Pulling US aid for UN Relief and Works Agency also pulls influence

Pulling US aid for UN Relief and Works Agency also pulls influence
© Getty

In the wake of the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to negotiate a peace treaty with Israel, President Donald Trump has now slashed a significant part of U.S. aid to UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). While President TrumpDonald TrumpStowaway found in landing gear of plane after flight from Guatemala to Miami Kushner looking to Middle East for investors in new firm: report GOP eyes booting Democrats from seats if House flips MORE’s harsh criticism of UNRWA is merited and should be commended, it would be a better policy decision for him to condition, rather than cut off, U.S. aid to UNRWA.

For starters, UNRWA can only be eliminated by a UN General Assembly Resolution. In the recent UN General Assembly Resolution that rejected Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital demonstrated, 128 countries voted against the U.S. Any proposed UN General Assembly Resolution to eliminate UNRWA will likely have similar results.  

It is true that, morally speaking, UNRWA should be eliminated. It is not just that, except for the Palestinians, every other refugee crisis across the globe is taken care of under the auspices of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. While other refugees are encouraged to resettle, the Palestinian refugees live in and around camps and are encouraged not give up their struggle until they receive a right of return to the very villages that their ancestors left as a result of the 1948 war. Historically, the only refugee population who passes on their refugee status from grandparent to grandchild and great-grandchild is the Palestinians.

Of course, a "right of return" to Israel proper is something that will never happen. Furthermore, even if a Palestinian state is created based on a two-state solution, senior level Palestinian Authority and PLO officials already said that they will not be granting the descendants of Palestinian refugees’ citizenship. Thus, the UNRWA policy of perpetuating the fanciful dream of a right of a return is a failure. As a result of this failed policy, a population of about 750,000 Palestinian refugees grew to become 5 million Palestinian refugees. The Palestinians of the refugee camps have been condemned to live indefinitely in squalor in order to serve a political agenda.

However, it is critical to note that, in the international arena, being right is not enough to achieve the desired end. Since abolishing UNRWA is not really within the realm of the possible until the entire international community changes their sentiments on this issue, the only policy option that is left for the U.S. is to use their aid money to reform UNRWA. Last year, the largest donor to UNRWA was the U.S., who gave $364 million. With this donation, the United States wields an enormous amount of influence.

Recently, my organization, the Center for Near East Policy Research published a new study on Palestinian textbooks utilized in UNRWA schools. Here are examples of some of the values that are being taught to young impressionable Palestinian children:

The textbooks teach that the inhabitants of  Jerusalem, Jewish people, are the “devil’s aides” and terror attacks against them are really “barbecue part(ies)” with Molotov cocktails. In poems, these children are taught that “the flow of blood gladdens my soul” and that “under the flags of glory, Jihad and struggle” they are returning home.

Also, the Center for Near East Policy Research dispatched Arab TV crews to document how tens of thousands of students in Gaza were sent to military summer camps, where they learned to use live weapons in order to liberate homes and villages from 1948.

As the largest donor to UNRWA, the U.S. can work together with other countries in order to ensure that such indoctrination of Palestinian children comes to an end. The U.S. also has the power to use their status as the largest donor in order to work with other countries in order to transform UNRWA into a mainly humanitarian organization that gives assistance to needy Palestinian people while stopping to perpetuate the Palestinian refugee crisis.

If the U.S. cuts their funding to UNRWA and doesn’t display a desire to work with other countries towards UNRWA reform, the international organization will not only never change for the better, but be left open to influence from countries like Saudi Arabia, the third largest donor to UNRWA. Other countries are unlikely to openly chastise UNRWA for incitement.

Rachel Avraham is a senior media research analyst at the Center for Near East Policy Research and a correspondent for the Israel Resource News Agency. Follow Avraham on twitter at @RachelAvraham.