Commentary Magazine


Topic: United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

The Fierce Urgency of UNRWA

At tomorrow’s hearing on “The United Nations: Urgent Problems that Need Congressional Action,” the House Foreign Affairs Committee will consider recommendations that the U.S. end its funding for the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). An even more urgent issue, however, relates to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Some argue that the U.S. should stop funding UNRWA as well, but the urgency involves more than UNRWA’s financing. Its latest three-year mandate comes up for renewal in June, and the U.S. needs to decide soon what its position should be.

UNRWA is a “temporary agency” currently in its 62nd year. It was established in 1949 to serve approximately 700,000 Arabs and more than 800,000 Jews who became refugees as a result of the Arab war against Israel. In 1952, UNRWA stopped assisting Jewish refugees, since they had been resettled in Israel and other countries. But in its 62 years, UNRWA has yet to resettle a single Arab refugee. It is instrumental in keeping them in squalid camps, generation after generation, expanding their numbers with a unique definition of “refugee” not applied in other refugee situations.

Forget the controversy over how many Palestinians left at Arab urging to make way for the promised destruction of Israel by the invading Arab armies; how many fled the horrors of war on their own initiative; how many were pushed out in the course of the war. That issue is the subject of faux Palestinian scholarship, but the fundamental fact is there would be no refugees at all if the Arabs had accepted the UN’s two-state solution in 1947 instead of starting a war – and trying it again in 1967.

It is a human-rights violation of the first order that Arab refugees and their descendants have not been offered citizenship in the Arab countries where they have now lived most or all of their lives. But UNRWA rules out such resettlement – unlike the remedy used for all other refugees in the world. As Jonathan D. Halevi has demonstrated in a compelling analysis, and as Michael Bernstam has shown in his extraordinary article in the December issue of COMMENTARY, “The Palestinian Proletariat,” the refugee problem is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and UNRWA is part of the problem.

Before the “temporary” agency’s mandate is renewed again, that mandate needs to be reconsidered. Instead of holding refugees in camps for decades, hoping to force them on Israel — the state that resettled an even greater number of Jewish refugees resulting from the 1948 war — Arab states should finally assume moral and financial responsibility for the refugees their war created, and UNRWA should start resettling them there. After 62 years, the time is now.

At tomorrow’s hearing on “The United Nations: Urgent Problems that Need Congressional Action,” the House Foreign Affairs Committee will consider recommendations that the U.S. end its funding for the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). An even more urgent issue, however, relates to the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Some argue that the U.S. should stop funding UNRWA as well, but the urgency involves more than UNRWA’s financing. Its latest three-year mandate comes up for renewal in June, and the U.S. needs to decide soon what its position should be.

UNRWA is a “temporary agency” currently in its 62nd year. It was established in 1949 to serve approximately 700,000 Arabs and more than 800,000 Jews who became refugees as a result of the Arab war against Israel. In 1952, UNRWA stopped assisting Jewish refugees, since they had been resettled in Israel and other countries. But in its 62 years, UNRWA has yet to resettle a single Arab refugee. It is instrumental in keeping them in squalid camps, generation after generation, expanding their numbers with a unique definition of “refugee” not applied in other refugee situations.

Forget the controversy over how many Palestinians left at Arab urging to make way for the promised destruction of Israel by the invading Arab armies; how many fled the horrors of war on their own initiative; how many were pushed out in the course of the war. That issue is the subject of faux Palestinian scholarship, but the fundamental fact is there would be no refugees at all if the Arabs had accepted the UN’s two-state solution in 1947 instead of starting a war – and trying it again in 1967.

It is a human-rights violation of the first order that Arab refugees and their descendants have not been offered citizenship in the Arab countries where they have now lived most or all of their lives. But UNRWA rules out such resettlement – unlike the remedy used for all other refugees in the world. As Jonathan D. Halevi has demonstrated in a compelling analysis, and as Michael Bernstam has shown in his extraordinary article in the December issue of COMMENTARY, “The Palestinian Proletariat,” the refugee problem is at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and UNRWA is part of the problem.

