The story that awaits a narrator is the UN’s role in transforming Palestinian peasants into terrorists. Humanity—mercy—is the practice of sublimating one’s own interests to the more pressing needs of others. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency did not act mercifully, as it actually furthered its bureaucratic and political interests by aiding the Palestinians. Mercy would, for example, have required the United States to abstain from fire-bombing Tokyo during WWII, as such a restraint would have run contrary to the US strategic objectives. The UNRWA extended fake mercy to Palestinians at the expense of Jews.
UNRWA almost forcibly kept the Palestinians in ghettos and refugee camps. The camps, which were supposed to help the Palestinians adapt to a new life, became a life in itself. Instead of acting like a boarding school—feed, educate, and let go—UNRWA camps became a permanent home to four generations of Palestinians. Worse than the worst inner cities, the refugee camps produced generation after generation of people who lacked productive skills and depended on UN handouts; who had no viable occupation, but spent their time idly, day after day. No wonder that idleness was filled with the most radical longing—romantic nationalism. Neither education nor morality was relevant in the camp life, but only raw strength.
Those who would have become bullies in the American inner cities evolved into terrorists in the UNRWA camps. The UN agency found the terrorist organizations useful both for maintaining order in otherwise unruly camps, and for providing raison d’etre for the UN operations. The persistence of refugee camps for sixty years testifies to the failure of the UN’s policies, but terrorists let the UN feel and show that it was not sponsoring a failed experiment in the middle of nowhere. Now the UN was in charge of the most respectable policy: worldwide anti-Semitism. The UN was no longer failing to adapt the refugees to life’s realities, but was nurturing the anti-Jewish resistance movement. Political concerns, bureaucracy, and paternalism combined to make Palestinian refugees into the UN’s pet project, to preserve the refugee camps indefinitely. And it transformed them into vast, semi-permanent slums almost physically filled with hate.
Even the most innocent UNRWA programs become potent weapons against Israel. UNRWA sponsors education in Palestinian refugee camps. Well and good, until we realize that UNRWA pays for education laid out by Fatah and Hamas. Whatever other meager or irrelevant knowledge Palestinian children acquire in schools, what matters is that UNRWA pays for anti-Jewish education. Likewise, the UNRWA food deliveries to Palestinians benefit Fatah and Hamas, who distribute the supplies and perform other organizational tasks. More importantly, Palestinians know that their livelihood is not affected by policy changes; whether Hamas or some mythical doves are at the helm, Palestinians will still receive their food allowance from UNRWA. Guaranteed supplies of food and medicines create a safety net for Palestinians and prompt them to radicalize, to take chances. The guaranteed supplies keep Palestinians at the refugee camps; absent of such aid they would have long since gone to work and assimilated in their countries of residence. But the UN loves its pet project and its pet people; the UNRWA has created the Palestinian nation—in refugee camps.
The UNRWA is Israel’s enemy, far more so than Saudi Arabia. Sabotaging the UN aid to Palestinian camps is a first-degree military priority. Without the aid, the refugee camps would be abandoned in a year or two. That is the ultimate kindness: let the refugees’ descendants go on with their lives. The UNRWA camps look like solid societies with everything from administration to schools to cafes, but these societies are on par with prisoners’ camaraderie: once out of the camps, Palestinians would shudder at the thought of them.
The presence of fringe terrorist groups such as Fatah al Islam in the camps are a boon to Israel, as they cause fighting and prompt at least some of the inhabitants to abandon the camps. Terrorists will also make the camps unattractive to the Palestinian rich, who have created fiefdoms there and support extended clans.
The camps are becoming progressively worse. In the beginning, their inhabitants were in a sense euphoric: they expected to return soon, lived relatively normal lives, and even created unusually extensive educational programs—so extensive that Palestinians became the most educated Arabs and entered public service in many Muslim countries. The euphoria gave way to idealism, then hopelessness, then normality. The descendants of the refugees adjusted their expectations to the new reality, and now they actually want such a lifestyle. Most will not adapt to free life. The UNRWA’s massive infusions created for Palestinians a warped alternative reality.
The rare voices coming out of the camps belong to the educated class, and so the stories of the refugees’ noble nationalism abound. In reality, refugee camp dwellers are no more idealistic nationalists than the medieval peasants who flocked to markets to hear troubadours were knightly romantics. People who live in swamp-like conditions need a bright guiding star, but few care to sail toward it.
In Lebanon, Palestinian refugee camps are islands of terrorism, but in Gaza the UN’s policies created a viable terrorist state. When Egypt refused entrance to fleeing Palestinians, and they were stuck in Gaza, the UN should have dispersed them quickly into other territories. Instead, it induced the Palestinians to stay in Gaza with UN subsidies, and made the place into a kind of pressure cooker. Conforming to political correctness, the UNRWA offered the Palestinians absurd resettlement options, such as (before 1967) moving them to the Sinai and building a massive channel there from the Nile. But the Palestinians, who still harbored hopes of return, rejected the offers, and from 1967 on there were no other suggestions. In 1967, four fifths of Gazans lived in towns—that is, they were virtually jobless. Since then, the ratio has only increased, temporarily diminished by job opportunities in Israel, and rebounded when Israel closed her labor markets to Arab migrants. Under whosever jurisdiction, Gaza will continue as a mini robber-state, thriving on contraband, illegal goods such as weapons, and illegal activities—a giant inner city no one wants to reform for fear of it exploding. Fatah was so happy about the Hamas takeover of Gaza because the West Bank’s biggest nightmare is not Israeli or Jordanian occupation, but a stream of returnees from Gaza and Lebanon once Palestinian statehood is established.
Palestinians cannot maintain a viable state. In big countries, outlaws escape to outskirts, border regions. But in a small country like Palestine they disrupt the entire society’s life. Small countries can reach statehood only by developing a culture of political obedience first, and that requires a long history of affluence and organized communal life. A Palestinian state will necessarily succumb to guerillas and criminals.