UNRWA flack Scott Anderson writes in Foreign Policy:
The population that UNRWA works with is highly vulnerable and dependent upon the international community to help feed their poor, educate their children, and care for their sick. One million Palestinians in Gaza alone survive on food provided by UNRWA. Our schools educate over half a million children in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and the West Bank, and they have proven to be centers of excellence, consistently outperforming government schools in the region. All of our students receive education in human rights, nonviolent conflict resolution, and tolerance of differences.
It is probably true that UNRWA schools outperform government schools. The answer is to help create a good standard for all, not to treat Palestinians as different, which breeds resentment. No modern NGOs would ever consider setting up a separate school system, and there is a good reason why: it violates the basic NGO dictum of “do no harm” and ‘conflict sensitivity.”
And it is also true that UNRWA teaches a human rights curriculum. However, it doesn’t teach that Jews have any rights to live in Israel. It hardly fosters peace. On the contrary, it teaches children that there will be no peace as long as Israel exists as a Jewish state.
A world that is willing to watch as hungry children cannot access food, students are shut out of their schools, and mothers can no longer access prenatal care is not the world any of us want to live in.
Why cannot Palestinians be fed through the World Food Programme? Why can they not attend Palestinian or Jordanian public schools? Why do they need their own medical infrastructure separate from those of their fellow Arabs? Why, indeed, does the world tolerate Arabs discriminating against Palestinians in their midst?
Just because UNRWA provides services does not mean that it is the only entity that should provide services. This is an argument to keep an agency funded against the best interests of the people of the region. It is an argument to keep Palestinian “refugees” treated differently from their neighbors, forever.
I don’t think that President Trump has handled the UNRWA issue as well as he should have, but there is a chance to open up a conversation as to why a single UN agency deserves a billion dollars a year compared the much more dire needs of impoverished people across the world, why funds should be distributed so unevenly.
Most importantly, the point must be made: UNRWA wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Arab discrimination against Palestinians since 1948, and it shouldn’t exist in the West Bank or Gaza at all since people cannot be considered “refugees” when they live in their own land.
That is the conversation that UNRWA is desperately trying not to allow the world to have.
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