Before the “temporary” agency’s mandate is renewed again, that mandate needs to be reconsidered. Instead of holding refugees in camps for decades, hoping to force them on Israel — the state that resettled an even greater number of Jewish refugees resulting from the 1948 war — Arab states should finally assume moral and financial responsibility for the refugees their war created, and UNRWA should start resettling them there. After 62 years, the time is now.

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Durable Solutions, Definitions, and Decency

The State Department has released an “Overview of U.S. Refugee Policy” that begins as follows:

At the end of 2009, the estimated refugee population stood at 15.2 million, with 10.5 million receiving protection or assistance from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The United States actively supports efforts to provide protection, assistance, and durable solutions to refugees. …

The Overview has a lengthy discussion of “durable solutions” for the 10.5 million refugees but fails to discuss the 4.7 million others. There is a reason — one that helps explain the failure of the “peace process.”

According to the Overview, where opportunities for refugees to return to their homelands are “elusive,” the U.S. and its partners pursue “self-sufficiency and local integration in countries of asylum” — since “resettlement in third countries [is] a vital tool for … durable solutions.” With U.S. support, UNHCR last year referred refugees to 27 countries, and UNHCR says its 10.5 million number is “down 8 percent from a year earlier” — meaning UNHCR found a “durable solution” for nearly a million refugees last year alone. Each year, the number of UNHCR refugees decreases.

The other 4.7 million refugees are Palestinians — and every year, their number increases, since they have a separate UN organization (UNRWA) that uses a different definition of “refugee.” For Palestinians, a “refugee” includes not only people made homeless by war or political disturbance but also the descendants of such people. Once one is a Palestinian refugee, one’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren become refugees, simply by virtue of being born. The status is a hereditary right (“inalienable,” as the UN likes to say).

Since the opportunities to “return” to Israel are “elusive” (the vast majority of the 4.7 million refugees never lived in Israel in the first place, so the word “return” is itself inapposite) and since no one is working on the “durable solutions” used for the rest of the world’s refugees, the number of refugees simply increases every year. It was about 700,000 in 1948 — and is nearly seven times that number today, by definition.

Most of the 4.7 million refugees live in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria — Arab countries that for more than 60 years have refused to resettle their Arab brothers and sisters, including the ones who have lived there all their lives. In Lebanon, they lack not only the right of citizenship but even such basic human rights as the ability to own property or attend school. Assistance is provided by UNRWA, which each year makes “emergency appeals” for its growing number of “refugees” housed in squalid camps.

The special Palestinian definition is applied in a one-sided manner: if the term “refugee” includes the descendants of Palestinians, then the descendants of the 856,000 Jews expelled from Arab countries as a result of the 1948 war are also “refugees” — but none of them has been compensated for the family homes and properties taken by the Arab states; nor has Israel been compensated for resettling those refugees; nor can they or the 1 percent of Israel’s population killed in the 1948 war (the demographic equivalent of 3 million Americans today) be given a “right of return.”

The Arabs bear the historical and moral responsibility for the refugees their war created: there would not have been a single Palestinian refugee if the Arabs had accepted the UN’s 1947 two-state solution; and there would be few if any Palestinian refugees today — under any definition — if the Arab states were required to provide the “durable solutions” that decency demands. The tragic irony is that the internationally funded culture of dependency run by UNRWA is now itself the biggest barrier to any realistic peace process, as Michael Bernstam argues in his compelling article in the December issue of COMMENTARY, “The Palestinian Proletariat.”

The State Department has released an “Overview of U.S. Refugee Policy” that begins as follows:

At the end of 2009, the estimated refugee population stood at 15.2 million, with 10.5 million receiving protection or assistance from United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The United States actively supports efforts to provide protection, assistance, and durable solutions to refugees. …

The Overview has a lengthy discussion of “durable solutions” for the 10.5 million refugees but fails to discuss the 4.7 million others. There is a reason — one that helps explain the failure of the “peace process.”

