If we are to have a so­lu­tion, Unwra must stop fund­ing Arab ha­tred

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY ALEX BRUM­MER

WHEN THE dust has fi­nally set­tled on Op­er­a­tion Pro­tec­tive Edge, the Is­raeli mor­tar hit on the school in Beit Ha­noun, where Pales­tinian fam­i­lies were shel­ter­ing, is cer­tain to be seen as one of its sig­nal events.

The com­mis­sioner gen­eral for the United Na­tions Works and Relief Agency (Unwra), Pierre Kra­hen­buhl, de­clared the hu­man suf­fer­ing to be “ap­palling and in­tol­er­a­ble”, adding that he could not find the words to ex­press his in­dig­na­tion.

The role of Unwra in Gaza, the West Bank and Le­banon, where it pro­vides sup­port ser­vices to Pales­tinian refugees, is un­like that of any other UN agen­cies. Es­tab­lished in 1948 to carry out di­rect relief and works pro­grammes for refugees af­ter Is­rael’s War of In­de­pen­dence, it has been op­er­a­tional since 1950 and its man­date was re­cently ex­tended to 2017.

Es­sen­tially, Unwra’s job is to keep the as­pi­ra­tions of Pales­tine’s refugees alive un­til such a time as there is a fi­nal set­tle­ment of the Mid­dle East con­flict.

Other refugee agen­cies, such as those look­ing af­ter mil­lions who have fled Syria, are there to pro­vide food, health-care and shel­ter on a tem­po­rary ba­sis un­til the refugees can re­turn to their home­land or are re­set­tled.

Unwra, in con­trast, has be­come a per­ma­nent bu­reau­cracy, pro­vid­ing ex­ten­sive ser­vices to Pales­tinian refugees and al­low­ing their hopes and ha­treds to cas­cade down the gen­er­a­tions.

The scale of its op­er­a­tions are breath­tak­ing. It has a per­ma­nent staff of 33,000, in­clud­ing teach­ers and health work­ers, and spends up to $1 bil­lion a year pro­vid­ing ser­vices.

In­deed, de­spite the nar­ra­tive of­ten heard about the ab­ject poverty among the refugees in Gaza and the West Bank, they are among the big­gest re­cip­i­ents of for­eign as­sis­tance — through Unwra and other agen­cies — of any group in the world. The US, Bri­tain and the EU are the big­gest three donors to its an­nual bud­get.

No one can have any ar­gu­ment with an agency that brings hu­man­i­tar­ian relief and ed­u­ca­tion to an im­pov­er­ished peo­ple. But there have long been con­cerns that Unwra schools and camps have helped fos­ter the at­ti­tudes that have given Ha­mas such a strong foothold in the pol­i­tics of Gaza and the West Bank.

The Cen­tre for Near East Pol­icy Re­search re­leased a video in 2013 that showed classes be­ing taught at an Unwra-spon­sored “Camp Ji­had” for Pales­tinian chil­dren. The em­pha­sis of the tuition was on the right of the young­sters to re­turn to the ar­eas left by their grand­par­ents, in­clud­ing Jaffa and Haifa.

A key de­mand of Ha­mas leader Khaled Mashaal in the present con­flict, made from the rel­a­tive com­fort of his exile in Qatar, is that Is­rael and Egypt lift their eco­nomic block­ade of Gaza. It is a per­fectly ac­cept­able re­quest given Gaza’s shat­tered econ­omy. What is of­ten for­got­ten is that much of the dam­age has not been caused by Is­rael, which has kept the Gaza cross­ings open, but by the govern­ment in Egypt. It wants noth­ing to do with Ha­mas, which is an out­growth of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood.

Is­rael has tight­ened its eco­nomic grip. In Oc­to­ber 2013, it cut off sup­plies of con­crete, ag­gre­gates and other con­struc­tion ma­te­ri­als af­ter dis­cov­er­ing a well-made hard tun­nel reach­ing into a Negev com­mu­nity. Elim­i­nat­ing the tun­nels was one of Is­rael’s pri­mary mo­ti­va­tions for a ground of­fen­sive.

One of the cu­riosi­ties is how an al­leged eco­nomic block­ade that has been so ef­fec­tive in keep­ing food, medicine, wa­ter out of Gaza has been so eas­ily pen­e­trated by those de­liv­er­ing mil­i­tary sup­plies in­clud­ing ad­vanced Ira­nian bal­lis­tic mis­siles. Ef­forts by Is­rael and Egypt to weaken Ha­mas eco­nom­i­cally have not had a huge im­pact. This is al­most cer­tainly be­cause funds still flow quite freely from in­ter­na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions such as Unwra, through Fatah and di­rectly from Gulf states such as Qatar.

The po­ten­tial for fast eco­nomic devel­op­ment in Gaza is there. But an aid de­pen­dency and deep hos­til­ity by Ha­mas to its neigh­bours makes it im­pos­si­ble to

un­lock the po­ten­tial. Alex Brum­mer is City Edi­tor of the Daily Mail

PHOTO: AP

A for­eign jour­nal­ist hugs her Pales­tinian news as­sis­tant af­ter he dis­cov­ers his fam­ily house has been de­stroyed

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

Unwra chief Kra­hen­buhl

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