(February 9, 2018 / JNS) U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley made headlines on Jan. 2 by saying that President Donald Trump has decided to stop funding UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency, until the Palestinians agree to come to the negotiating table. On Jan. 16, the president—on the advice of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson—agreed to transfer $60 million for now, as opposed to slashing all of the funding overnight. But the other $65 million of this usual installment has been held in reserve. The total amount of money paid to UNRWA by American taxpayers is approximately $370 million per year.
UNRWA was established in the wake of the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 to handle the Palestinian refugee problem, set up to deal with the immediate crisis resulting from the Israeli War of Independence. It has camps in Judea and Samaria, Gaza, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.
The other refugees from World War II were taken under the U.N. High Commission of Refugees, whose mandate calls for immediate resettlement in their host nations. The Arab League, however, rejected that for the Palestinian refugees because they wanted them to be a constant thorn in the side of the newly established Jewish state.
This is the only refugee agency in the world whose mission is not for refugees to be resettled, integrated and re-entered into the workforce of their host countries, but whose mission is to instill in the minds of their population that they will one day return to their grandfathers’—or rather, great-grandfathers’—orchards and vineyards in Haifa and elsewhere.
In the absence of a solution to the refugee problem, UNRWA continues to redefine the word “refugee” to mean anyone who is a descendant of the 1948 war. Thus, from the original 700,000 refugees, UNRWA now claims to service approximately 5 million Palestinian refugees.
This agency’s conduct, although dressed in the benevolent clothing of a welfare agency, borders on the immoral because it implants within this population an unrealistic expectation that only serves to keeps the conflict alive. Not only does it perpetuate a psychology of victimhood, it entraps those being served into a perpetual state of poverty. Rather than getting on with their lives, they are trapped into perpetually reliving a conflict that happened 70 years ago.
A study of the new UNRWA textbooks, recently published by the Center for Near East Policy Research, found that for decades now, UNRWA has used textbooks that delegitimize and demonize the state of Israel and the presence of Jews there, and advocate for violent struggle as opposed to peaceful coexistence with the Jewish state.
In fact, inside UNRWA schools are pictures of Israel depicted as “Palestine,” posters praising the “brave shahids” (martyrs) who have killed civilians and an educational curriculum consisting of constant brainwashing for a violent jihad to despise and even murder Jews, and to liberate all of “Palestine.”
Pageants involve children as young as 4 years old, dressed in military garb, with rifles in hand. These children are being systematically programed to die for “Al Quds” (Arabic for Jerusalem) or any other part of “Palestine.” They are brainwashing an army of jihadists who keenly await the first opportunity to kill innocent civilians.
This is the worst sort of child abuse and exploitation imaginable. They are condemning these children—and any unfortunate civilian who might cross their paths—an early grave.
This comes in total conflict with the U.N. General Assembly Resolution 54/263’s own “Convention on the Rights of the Child: Optional Protocol on the Prohibition of Children in Armed Conflict,” barring the use of children under the age of 15 in combat.
Yet when it comes to this egregious practice, the United Nations chooses to look the other way.
This directly conflicts with an institution whose very charter speaks about practicing tolerance and living together with one another as good neighbors; reaffirming faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of every human person, and of all nations, great and small; establishing conditions for justice and respect for international treaties; and employing international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples.
How these UNRWA camps and their hate-infested educational system can be an agency of the United Nations, with its lofty founding principles, continues to baffle me.
Given the deeply entrenched institutional biases of the United Nations against Israel, we can expect that UNRWA will soon find other donors. But that doesn’t mean that the United States, which had by far been the largest donor nation, has to continuously foot the bill.
The American taxpayer has other priorities than continuing to fund this corrupt and hypocritical agency.
Sarah N. Stern is founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, an unabashedly pro-American and pro-Israel think tank and policy shop in Washington, D.C.