According to the Overview, where opportunities for refugees to return to their homelands are “elusive,” the U.S. and its partners pursue “self-sufficiency and local integration in countries of asylum” — since “resettlement in third countries [is] a vital tool for … durable solutions.” With U.S. support, UNHCR last year referred refugees to 27 countries, and UNHCR says its 10.5 million number is “down 8 percent from a year earlier” — meaning UNHCR found a “durable solution” for nearly a million refugees last year alone. Each year, the number of UNHCR refugees decreases.

The other 4.7 million refugees are Palestinians — and every year, their number increases, since they have a separate UN organization (UNRWA) that uses a different definition of “refugee.” For Palestinians, a “refugee” includes not only people made homeless by war or political disturbance but also the descendants of such people. Once one is a Palestinian refugee, one’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren become refugees, simply by virtue of being born. The status is a hereditary right (“inalienable,” as the UN likes to say).

Since the opportunities to “return” to Israel are “elusive” (the vast majority of the 4.7 million refugees never lived in Israel in the first place, so the word “return” is itself inapposite) and since no one is working on the “durable solutions” used for the rest of the world’s refugees, the number of refugees simply increases every year. It was about 700,000 in 1948 — and is nearly seven times that number today, by definition.

Most of the 4.7 million refugees live in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria — Arab countries that for more than 60 years have refused to resettle their Arab brothers and sisters, including the ones who have lived there all their lives. In Lebanon, they lack not only the right of citizenship but even such basic human rights as the ability to own property or attend school. Assistance is provided by UNRWA, which each year makes “emergency appeals” for its growing number of “refugees” housed in squalid camps.

The special Palestinian definition is applied in a one-sided manner: if the term “refugee” includes the descendants of Palestinians, then the descendants of the 856,000 Jews expelled from Arab countries as a result of the 1948 war are also “refugees” — but none of them has been compensated for the family homes and properties taken by the Arab states; nor has Israel been compensated for resettling those refugees; nor can they or the 1 percent of Israel’s population killed in the 1948 war (the demographic equivalent of 3 million Americans today) be given a “right of return.”

The Arabs bear the historical and moral responsibility for the refugees their war created: there would not have been a single Palestinian refugee if the Arabs had accepted the UN’s 1947 two-state solution; and there would be few if any Palestinian refugees today — under any definition — if the Arab states were required to provide the “durable solutions” that decency demands. The tragic irony is that the internationally funded culture of dependency run by UNRWA is now itself the biggest barrier to any realistic peace process, as Michael Bernstam argues in his compelling article in the December issue of COMMENTARY, “The Palestinian Proletariat.”

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Media Attack on Israel

Mainstream media coverage of the Gaza flotilla incident is predictably incomplete, misleading, and anti-Israel. If you peruse the news pages of the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, you will learn that IHH is a “charity” but not read about its connections to terrorist groups. The usually reliable Journal would have us believe that with this incident, Turkey has turned on a dime — from friend to critic of the Jewish state. Perhaps the quite obvious tilt toward Islamism and the Davos war of words between Shimon Peres and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan were early hints of Turkey’s disposition. And one has to read deep into the print stories to learn that Israeli commandos were set upon with metal poles and bats.

Mona Charen has a must-read reality check. It should be read in full, but just a sample confirms how distorted the mainstream media coverage is:

Fact: Upon learning of the intentions of the Gaza flotilla, the Israeli government asked the organizers to deliver their humanitarian aid first to an Israeli port where it would be inspected (for weapons) before being forwarded to Gaza. The organizers refused. “There are two possible happy endings,” a Muslim activist on board explained, “either we will reach Gaza or we will achieve martyrdom.” …

Fact: The flotilla’s participants included the IHH, a “humanitarian relief fund” based in Turkey that has close ties to Hamas and to global jihadi groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, and elsewhere, and which has also organized relief to anti-U.S. Islamic radicals in Fallujah, Iraq. A French intelligence report suggests that IHH has provided documents to terrorists, permitting them to pose as relief workers. Among the other cheerleaders — former British MP and Saddam Hussein pal George Galloway, all-purpose America and Israel hater Noam Chomsky, and John Ging, head of UNRWA, the U.N.’s agency for Palestinian support.

