About those Palestinian refugee camps

May 06, 2002|By Mona Charen

WASHINGTON -- As the Jenin "massacre" takes its place alongside other Arab myths -- Mossad or CIA responsibility for the crash of EgyptAir Flight 990 in 1999, the suspicious "fact" that 4,000 Jews failed to show up for work at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, the Jewish practice of using human blood in their holiday cakes -- some on this side of the Atlantic and this side of sanity have been asking:

"What's with these refugee camps? Why do people remain in camps 54 years after Israel's founding?"

This is key to understanding the conflict.

The Arab refugees remain in camps because of the cynical decision by Arab governments and the PLO to keep them miserable and poor. Refugee camps are distributed among Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Only Jordan has offered citizenship to them. Before June 1967, when Egypt controlled Gaza and Jordan held the West Bank, neither nation gave the land to the Palestinians for a state because the idea was that they would eventually return to the real Palestine -- Israel. A Syrian-sponsored conference in 1957 declared that "... a solution of the Palestine problem which will not be based on ensuring the refugees' right to annihilate Israel will be regarded as a desecration of the Arab people. ..."

Who supports the Palestinians living in these camps?

Mostly the Europeans.

We pay about 30 percent of the bill for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which administers the relief. The Palestinians are the only people on Earth who live on international welfare. In 1948, the United States contributed $25 million and Israel gave $3 million (though the identical number of Jewish refugees who fled Arab states got nothing). All of the Arab nations combined gave $600,000.

For the next 20 years, the United States provided two-thirds of the funds for the Palestinians. The Arab governments, who claimed that no issue was closer to their hearts than the "plight" of the Palestinians, gave a pittance. They increased their contributions somewhat during the 1980s. But last year, according to Fox News, the United States gave $83.6 million to UNRWA. Saudi Arabia gave $1.8 million. All of the Arab nations combined contributed only 2 percent of UNRWA's budget.

We are told repeatedly that the Palestinians are "desperate" and that Israel's act of self-defense will only create more suicide killers. This is doubtful. Weakness is provocative, and defeat can be a wonderful teacher. Besides, passivity in the face of daily murders is something no society can tolerate. Only the certainty that it would be universally condemned stayed Israel's hand for 18 months.

But this also raises another question: Why are the Palestinians desperate? Since the Oslo accords of 1993, 97 percent of them have been living under the sovereignty of the Palestinian Authority, not under Israeli "occupation."

And what did Yasser Arafat and his brethren do with this freedom? Did they welcome investment, build the infrastructure, settle people permanently in Arab villages and towns and in general begin to behave like a people eager for a peaceful state next to Israel?

No. In fact, they spurned many offers of development aid in favor of building breeding grounds for fanatics and terrorists, importing massive amounts of weapons and preaching jihad. The suicide killer has become a heroic symbol of Palestinian "struggle." Mr. Arafat's wife lamented that she had no sons to send to their deaths.

In this, the United Nations is complicit.

At schools funded and run by UNRWA, depictions of Jews as monkeys and Israelis as Nazis are common fare. U.N. employees have abetted the vehement anti-Semitism that is bread and butter to the Palestinian Authority.

A few days ago, the U.N. Human Rights Commission voted (without the approval of Canada, Britain, the Czech Republic, Germany or Guatemala) to condemn Israel for "acts of mass killings" (which never happened) and endorsed the Palestinian "armed struggle" (i.e., terrorism).

The cruel decision by Arab governments to use the Palestinians as ticking time bombs against Israel has paid off more handsomely than they could have imagined in 1948. Their metaphorical bombs have become real. What a victory for their people.

Mona Charen's syndicated column appears in The Sun Mondays.

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