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Wednesday, October 08, 2003

Don't confuse FAQs with FACTS




Al-Awda (dot org) is an organization dedicated to the Palestinian "right of return." While declining to buy their t-shirt, pictured above, I moved on to their FAQs, that is, Frequently Asked Questions - not to be confused with FACTS.

To the FAQ, "how did the Palestinian refugee problem arise?" the following answer is provided.
The Palestinian refugee problem arose not from a conflict in which, as claimed, the Zionist forces overcame overwhelming odds against the Arab armies and the Palestinian population voluntarily left, but from a systematic policy of ethnic cleansing. The results of which are apparent in the Palestinian refugee camps across the Arab world and in the Palestinian Diaspora. The policies, to a lesser extent, continue to this day in Jerusalem and across the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

I am always intrigued by the problem of these refugees. They are so unique in the history of the world: they are the ONLY group of refugees EVER (and there have been g'zillions) not to be absorbed into real life somewhere, and the ONLY group of refugees to merit their own UN Agency. Refugees now for fifty-five years, they have produced three further generations who have inherited refugee status. It's bizarre.

Quite aside from the Arab war on Israel for a moment, there are these 4 million Arabs without passports, who present en masse an enormous challenge to the world. And they don't live just in the West Bank (so-called) and Gaza strip; 62% of registered refugees, about two and a half million, live in the Arab countries of Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, some in 32 refugee camps, others not.

According to the UNRWA, as of 6/30/03, these are the FACTS and figures:
LEBANON
12 refugee camps
1950: 128,000 refugees
2003: 392,000 refugees, of whom 225,000 live in camps

Lebanon contributed a whopping $7,480 to the UNRWA in 2002

SYRIA
10 refugee camps
1950: 82,000 refugees
2003: 410,000, of whom 120,000 are in camps

Syria contributed only $32,817 to the UNRWA in 2002.

JORDAN
10 refugee camps
1950: 506,000 refugees
2003: 1,719,000 refugees, of whom 304,000 are in camps

Jordan contributed $263,258 to the UNRWA in 2002.
Compare this to
WEST BANK
19 refugee camps
2003 - 655,000 refugees

GAZA
8 refugee camps
2003 - 907,000 refugees

Of the total UNRWA budget of $404.5 million (2002), the United States contributed far and above all other countries: $120 million, about 30%.

The European Union contributed $79 million, about 20%.

(An entity called "Palestine" contributed a little over $2.5 million, about half of one percent of the total, and the State of Israel did not contribute at all. I'm surprised.)

With all that caring and all those hundreds of millions of dollars, seems like something more healthy and productive could be done for these people. Rather than sit in squalid camps for another four generations, couldn't they get a life somewhere? Truly, wouldn't that help?

Maybe if we tried resolving the Refugee Question first, instead of always postponing it to the end, then peace might follow.

The first step could be diverting U.S. funds from the corrupt-and-going-nowhere UNRWA; the second step, diverting EU funds, and so on.

Why keep paying for this? IT'S NOT WORKING. IT'S NOT HELPING. It's ridiculous and tragic.