Beyond the “news” reporting, the mainstream press has already decided that Israel acted excessively and will be responsible for an increase in tension in an already tense Middle East. The way to “fix” this is to give the Palestinians their state. The Washington Post editors pronounce:

As for Mr. Netanyahu, the only road to recovery from this disaster lies in embracing, once and for all, credible steps to create conditions for a Palestinian state.

Hmm. Haven’t the Israelis repeatedly offered the Palestinians their own state? And after all this was an incident concerning Gaza — do the editors expect Bibi to recognize a Hamas state? Well, let’s not get bogged down in facts.

The task of rebutting the lies and distortions is huge. Having been too meek on too many fronts for too long, it’s a good opportunity for American Jewry to step up to the plate and take on that task — and be prepared to also take on the administration should Obama be less than fulsome in his support of Israel’s right of self-defense.

Mainstream media coverage of the Gaza flotilla incident is predictably incomplete, misleading, and anti-Israel. If you peruse the news pages of the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, you will learn that IHH is a “charity” but not read about its connections to terrorist groups. The usually reliable Journal would have us believe that with this incident, Turkey has turned on a dime — from friend to critic of the Jewish state. Perhaps the quite obvious tilt toward Islamism and the Davos war of words between Shimon Peres and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan were early hints of Turkey’s disposition. And one has to read deep into the print stories to learn that Israeli commandos were set upon with metal poles and bats.

Mona Charen has a must-read reality check. It should be read in full, but just a sample confirms how distorted the mainstream media coverage is:

Fact: Upon learning of the intentions of the Gaza flotilla, the Israeli government asked the organizers to deliver their humanitarian aid first to an Israeli port where it would be inspected (for weapons) before being forwarded to Gaza. The organizers refused. “There are two possible happy endings,” a Muslim activist on board explained, “either we will reach Gaza or we will achieve martyrdom.” …

Fact: The flotilla’s participants included the IHH, a “humanitarian relief fund” based in Turkey that has close ties to Hamas and to global jihadi groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Chechnya, and elsewhere, and which has also organized relief to anti-U.S. Islamic radicals in Fallujah, Iraq. A French intelligence report suggests that IHH has provided documents to terrorists, permitting them to pose as relief workers. Among the other cheerleaders — former British MP and Saddam Hussein pal George Galloway, all-purpose America and Israel hater Noam Chomsky, and John Ging, head of UNRWA, the U.N.’s agency for Palestinian support.

Beyond the “news” reporting, the mainstream press has already decided that Israel acted excessively and will be responsible for an increase in tension in an already tense Middle East. The way to “fix” this is to give the Palestinians their state. The Washington Post editors pronounce:

As for Mr. Netanyahu, the only road to recovery from this disaster lies in embracing, once and for all, credible steps to create conditions for a Palestinian state.

Hmm. Haven’t the Israelis repeatedly offered the Palestinians their own state? And after all this was an incident concerning Gaza — do the editors expect Bibi to recognize a Hamas state? Well, let’s not get bogged down in facts.

The task of rebutting the lies and distortions is huge. Having been too meek on too many fronts for too long, it’s a good opportunity for American Jewry to step up to the plate and take on that task — and be prepared to also take on the administration should Obama be less than fulsome in his support of Israel’s right of self-defense.

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The Limits of Anti-Israel Activists’ Compassion

For those who wish to end the continued existence of a sovereign Jewish state on the shores of the Mediterranean, there is only one cause worth caring about: breaking the limited blockade that both Israel and Egypt have placed on Hamas-ruled Gaza. No one in Gaza is starving. All are fed by a United Nations Agency — UNRWA — specifically set up to ensure the continued existence of a Palestinian refugee problem. Gaza is poor, but the region, which Israel evacuated in 2005, is now an independent entity ruled by the Hamas terrorist group. For years, it served as a launching pad for missile attacks on Israeli civilians in southern Israel. But after Israel’s counteroffensive in December 2008, the Islamists who run Gaza have mostly held their fire. This is done partly out of fear of more Israeli counterterror operations and partly because the blockade imposed on the area — a blockade that allows in food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies but not construction materials that could aid Hamas’s homegrown weapons industry — has made it difficult for them to replenish their arsenal.

