In one scene from it, for example, a woman asks children to tell her where they are from. They respond with Jaffa, Haifa and so on, but admit they have never been to these places. The woman then shouts: “We will return to our villages with power and honor. With god’s help and our own strength we will wage war and with education and jihad we will return!”
In another scene, a group of even younger children is told by a woman in traditional Arab clothing that: “Our grandparents were having a BBQ on the beach, and then a wolf appeared. Who was the wolf? The Jews. What did the Jews do to us? They expelled and deported us. They killed us and shot our families.”
Apart from summer camps like these, the whole implementation of UNWRA might actually be counterproductive. If the entire Palestinian Authority leadership lives off an international welfare check that only arrives annually because the conflict still exits, there isn’t much incentive for ending the conflict.
But there might be something more fundamental at play. German sociologist Gunnar Heinsohn’s 2003 book, Sons and World Power, explores the relation between war and the number of males in a society. Heinsohn writes:
[D]espite claiming that it wants to bring peace to the region, the West continues to make the population explosion in Gaza worse every year. By generously supporting UNRWA’s budget, the West assists a rate of population increase that is 10 times higher than in its own countries. Much is being said about Iran waging a proxy war against Israel by supporting Hezbollah and Hamas. One may argue that by fueling Gaza’s untenable population explosion, the West unintentionally finances a war-by-proxy against the Jews of Israel.
If we seriously want to avoid another generation of war in Gaza, we must have the courage to tell the Gazans that they will have to start looking after their children themselves, without UNRWA’s help. This would force Palestinians to focus on building an economy instead of freeing them up to wage war. Of course, every baby lured into the world by our money up to now would still have our assistance.
If we make this urgently needed reform, then by at least 2025 many boys in Gaza — as in Algeria — would…be able to look forward to a more secure future in a less violent society.
Despite the many subversive factors UNRWA adds to an already volatile situation, however, there is outspoken Israeli support for UNRWA. These voices, however, always strongly emphasize that UNRWA should limit its work to humanitarian missions, and refrain from political alignment – even though this train has long-since left the station. In 1967 the Comay-Michelmore Exchange of Letters initiated Israel’s policy of cooperation with UNRWA. As recent as 2009 this policy was reaffirmed by a representative of the Israeli Foreign Affairs Ministry, Dr. Uri Resnick, in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in which he proposed to maintain “close coordination.”
In 2010, Canada’s government of Stephen Harper redirected its UNRWA funding directly to the Palestinian Authority to increase accountability. In 2011 the Dutch government announced it would thoroughly review its UNRWA policy. The Israeli government urged its allies to leave their UNRWA policies as they were. As Steven Rosen and Daniel Pipes explain:
Israeli officials distinguish between UNRWA’s negative political role and its more positive role as a social service agency providing assistance, primarily medical and educational. They appreciate that UNRWA, with funds provided by foreign governments, helps one third of the population in the West Bank and three-quarters in Gaza. Without these funds, Israel could face an explosive situation on its borders and international demands that it, depicted as the “occupying power,” assume the burden of care for these populations. In the extreme case, the Israel Defense Forces would have to enter hostile areas to oversee the running of schools and hospitals, for which the Israeli taxpayer would have to foot the bill – a most unattractive prospect. As a well-informed Israeli official sums it up, UNRWA plays a “key role in supplying humanitarian assistance to the civilian Palestinian population” that must be sustained.
By perpetuating the Palestinians’ refugee status and enabling a demographic that does not educate its members for peace, UNRWA is an obstacle to peace. Ironically, however, UNRWA’s humanitarian work relieves Israel of the hypothetical “responsibility” of caring for over five million Palestinians.