U.S. President Donald Trump gave the Jewish people a gift of historic proportions by taking the issue of Jerusalem off the table back in December. On Aug. 25, President Trump gave a gift that is arguably of equal or greater value to the Jewish nation by significantly reducing by $200 million the aid that the United States gives to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine.
PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat predictably called the decision “disgraceful,” and said that President Trump was “meddling in the internal affairs of other people in an attempt to impact their national options.”
Since when is it that an American president deciding how to spend U.S. taxpayer dollars is considered “meddling in the affairs of other people”?
Beyond that, according to an Aug. 25 report on Israeli Channel 2 news, the Trump administration announced that it will oppose the Palestinian claim for the “right of return” for the descendants of the original Palestinian refugees displaced by the 1948 war.
If true, this would be a historic development—not just to the American taxpayer, the Jewish people and the State of Israel, but to the Palestinians themselves.
UNRWA was formed in 1949, in the aftermath of the 1948 War for Palestinian refugees. These refugees, fleeing from the war (Dec. 1, 1947 to June 1, 1948), originally numbered 550,000 to 600,000. Because the Palestinians have inflated the number—and because they count multiple generations of descendants—the figure that Palestinians and their advocates now invoke is 5 million.
The U.N. High Commission of Refugees defines a “refugee” as “someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence.” Only in the case of the Palestinians is this status passed down for generations.
And only in the case of the UNRWA is there a refugee agency exclusively for one particular refugee group. In 1950, in the aftermath of World War II, the United Nations High Commission of Refugees (UNHCR) was established to deal with the millions of displaced refugees. However, the Arab League refused to allow the Palestinian refugees to go under that rubric.
Why? Because the mandate of UNHCR is for the refugees to be settled and integrated into their host country as soon as possible. The Arab League, however, wanted to keep the Palestinian refugees in a perpetual state of limbo in order to use the Palestinian refugee issue as a thorn in the side of Israel.
The Arab world seems have no concern over their Palestinian brethren, apparently preferring to keep generations of Palestinians in a perpetual state of victimhood, squalor and conflict.
According to David Bedein of the Center for Near East Policy Research, “the right of return is the focus of the entire life … to take back their homes that were abandoned in 1948. … The children are taught you have to go back to these homes and kill the people who live there.”
Upon entering the Aida UNRWA camp, for example, one immediately sees a gate adorned by an oversized key, symbolic of their ancestor’s house left behind in Israel. The symbol of the key is used constantly in pageants that UNRWA schools put on, where the message is constantly drummed in that they will someday return to their ancestor’s orchards and vineyard in pre-1948 Israel.
Throughout the camp—and particularly, inside the schools—pictures hang on walls glorifying Palestinian shahids (“martyrs”), with messages encouraging youngsters to follow in their “noble” footsteps. Prominently displayed is the ubiquitous map of Israel, of course labeled “Palestine.”
During the summer, young children attend a camp where they engage in military exercises, replete with walls they are taught to crawl under and firewalls they are taught to jump over, dressed in in military fatigues.
Recently, Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), asked for a General Accounting Office report of what is being taught in the UNRWA schools, but for some inexplicable reason, that office insists on keeping the report “classified.”
Perhaps because the results are too damaging to UNRWA.
According to a recent study conducted by CNEPR together with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, in which 150 textbooks from kindergarten through 12th grade were examined, researchers found Israel and Jews depicted as “demonic,” with violent liberation emphasized. A 2017 text even includes a disturbing text by describing a Molotov cocktail attack on an Israeli bus as a “barbeque party,” while another extols the virtues of Dalal Mughrabi, the female Palestinian terrorist who was responsible for the massacre of 38 Israeli civilians.
All of this stands in stark contrast to the United Nations’ Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which proclaims, among other things, that “the child shall enjoy special protection, and shall be given opportunities and facilities, by law and by other means, to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions.”
Kids who are unfortunate enough to be educated in UNRWA camps enjoy none of the benefits of a normal childhood. Instead, they are indoctrinated to become nothing more than bullets in a war machine—in a war that they will inevitably lose.
Sarah N. Stern is the founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, an unabashedly pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy institute in Washington, D.C.