Thus, efforts to break this blockade and the international isolation imposed on this Hamasistan, created to force Gaza’s rulers to renounce their allegiance to a program pledged to the violent destruction of Israel, have little to do with sympathy for Gazans and everything to do with fueling anti-Israel propaganda. Though European sympathy for the “plight” of besieged Gaza is commonplace, support for breaking the blockade means freedom for Hamas, not the people who must live under the rule of Islamist tyrants.

But that hasn’t stopped anti-Israel activists from attempting to stage propaganda incidents highlighting their opposition to the blockade against Hamas. The latest is a so-called Freedom Flotilla of eight ships that left Istanbul, Turkey, this week. Al Jazeera, whose peppered a “news” report about the launch editorialized about how the “issue of Gaza moves Turks more than any other single issue,” noted that the convoy “is from the UK, Ireland, Algeria, Kuwait, Greece and Turkey, and is comprised of 800 people from 50 nationalities.” Though the rhetoric from the organizers centered on the supposed lack of food and medicine in Gaza, the report also noted that the ships are carrying 500 tons of construction equipment. Omitted from the Al Jazeera article was the fact that high-ranking members of the Hamas leadership also attended the festive launch of the ships. It is no surprise that Israel has said its Navy will prevent the ships from landing at Gaza and delivering their cargo. If they persist in trying to land, they will be diverted to Israel, where the passengers will be sent home, and any actual humanitarian supplies (as opposed to construction material) will be sent on to Gaza.

But though they claim they are trying to help people in need, there are limits to even the boundless compassion for humanity exhibited by those taking part in the Freedom Flotilla.

A lawyer representing the family of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in 2006, approached the organizers of the Free Gaza flotilla. The Shalit family asked the pro-Palestinian group to bring letters and food packages to the kidnapped soldier, who has been denied Red Cross visits by his Hamas captors. In exchange, the family, which has the sympathy of all Israel and the ear of the Israeli government, offered to lobby to give the flotilla docking rights in Gaza. The response from these humanitarians: no!

Had they agreed to pass on the letters and packages from Shalit’s family, the pro-Palestinian group could have bolstered their shaky credibility as humanitarians. But by refusing, they have revealed themselves as nothing more than people bent on aiding and abetting an international terrorist group.

For those who wish to end the continued existence of a sovereign Jewish state on the shores of the Mediterranean, there is only one cause worth caring about: breaking the limited blockade that both Israel and Egypt have placed on Hamas-ruled Gaza. No one in Gaza is starving. All are fed by a United Nations Agency — UNRWA — specifically set up to ensure the continued existence of a Palestinian refugee problem. Gaza is poor, but the region, which Israel evacuated in 2005, is now an independent entity ruled by the Hamas terrorist group. For years, it served as a launching pad for missile attacks on Israeli civilians in southern Israel. But after Israel’s counteroffensive in December 2008, the Islamists who run Gaza have mostly held their fire. This is done partly out of fear of more Israeli counterterror operations and partly because the blockade imposed on the area — a blockade that allows in food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies but not construction materials that could aid Hamas’s homegrown weapons industry — has made it difficult for them to replenish their arsenal.

Thus, efforts to break this blockade and the international isolation imposed on this Hamasistan, created to force Gaza’s rulers to renounce their allegiance to a program pledged to the violent destruction of Israel, have little to do with sympathy for Gazans and everything to do with fueling anti-Israel propaganda. Though European sympathy for the “plight” of besieged Gaza is commonplace, support for breaking the blockade means freedom for Hamas, not the people who must live under the rule of Islamist tyrants.

