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Doesn’t anyone ask why there is a refugee camp in Jenin?

Confining people in wretched conditions serves the interests of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas in maintaining breeding grounds for terrorists.

The entrance to a terror tunnel discovered underneath the al-Ansar mosque in the Jenin refugee camp, July 4, 2023. Credit: IDF Spokesperson.
The entrance to a terror tunnel discovered underneath the al-Ansar mosque in the Jenin refugee camp, July 4, 2023. Credit: IDF Spokesperson.
Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.

In all the coverage of Israel’s operation to root out terrorists from the Jenin refugee camp, did anyone ask the question: Why is there a refugee camp in an area controlled by the Palestinians?

The refugee camp has been a nest of terrorism for years but should not exist. The Jordanians first established it in 1953 to accommodate Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war after the government annexed the West Bank. Jordan’s 19-year occupation of the area, which generated none of the uproar associated with Israel’s “occupation,” was recognized by only two countries—Great Britain (which had aided in Jordan conquering the area the United Nations had allotted for an Arab state in its partition resolution of 1947) and Pakistan.

During those years, Jordan could have created an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank but had gone to war to expand its territory. The Palestinians, falsely portrayed as having always dreamed of statehood, never demanded independence. The international community, including the United States, did not propose a two-state solution, partitioning Jordan to create Palestine, which might have spared the world the subsequent decades of debating the Palestinians’ fate and making Israel the scapegoat for their statelessness.

The Oslo Accords gave the responsibility for Jenin to the Palestinian Authority, which might have been expected to ameliorate the suffering of the residents by dismantling the camp and moving the “refugees” into permanent housing. Neither Yasser Arafat, head of the PLO, nor Mahmoud Abbas, current head of the Palestinian Authority, had any interest in helping them. It was not for lack of money, as the international community showered billions of dollars on the P.A. over the years, much of which has been lost to corruption. Even today, instead of allocating funds to eliminate the camp, Abbas pays hundreds of millions of dollars to terrorists in Israeli jails and the families of suicide bombers.

The P.A., not Israel, keeps more than 12,000 people in the Jenin camp and nearly 1.4 million in 25 others under its control. Why? Because it allows them to be portrayed as victims of Israeli “occupation” as part of the broader propaganda campaign to demonize Israel. Confining them in wretched conditions also serves the interests of the P.A. and Hamas in maintaining breeding grounds for terrorists.

Recent events have demonstrated the effectiveness of this strategy. Terrorists from the Jenin camp were responsible for more than 50 terror attacks, prompting Israel’s counterterror operation. Though it was conducted with textbook efficiency, Israel unsurprisingly attracted international condemnation, and journalists found no shortage of Palestinians with tales of woe to obscure the justification for the actions of the Israel Defense Forces.

Israel would have no reason to take action if the Palestinians dismantled the camp or if the P.A. security forces created by the Oslo Accords to prevent terrorism did their jobs. Those who continue fantasizing about the mythical two-state solution need to look no further than Jenin to understand why Israel has shifted politically to the right and the last five elections ignored the Palestinian issue. The Israeli public does not believe their neighbors have given up their goal of destroying the Jewish state.

The United Nations and international supporters of the Palestinians don’t care about the people in Jenin or any other refugee camp unless Israel can be blamed for the hardships. During the years it controlled Gaza, Israel wanted to move the people out of camps. However, the Arabs would sponsor U.N. resolutions demanding that Israel “desist from the removal and resettlement of Palestine refugees.” After Israel withdrew from Gaza, the P.A. received billions of dollars in aid, and I do not believe it was used to build a single house to allow even one family to move out of a refugee camp.

The P.A. is responsible for doing away with Jenin and the other refugee camps. Instead of insisting that it acts, the United States and other supporters of the Palestinians serve as enablers, parroting the P.A.’s propaganda about “refugees” and providing funds to UNRWA to perpetuate their misery.

For those in the administration and elsewhere who claim to be interested in the Palestinians’ welfare, a good place to start would be to demand that the P.A. dismantle the refugee camps and move the residents into permanent housing where they can begin to live normal lives. Incidentally, the same demand should be made on Arab countries that maintain camps and refuse Palestinians citizenship.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.

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