Khaled Elgindy is a senior fellow at the Middle East Institute who at the end of August published in The Hill his prediction that there would be an eruption of violence in Gaza if $75 million in American aid for food were not immediately forthcoming. More on this prediction, and why it should be ignored, can be found here: “UNRWA didn’t get $75 million from the US by today’s deadline. Let’s see if the dire predictions come true.” Elder of Ziyon, September 1, 2023:
Here is Khaled Elgindy:
One wouldn’t know it from the headlines, but the next violent eruption in the Gaza Strip may be just around the corner. As most of Washington remains mired in its traditional August doldrums, yet another potential crisis is brewing in the already isolated and impoverished Gaza Strip. For the past several months, $75 million in badly needed food assistance for Palestinians has been held up in Congress, not because of any bureaucratic or logistical impediments but for purely political reasons. Moreover, if the Biden administration does not act by the end of August, it will likely lead to a further deterioration in the already dire humanitarian conditions in Gaza — with potentially serious security implications for Jordan, Egypt and Israel.
The $75 million, approved by Congress and the State Department earlier this year, is being held up by Idaho Sen. James Risch, ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He wants assurances that the funds will not go to terror groups.
And here is Elder of Ziyon:
Let’s look at this a little closer.
Here are the top national donors to UNRWA as of 2021:
Notice anything missing? Yes, the Arab nations are nowhere to be found, and in fact Arab nations provide only a tiny percentage of UNRWA’s budget. The top Arab donor, Qatar, gives a mere 5% of what the USA gave in 2021.
Shouldn’t the American public be up in arms about the hundreds of millions of dollars the Bidenites have been giving to the Palestinian Arabs, both directly to the Palestinian Authority and indirectly through UNRWA, while the rich Arab countries of the Gulf provide almost nothing? The largest Arab donor to UNRWA is Qatar, which gives one-twentieth of what Washington provides. Saudi Arabia gave $27 million to UNRWA, and zero dollars to the PA in 2021, while the Bidenites provided $350 million to UNRWA and $330 million to the PA. In other words, Riyadh has been giving to the Palestinians about 3% of what Washington provides. Why? Why is the care and feeding of these Arabs become the responsibility of the Western nations, rather than of the fabulously rich Arabs — whose riches, remember, derive not from hard work but from an accident of geology? Why have none of the Republican presidential candidates, for example Nikki Haley or Ron DeSantis, made this a campaign issue?
Elder of Ziyon continues:
The US already provides more aid to UNRWA than anyone else, over $300 million [closer to $350 million] a year. Why is it obligated to give an additional $75 million, which is more than the entire Arab world combined gives to UNRWA? Where are the angry op-eds demanding that Saudi Arabia or China give tens of millions to UNRWA?
Is this all going to be “food aid”? While the original bill says the $75M was for “food assistance to vulnerable Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza” it cannot be earmarked; UNRWA will simply redirect other moneys to more problematic programs like their schools that teach the beauty of “martyrdom.”
Money is fungible. When the U.S. provide money to UNRWA for food assistance, that will simply free up other money that can then be used to pay for antisemitic schoolbooks or programs that teach Palestinian children to emulate the terrorist “martyrs,” or to add to the already bloated ranks of UNRWA employees with Palestinians who may be members of terrorist groups in need of a day job.
A little more context: People have been warning of starving Palestinians for many years now. In 2008 Jimmy Carter said that Gazans were literally “starving to death” and in 2009 he said they were “literally starving.”
Nine million people die of starvation every year. Not one of them is Palestinian.
The “starving people” of Gaza did not starve in 2008, when Jimmy Carter claimed they already were, nor in 2009, when he warned, yet again, that they were “literally starving.” Nine million people die every year of hunger, but none — except for one or two Palestinian prisoners who insist on carrying out their hunger strikes to their logical end — have been Palestinians. But that won’t keep people like Khaled Elgindy from trying to scare American officials into pouring more money into the Palestinian aid coffers by claiming that such mass starvation is imminent.
Interestingly, USAID will provide direct food aid – US food products – and food vouchers to countries where cash might go to terrorists. If there is such a looming food crisis, the US can contribute….food. This would also help US farmers and food producers, and it would be more difficult for Hamas to steal the food and resell it, as it does today with UNRWA products….