But that hasn’t stopped anti-Israel activists from attempting to stage propaganda incidents highlighting their opposition to the blockade against Hamas. The latest is a so-called Freedom Flotilla of eight ships that left Istanbul, Turkey, this week. Al Jazeera, whose peppered a “news” report about the launch editorialized about how the “issue of Gaza moves Turks more than any other single issue,” noted that the convoy “is from the UK, Ireland, Algeria, Kuwait, Greece and Turkey, and is comprised of 800 people from 50 nationalities.” Though the rhetoric from the organizers centered on the supposed lack of food and medicine in Gaza, the report also noted that the ships are carrying 500 tons of construction equipment. Omitted from the Al Jazeera article was the fact that high-ranking members of the Hamas leadership also attended the festive launch of the ships. It is no surprise that Israel has said its Navy will prevent the ships from landing at Gaza and delivering their cargo. If they persist in trying to land, they will be diverted to Israel, where the passengers will be sent home, and any actual humanitarian supplies (as opposed to construction material) will be sent on to Gaza.

But though they claim they are trying to help people in need, there are limits to even the boundless compassion for humanity exhibited by those taking part in the Freedom Flotilla.

A lawyer representing the family of Gilad Shalit, an Israeli soldier kidnapped by Hamas in 2006, approached the organizers of the Free Gaza flotilla. The Shalit family asked the pro-Palestinian group to bring letters and food packages to the kidnapped soldier, who has been denied Red Cross visits by his Hamas captors. In exchange, the family, which has the sympathy of all Israel and the ear of the Israeli government, offered to lobby to give the flotilla docking rights in Gaza. The response from these humanitarians: no!

Had they agreed to pass on the letters and packages from Shalit’s family, the pro-Palestinian group could have bolstered their shaky credibility as humanitarians. But by refusing, they have revealed themselves as nothing more than people bent on aiding and abetting an international terrorist group.

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Oh Canada!

Canada has just become the first Western government to cut off aid to UNRWA, the UN agency that runs Palestinian “refugee” camps and does so much to abuse and radicalize Palestinians and prevent any resolution of the conflict.

Although UNWRA has long been a biased player in the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is seldom criticized for its incitement of anti-Israeli hatred and violence by Palestinians. It has funded textbooks that deny the right of Israel to exist and paid teachers who call on Palestinian children to push the Jewish state into the sea. It harbours radical Islamists and anti-Semites on its payroll and was even caught in 2004 using its own ambulances to ferry terrorists away from Israeli sites they had just attacked.

This welcome news comes amid a larger recent Canadian effort to cease government funding for radical anti-Israel NGOs. Europe should be next.

Canada has just become the first Western government to cut off aid to UNRWA, the UN agency that runs Palestinian “refugee” camps and does so much to abuse and radicalize Palestinians and prevent any resolution of the conflict.

Although UNWRA has long been a biased player in the Arab-Israeli conflict, it is seldom criticized for its incitement of anti-Israeli hatred and violence by Palestinians. It has funded textbooks that deny the right of Israel to exist and paid teachers who call on Palestinian children to push the Jewish state into the sea. It harbours radical Islamists and anti-Semites on its payroll and was even caught in 2004 using its own ambulances to ferry terrorists away from Israeli sites they had just attacked.

This welcome news comes amid a larger recent Canadian effort to cease government funding for radical anti-Israel NGOs. Europe should be next.

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Don’t Believe Your Ears

Saeb Erekat, the longstanding Palestinian negotiator, announced on Israeli radio today that the Palestinians will not accept Israel as a “Jewish state” (never mind that it already is)—that description carrying with it, of course, a prohibition on Israel’s being flooded with the millions of descendants of the Arabs who left Palestine before and during the 1948 War of Independence, people currently languishing under the awful custodianship of UNRWA in Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria.

Erekat is legendary for what could politely be called his casual relationship to the truth. In one of his finer moments, in 2002, he was shrieking to every Western reporter who would listen that the IDF had slaughtered over 500 civilians in Jenin and buried them in mass graves (the reporters not only were listening but believing, and thereafter not caring very much at having been lied to). But all of that unpleasantness is so much water under the bridge at this point. Erekat is a favorite of the press corps, and little things like false accusations of a massacre should never be permitted to undercut future media appearances.

