Suppose someone told you that they wanted to take a billion and a half dollars of American and European taxpayer money each year, and use it to raise an army.
It would feed and house more than five million people, and educate the children to prepare them for the future role as soldiers to overrun a particular country. The teachers would in many (or most) cases be members of organizations recognized in your country as terrorist groups.
This army would be required to live in camps in various countries. But its soldiers would not be allowed to become citizens of those countries.
Membership in the army would be hereditary, and child allowances would be calibrated to incentivize reproduction. There would be no need for members to work, since they would receive a dole regardless of employment. In any case, there are few options for work in the camps.
The members do not have passports. They are not allowed to settle anywhere else in the world. They are told that the only way to change their status is to overrun the target country and take “back” their homes from the current residents. But only 0.4% of them ever lived in the target country, and this was more than 70 years ago.
Of course I am talking about “Palestinian refugees” and the organization that supports and nurtures them is called UNRWA, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine.
In the sad history of the 20th century, millions of people became refugees. After WWII, Jews could not return to Europe, and ethnic Germans were kicked out of Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary. In 1948, about 650,000 Arabs fled from what became the new state of Israel; and immediately afterwards some 800,000 Jews escaped unfriendly Arab countries. Many of these refugees lost all of their property and were forced to flee with just the clothes on their backs.
Most of these refugees found new places to live, and in many cases had to start over from nothing. Most of the Germans went to Germany, although some ended up in the Soviet Gulag. The Jews of Europe went to Israel, America, and other places. The Jews from the Arab world were mostly absorbed by the new state of Israel. By the mid-1950s, most of these refugees had new homes – all but the Palestinian Arabs.
The Arab nations were unhappy that they lost the war they launched against Israel in 1948. So they came up with a brilliant plan to create a weapon that could be used to destroy Israel, a weapon that would automatically grow stronger with the passage of time, which would be a military, psychological, and diplomatic weapon all at the same time. Best of all, someone else would pay for it.
They invented the Palestinian refugee, a creature like no other refugee, because Palestinian refugee status in hereditary. They established UNRWA, an agency whose charter – unlike all other refugee relief agencies ever – was not to resettle refugees, but rather to increase their number. And the West, which pays almost all of the bills of the UN, bought into it out of cowardice and lack of will to oppose the Arabs, who had all that oil, after all.
And so the “refugee camps,” which more and more became to resemble permanent neighborhoods, came into being in several nations and became breeding grounds for recruits to the multiplicity of Palestinian terror organizations – Fatah, Hamas, PFLP, DFLP, PFLP-GC, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Abu Nidal group, etc. Unemployed young Palestinian men flocked to these groups in order to lend purpose to their lives. The growth of anti-Israel and international terrorism since 1960 was caused to a great degree by the activities of these groups. Palestinian terrorists popularized airline hijacking and suicide bombing, leading directly to 9/11 and other atrocities. Thus was the West paid back for its investment.
But the Malthusian logic of the Palestinian refugee system has finally caught up with it. There are about 5.2 million Arabs with Palestinian refugee status today, and the West can’t afford any more to feed, house, clothe, and “educate” them. The power of Arab oil is diminishing. The US is sharply cutting what it gives UNRWA.
The system is wrong in multiple ways. Hereditary and permanent refugee status is fiscally unsustainable for the Western donors, cruel to the “refugees,” destabilizing to the host countries, and a threat to the targeted country, Israel. There is no legal justification for it: despite Arab claims, there is no “right of return” for refugees in international law, and even less so a “right of return” for the descendants of refugees.
If you wonder why the Arab nations have allowed this system to continue, there is a simple reason, which I call the First Principle of Arab Leadership: it is always more important to hurt Jews than to help Arabs.
The US State Department produced a report on the Palestinian refugee situation during the Obama Administration which supposedly (it is classified) says that the actual number of true refugees – when counted by the criteria used for non-Palestinians – is actually closer to 30,000 than the 5.2 million that UNRWA claims today. Apparently the State Department believes that if the details in it were released, US contributions to UNRWA would be cut even further.
Which is what should happen. In fact, they should be cut to zero, and the terrorist-ridden organization disbanded. The Arab clients of UNRWA should be granted citizenship in their host countries, and funds for their absorption and integration into society transferred to these countries for a limited period of time. Hereditary refugee status should be abolished. The 30,000 who are actually refugees should be assisted by the normal UN refugee agency, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which has been successful in resettling hundreds of thousands of refugees since 1950.
The system could be changed tomorrow, and it would not be too soon.
The fact that the Western countries have tolerated this perverse and vicious system for so long is a massive moral failure on their part. The UN, the European Union, and the US State Department share in the blame. Israel, the target of this infernal mechanism, has suffered wars and terrorism for decades because of it. And generations of “refugees” have had their chances for a normal life foreclosed.