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The Dirty Politics Of Humanitarian Aid
Jerusalem Post, April 19, 2002
Gerald M. Steinberg
Amid the intense propaganda war, there is unusual agreement on the developing humanitarian tragedy. No one disputes the fact that over 100 buildings in the center of the Jenin refugee camp (out of over 1000) were destroyed in the fighting, whether by terrorist bombs that were exploded in efforts to kill Israeli soldiers, or by tanks and troops.
The residents who did not flee are without regular supplies of food, water and medicines. The same is true, although to a lesser degree, in other areas of intense fighting, such as Nablus, parts of Ramallah and Bethlehem.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and many of his cohorts, like true Leninists, believe that "worse is better," and the more that Palestinians are seen as victims, the greater the international pressure on Israel. (This strategy worked for Lenin, and the Russian people are still paying the terrible price.) However, Arafat's cynicism does not relieve the rest of the world, including Israel, from attempting to relieve the suffering of the innocent. Without delving into the considerable evidence that many of the adults in these camps were part of the Palestinian terrorist support network, the delivery of humanitarian aid for the others, including children, is part of the Jewish tradition.
The real humanitarian tragedy is that the number of individuals and agencies qualified to deliver this aid, without engaging in destructive propaganda is very small. Many of the non-governmental organizations and aid agencies, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, are tainted by their support of anti-Israel political agendas. Self-declared "peace protestors" are more interested in the publicity and propaganda than in actually helping people. By adopting a policy of confrontation with Israel (and bringing compliant journalists), these propagandists know that any packages will be carefully searched for bombs, while they publicize allegations of Israeli interference with transfer of food and medicine.
UN agencies, in general, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, in particular, provide poignant examples of this catastrophic situation. In the 52 years of its "temporary" existence, UNRWA has become part of the problem, rather than providing a solution. In addition to the humanitarian aid, including food, health, education, housing, and other services, UNRWA has also become a central component in the Palestinian political structure.
UNRWA is allowed to operate in the camps as long as it cooperates with the political "rules of the road," determined by the gunmen, thugs and terrorists from Fatah, Hamas and other militias. In UNRWA-operated schools, the texts of anti-Israeli incitement and rejectionism are part of the standard curriculum. UNRWA facilities have been routinely used as warehouses for weapons storage and for bomb-making factories. UNRWA director Peter Hansen stumbled through an interview on BBC's Hardtalk with Tim Sebastian, unable to dispute the evidence. Any director who would not have been willing to do Arafat's bidding would have been forced out long ago. As a result, UNRWA cannot be entrusted with the job of providing humanitarian relief under the current circumstances, and the sooner it is closed, the better.
ANOTHER GROUP, Human Rights Watch, has played a leading role in the systematic delegitimization of Israel. HRW frequently supports groups that publish unverified or patently false claims regarding Israeli prisons and on policy regarding weapons such as landmines. From an Israeli perspective, HRW is not a humanitarian agency, but another hostile political organization. If members of this group were allowed to enter the Palestinian areas, even on a humanitarian mission, past behavior shows that they would use this opportunity to increase the volume of anti-Israeli propaganda that is used to justify more homicide bombings.
Together, the UN, HRW, and other groups, such as Amnesty International, as well as many governments, also share major responsibility for the fiasco of the Durban process. The Durban "anti-racism" conference held in September marked a major step in the campaign to delegitimize Israel and promote anti-Semitism. While the US government had the moral fortitude to walk out, other groups stayed on and joined the process.
A few days ago, members of the notorious UN Human Rights Commission (with the important exception of Canada, Britain, the Czech Republic, Guatemala, and Germany) voted to condemn Israel for "acts of mass killings," and supported Palestinian "armed struggle" (in other words, terror attacks). These members of the UNHCR (including from the European Union) have shown that the anti-Israeli agenda, and not morality, has priority. Similarly, politicians such as Ann Clwyd (a British MP), who visited Jenin to highlight concerns for the "suffering Palestinians," are tainted by propaganda. In an interview with the BBC, Clwyd repeated a conversation with a UN representative in Gaza (probably an UNRWA employee) "who told me of an Israeli colonel who, unless he managed to shoot seven Palestinians in the leg each day, considered that he had had a bad day." So much for Clwyd's humanitarianism.
For the past 54 years, Palestinian suffering has been exploited by the politicization of the agencies and the governments that support them. Once again, it is not Israel that is blocking aid, but rather the members of these groups, who have exploited fundamental ethical principles to further the goals of destroying Israel and spreading anti-Semitism. The time for dismantling these UN groups and NGOs and creating new, apolitical and professional aid agencies is long overdue.