And so today, in refusing to assent to the existence of something that is already real—a Jewish homeland—he said that “no state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity.” I wonder if Erekat is familiar with the two largest states in the Middle East—Saudi Arabia and Iran—that do exactly that, and in far more sensational fashion than liberal, democratic Israel? Are any of the journalists who routinely make themselves the receptacles for Erekat’s garbage going to ask him, in his next media appearance (occurring moments from now, I feel safe predicting) to explain this strange proposition? It is amazing that this clown continues to command attention from journalists.

Saeb Erekat, the longstanding Palestinian negotiator, announced on Israeli radio today that the Palestinians will not accept Israel as a “Jewish state” (never mind that it already is)—that description carrying with it, of course, a prohibition on Israel’s being flooded with the millions of descendants of the Arabs who left Palestine before and during the 1948 War of Independence, people currently languishing under the awful custodianship of UNRWA in Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria.

Erekat is legendary for what could politely be called his casual relationship to the truth. In one of his finer moments, in 2002, he was shrieking to every Western reporter who would listen that the IDF had slaughtered over 500 civilians in Jenin and buried them in mass graves (the reporters not only were listening but believing, and thereafter not caring very much at having been lied to). But all of that unpleasantness is so much water under the bridge at this point. Erekat is a favorite of the press corps, and little things like false accusations of a massacre should never be permitted to undercut future media appearances.

And so today, in refusing to assent to the existence of something that is already real—a Jewish homeland—he said that “no state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity.” I wonder if Erekat is familiar with the two largest states in the Middle East—Saudi Arabia and Iran—that do exactly that, and in far more sensational fashion than liberal, democratic Israel? Are any of the journalists who routinely make themselves the receptacles for Erekat’s garbage going to ask him, in his next media appearance (occurring moments from now, I feel safe predicting) to explain this strange proposition? It is amazing that this clown continues to command attention from journalists.

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A Failing UNIFIL

Noah Pollak of Azure has an informative summary of the problems with UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, whose ostensible mission is the disarmament of Hizballah and the pacification of southern Lebanon. UNIFIL was expanded to 14,000 troops last summer, but, as Pollak writes:

The new UNIFIL has of course done nothing. Actually, worse than nothing: In the year since the end of the war, Iran and Syria have been rearming Hizballah at a torrid pace, this time with better weaponry than before, and UNIFIL has barely even pretended to be interested in disrupting the arms flow. UNIFIL’s rules of engagement prevent the border with Syria from being patrolled, and UNIFIL blue-helmets have neither the desire nor the means to confront Hizballah.

UNIFIL is but one of many of the United Nations’ failed efforts around the world—which do not need to be elaborated upon for readers of COMMENTARY. But the gravest failure among the U.N.’s initiatives in the Middle East has to be UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which for over five decades has kept the Palestinians in perpetual refugeehood when the vast majority of those Palestinians deemed “refugees” (the children and grandchildren of those who were displaced by the 1948 war) would not actually classify as such by the United Nations’ very own definition. I explored the problem of UNRWA—and suggested another source for its hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid money—several months ago here.

Noah Pollak of Azure has an informative summary of the problems with UNIFIL, the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, whose ostensible mission is the disarmament of Hizballah and the pacification of southern Lebanon. UNIFIL was expanded to 14,000 troops last summer, but, as Pollak writes:

The new UNIFIL has of course done nothing. Actually, worse than nothing: In the year since the end of the war, Iran and Syria have been rearming Hizballah at a torrid pace, this time with better weaponry than before, and UNIFIL has barely even pretended to be interested in disrupting the arms flow. UNIFIL’s rules of engagement prevent the border with Syria from being patrolled, and UNIFIL blue-helmets have neither the desire nor the means to confront Hizballah.

UNIFIL is but one of many of the United Nations’ failed efforts around the world—which do not need to be elaborated upon for readers of COMMENTARY. But the gravest failure among the U.N.’s initiatives in the Middle East has to be UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, which for over five decades has kept the Palestinians in perpetual refugeehood when the vast majority of those Palestinians deemed “refugees” (the children and grandchildren of those who were displaced by the 1948 war) would not actually classify as such by the United Nations’ very own definition. I explored the problem of UNRWA—and suggested another source for its hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid money—several months ago here.

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