,540, less than half of a tiny country such as the Netherlands. Turkey, at #18, whose prime minister zealously supports Hamas, contributed only $8,100,000. Qatar, contributed exactly $0. It is of significance to note the the personal wealth of PA president Abbas is estimated at $100 million.
In 2010, Canada’s Stephen Harper administration redirected its UNRWA funding directly to the Palestinian Authority to increase accountability. In 2011 the Dutch government announced it would thoroughly review its UNRWA policy.
The study posits that if one seriously wishes to avoid another generation of war in Gaza, one must have the courage to tell the Palestinians that they will have to accountable for their lives themselves, without UNRWA’s help. This would force Palestinians to focus on building an economy. By perpetuating the Palestinians’ refugee status UNRWA is an obstacle to any possible resolution.
Given that UNRWA reports to the UN General Assembly, with its automatic anti-Israel majority, mandating a change in UNRWA practices is nearly impossible. But major UNRWA donors, starting with the US government, should stop being accomplices to UNRWA’s perpetuation of the refugee status. Donor states should, therefore, consider attaching strict conditions to their funding. With its annual $233,328,550 donation, the US should take the lead, and individual EU member states could inquire what the actual share of each is in the annual $204,098,161 EU donation, and then seriously consider imposing conditions on delivering this share.
The study asserts that the UNWRA might actually be counterproductive. If the entire Palestinian Authority leadership lives off an international welfare check that only arrives annually because that the so-called conflict still exits, there isn’t much incentive for ending the conflict. “If the current situation is left untouched, the Palestinians are left suffering, fed on dreams and violence”, the study concludes.