The So-Called 'Uninvolved' Palestinians
"It seems to me that the time has come to put an end to all the stories of the 'poor Palestinians.'"
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Batya, a resident of a kibbutz called Kfar Aza, is a photographer and peace activist.
In recent years, she struck a friendship with Mahmoud, a Palestinian photographer from Gaza. He took pictures of the strip and she of her kibbutz. They uploaded them together in a joint exhibition, showcased to more than 10,000 people, and even had plans for a joint exhibit in California.
Mahmoud became Batya’s friend, sending her voice messages and promising that they would teach everyone it is possible for Jews and Palestinians to live side-by-side together.
“Let’s prove to the world that there are people in Israel and Gaza who love each other,” he told her.
On October 7th, Batya saw Palestinian terrorists outside her home and hid in a shelter. Then came a phone call that she will never forget. It was Mahmoud, claiming that Israel was bombing Gaza nonstop. (The Israeli response had not started yet.)
“The photographer” turned out to be a Hamas accomplice, trying to get information from her and taking advantage of her good intentions and soul. In reality, his entire “friendship” with Batya was just so he could help Hamas learn more about her kibbutz.
Kfar Aza, a community of many peace activists like Batya, lost 72 members who were slaughtered by Hamas, and 18 more were kidnapped. Batya, who dedicated her life to Israeli-Palestinian peace and partnership, said recently: “There is no one there who’s not involved.”
To add insult to injury, Batya’s statement is backed up by polling data. One done by Bir Zeit University in Ramallah found that more than 75 percent of Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza support Hamas and what they perpetrated on October 7th. If an election was held today, Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, the “Mayor of Ramallah” (since that’s all he really controls) would lose to Hamas.
This is a shame because the Palestinians are highly capable and among the most educated in the Arab world. Yet for the last hundred years or so, they’ve diverted much of their resources and capabilities not to build something for themselves, but to destroy others.
At any given moment, it is more important to the Palestinians that the Jews won’t have a safe state than it is for them to develop a successful, prosperous country alongside one for the Jews. The billions worth of so-called “humanitarian aid” that the Palestinians receive is predominantly used for continuing the struggle of “liberating Palestine from the river to the sea” than for its stated purpose.
Since the October 7th massacre, every day seemingly brings more stories about alleged connections between Hamas and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and its institutions in the Gaza Strip.
There’s nothing normal about this organization’s existence and activities. The agency was established in 1949 after the Israeli War of Independence, in order to provide shelter, welfare, and health services for hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees. They refused to be absorbed into the new countries, because they understood that this would mean they had lost the war against Israel, and they haven’t been willing to accept the defeat to this day.
In 1950, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees was established to handle all of the world’s refugees. However, following pressure from Arab countries, the Palestinian refugees remained the sole responsibility of UNRWA — which to this day remains the world’s only refugee agency dedicated to a specific population.
If the mission of any refugee agency is to resettle people and end their refugee status, UNRWA has failed miserably. Over the years, there were changes and simplifications for the terms to receive refugee status and the eligibility of descendants to receive services from the agency.
At first, only those who had lost their home and livelihood as a result of the 1948 war were considered refugees (with the definition later broadened to include their children). But beginning in 1982, the right to be defined as a refugee was expanded to include every generation of descendants. In other words, even the great-grandchild of a refugee is also considered a refugee.
As a result, in its 74-year existence, the number of UNRWA beneficiaries has grown from 700,000 refugees, to almost six million by 2022. This includes 1.6 million people in Gaza, a fourth generation of refugees, which is largely perpetuated by the UNRWA eligibility requirements.
With the increase in the number of refugees, UNRWA has become a vast organization with a turnover of more than $1 billion annually (a sum that is constantly increasing given the rise in the number of refugees) and a huge part of the Palestinian education, health, and welfare systems. About 60 percent of its budget is allocated to Palestinian schools, which play a pronounced role in the Palestinians’ desire for a “right of return” and rejection of a Jewish state.
“It’s the school system that wields the greatest influence on the awareness and ethos of a society. And what they teach the children in the Palestinian school system — where most of them study at UNRWA schools — is that Israel is an amorphous thing, not even a state, a Zionist entity, and that it must be destroyed,” said Sharona Shir Zablodovsky, a public policy expert.
Since the October 7th Palestinian massacre in Israel, UNRWA workers and students have openly identified with Hamas on social media, and some of them were directly involved in the actual terrorism. Last month, for instance, it was reported that one of the released Israeli hostages said he had been held in the home of an UNRWA teacher — a father of 10 who barely gave him any food and medicine.
The IDF has revealed that dozens of rockets and other arms were found under UNRWA crates in the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, research institutes that have been tracking the organization for many years, revealed that many members of the Nukhba Force (the elite Hamas unit that led the massacre) and additional Hamas members who perpetrated the slaughter are graduates of UNRWA schools or employees of the organization.
But these are merely points of a much greater problem: UNRWA has become a key player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, serving entities and people who have no interest in seeing it resolved.
“UNRWA operations in Gaza are a mask for Hamas,” according to journalist David Collier. “They all know that if Hamas loses control, the whole world will learn many dirty secrets. It is why — along with several NGOs — they are all so desperate for a ceasefire.”
Indeed, the UN General Assembly voted in an “emergency meeting” on Tuesday to demand a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, a non-binding vote from the 193-member world body that witnessed a whopping 153 in favor.
“It seems to me that the time has come to put an end to all the stories of the ‘poor Palestinians’ who constantly need to be helped, to be rehabilitated, to be built for them, and given to them, as if they are unable to do anything without outside help from a compassionate world,” wrote Einat Wilf, a former left-wing Israeli politician. “The Palestinians’ only problem is destructive priorities and ideology, not a lack of capabilities.”
“Therefore, in every discussion, in every statement, Israel should emphasize the Palestinians’ ideological struggle and priorities,” added Wilf. “Every discussion about ‘the day after’ should make it clear that there is no point in pouring in billions into another round of ‘Gaza reconstruction’ until it is clear from top to bottom that the Palestinians have abandoned their destructive priorities.”
Yet it is impossible to want for the Palestinians what they do not want for themselves (an independent state alongside Israel as a Jewish one). They cannot be forced to turn Gaza or the West Bank into prosperous places if they prefer to keep them as launchpads for their “armed struggle.”
Hence why Wilf claims that “the Palestinians are not in danger and they do not need the world’s help. They just have to decide that it is more important for them to build for themselves than to destroy for others. Once those are their priorities, everything else will fall into place.”