25-Aug-2005, Patrick Goodenough:, NZ Herald
Why, one wonders, did Newman fail to mention that those same traumatised Palestinian children she writes about have been subjected, through PA media outlets, school textbooks and holiday camps, to programmes inciting violence against Jews and lauding the "martyrdom" of suicide bombings. Another missing piece: Palestinian leaders have for 10 years been responsible for administering Gaza. During that time, they have squandered millions of dollars in foreign aid - setting up a dozen security agencies, bankrolling propaganda, diverting funds to private bank accounts, buying apartments in Paris. Then again, taking a one-sided view of the Israeli-Arab conflict is standard operating procedure for the United Nations. Take UNRWA, for instance. It's not widely realised that the Palestinians are the only group in the world to have their own UN refugee body, most of whose 24,300-plus employees are Palestinians. Every other group of refugees over the past 55 years - Kurds, Sudanese, Kosovars, Afghans, you name it - have fallen under the protection of the UN High Commission for Refugees. Set up uniquely and temporarily for Palestinians in 1949, UNRWA is still going strong more than half a century later. While the numbers of refugees from other crises have generally dwindled as people are resettled, repatriated or die, UNRWA defines as Palestinian refugees not only those who lost their homes when Israel was established, but also their descendants. So more than three generations on, the 500,000-700,000 Palestinian refugees of the late 1940s have today become four million-plus. The PA has since 1994 administered Gaza and its eight refugee camps. Why are the inhabitants still refugees? You may well ask.
Rather than encourage Palestinians to resettle among their fellow Arabs in Jordan or Lebanon - or indeed even in the PA-controlled parts of Gaza and the West Bank - and so escape their "refugee" tag and assume responsibility for their lives, the Arab world, abetted by UNRWA, has actively resisted such a policy. Maintaining a restless and ever-growing mass of resentful refugees as a weapon against Israel has been a far more effective tactic. In 1958, a former head of UNRWA admitted as much. "The Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem," said Ralph Galloway. "They want to keep it as an open sore"