October 2, 2003

UNRWA AND THE RIGHT OF RETURN AGENDA

By David Bedein
Bureau Chief, Israel Resource News Agency
Beit Agron International Press Center

This week, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I traveled to the US and Canada in order to share vital data on the "right of return" agenda of UNRWA.

This UN agency, which runs the Palestinian Arab refugee camps, has for over 50 years actively promoted the premise that refugees will return to Arab villages lost in 1948. It receives 95% of its budget from the leading democracies in the world: Canada chairs the committee that oversees the distribution of funds to UNRWA, while the US contributes close to one third of the UNRWA budget.

I brought information about the programs of UNRWA to the attention of the staffers and elected officials in the Canadian Parliament and the US Congress, and to a senior staffer in the White House.

My own concern with this issue reaches back decades now. As a social worker in the 70s and 80s, I was keenly aware of the squalor in which Arab refugees lived in the UNRWA camps; I saw their frustration and their rootlessness, as they waited to "return."

Once I opened this news agency, and had the opportunity to interview top officials of UNRWA, I began to see the other side of the coin: the political agenda that made promotion of the "right of return" so important to the Palestinian cause. And it truly came full circle as I interviewed major leaders of the PLO, including Arafat.

UNRWA policy serves the agenda of the PLO.

That agenda has not changed an iota over the years, no matter what "peaceplans" the PLO professes to support. The PLO is not concerned with "self determination."

The PLO aims to dismantle and replace the State of Israel.

This dismantlement is to be accomplished in part through a subversion, utilizing the principle of "right of return": Four million refugees (that is, purported refugees and their children and grandchildren) "going home."

It's easy to be taken in: poor refugees, having nowhere to go, await the opportunity to simply return to where they came from. This is a basic human right, is it not? Isn't it recognized by General Assembly Resolution 194? Wrong, on both counts, though the well-oiled Palestinian propaganda machine would have you believe otherwise. The Palestinians even have maps by which they "demonstrate" that Israel has open spaces where the refugees might locate easily.

Of course, these Palestinian propagandists are careful not to expose liberal sympathizers from democratic nations to discussions regarding what would happen with four million hostile Arabs inside of Israel. Those discussions are kept "in-house." At the barest minimum the demographics would eliminate the Jewish nature of the state. More likely there would be violence within. Either way, the destruction of Israel is the deliberate and intended result.

If the Arab refugee population was settled, once and for all, outside of Israel, there would be no more "right of return" issue.

If the mandate of UNRWA was changed so that generations of "refugees," who have been waiting in limbo, finally had permanency, the very core of the plan to dismantle Israel from within would be removed.

And there is yet another ramification to current UNRWA policies and practices:

Maintaining a population in a state of perpetual disfranchisement, and telling them they have a right to return to a place they lost to Israel and which is denied to them by Israel, fuels terrorism and overt threats to Israel. This happens because the UNRWA practices work in concert with Palestinian Authority (read PLO) goals.

It is one of the ironies of history that the first entity since Nazi Germany to advocate the right to murder Jews was borne out of a "peace process."

Until ten years ago, the idea of the "right of return" had been stressed in the UNWRA schools, but there was no real Arab military presence in thecamps to demonstrate support for that idea.

And until ten years ago, Israel actively prevented UNRWA schools and UNRWA facilities from demonstrating overt support for return to (no longer extent) Arab villages.

However, since Israel withdrew its troops and civil administration from the areas in the West Bank and Gaza where UNRWA camps are located, UNRWA staffers who run the camps have had a new kind of latitude. Almost universally, they are supportive of Arab terrorist organizations. Witness the UNRWA camp union elections, where HAMAS gained control of the UNRWA clerks union and the UNRWA teachers union.

UNRWA camps have been transformed into the battleground of an armed insurrection, where thousands of UNRWA camp residents brandish their weapons, to demonstrate their support for the murder of Jews who now live in Israeli towns and collective farms that have replaced the 531 Arab villages that were lost in 1948.

Yet the US state department continues to ignore the fact that for a decade now the Palestinian Arab population has been taught to see a relationship between "right of return" and their divine obligation to go after Jews.

The connection simply is not being made between UNRWA and the failure to achieve peace.

"To think anew, to act anew," were words spoken by Abraham Lincoln on the morning of his tragic death.

The time has come for the decision-makers of the United States and other western democracies to "think anew and to act anew."

Will they continue to allow the policies of UNRWA to be sustained?

Unless and until UNWRA policies and practices regarding "right of return" change, there will be no chance for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.

As the policies are halted, there must then be "deconditioning," as a prerequisite for true peace in the Middle East. The US-initiated de-Nazification program begun after World War II transformed Germany from a fascist regime into a democratic nation in one generation. This sort of peaceful transformation can be achieved again if Israel is permitted to do a re-education of the Palestinian Arab society that reverses the perspective taught by UNRWA policies.



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