Since money is fungible, instead of providing money to UNRWA to buy food for Palestinians, the Americans could provide that food directly. That will help American farmers, who need to enlarge their markets. And Hamas cannot easily steal and resell food as it can, for example, with such items bought by UNRWA as computers or diapers or school supplies. Elder of Ziyon adds:
Here is the best part of Elgindy’s article:
Despite appeals from the State Department, UNRWA and several Arab governments, Risch [Idaho Republican Senator James Risch]shows no sign of budging. “The administration has all the authority they need to provide emergency food assistance to UNRWA,” observed a spokesperson for the senator, adding that Risch “will continue to hold them until his long-term concern about UNRWA are addressed.”
“On this, at least, Risch is correct. Biden does indeed have the authority he needs to disburse the funds over Risch’s objections. But this will require taking a stand and expending at least some political capital on an issue—the Palestinians—that has not been a political priority for the administration thus far.
While Biden has renewed aid to the Palestinians that Trump had ended, he has not delivered on other promises made to the Palestinians that are unpopular at home and would require expending political capital that Biden might want to reserve for other initiatives, such as a possible deal with Iran. The Bidenites have not moved to open the PLO office in Washington, nor tried to persuade Israel to accept the reopening of an American consulate in Jerusalem. Both were promises made to the Palestinians during the 2020 campaign that are unlikely to be fulfilled.
So when a Republican holds up the aid, he is responsible for a looming escalating crisis that may lead to starvation, instability and war. But when Biden chooses not to override the senator, he is merely reluctant to expend political capital.
Senator Risch cannot be blamed for possible “starvation” in Gaza; President Biden can give more aid to the Palestinians without Risch’s approval. He hasn’t chosen as yet to do so. But let’s not forget that he has, after all, given the PA and UNRWA nearly a billion dollars since the beginning of his administration.
We are at September 1. Biden didn’t override Risch. Let’s see if the dire warnings come true.
They haven’t yet. Gaza is just as, but no more, violent a place than it has always been. There has been some talk by Hamas to renew the Great March of Return, but that is the extent so far of any “eruption” in the Strip.
The reality is that UNRWA is unsustainable as it stands right now. Its unique and bizarre definition of “Palestine refugee” ensures that it will need more funds every year forever. Clearly the world is sick of paying for this: in June a pledging conference for UNRWA netted a mere $107 million of the $300 million they wanted….
The Palestinians are the only group of refugees whose status is inheritable. Of the hundreds of millions of refugees created since World War II, only the Palestinians are permitted to pass on that status to their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on, with no conceivable end. Vladimir Nabokov was a Russian refugee. His son Dmitri, born in Berlin, was not. Henry Kissinger was a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany. His son David, born in New York, is not. But Ahmed al-Bishara, born in 2012 in Marseille, is considered to be a “Palestinian refugee,” just like his father, born in Beirut 1985, and his grandfather, born in Amman in 1960, and his great grandfather, born in Haifa in 1935, who is the only real Palestinian “refugee” in the group. There is no end to this ever-expanding roll of “refugees,” nor to the sums that will be required to support them. And that is why the donors to UNRWA have become drained of the desire of supporting this always-increasing number of pseudo-refugees. At the last pledging conference for donors to UNRWA, little more than a third of the sum requested was promised. The donor fatigue is palpable.
Elder of Ziyon suggests that the number of “Palestinian refugees” serviced by UNRWA be cut down to a manageable size. In Jordan, the one Arab state where those refugees can become citizens, all two million of them should be taken off the UNRWA rolls. The government of Jordan should assume its responsibility to all of its citizens, and that means not relying anymore on UNRWA to provide housing, medical care, and education. During a period of transition, lasting several years, the former donors to UNRWA could provide more aid to the Kingdom of Jordan, but once a sufficient number of those former “refugees” are gainfully employed, and can fend for themselves economically,, that extra aid to Amman can be discontinued.
In the area of Judea and Samaria where the Palestinian Authority rules, the Palestinians are not “refugees” — they never left their homes. And therefore their needs — in housing, education, and medical care — ought to be met by the PA, not by UNRWA. The same is true for Gaza, where Hamas, the terror group that rules the Strip, ought to be held responsible for providing housing, medical care, and education to people who never were refugees.
The Western powers, along with the rich Arab states, ought to be pressuring both Lebanon and Syria to allow the “Palestinian refugees” living in their countries, and who for 75 years have not been allowed to be naturalized, to at long last become citizens, and to no longer be prevented from employment in such professions as law, medicine, and engineering. They’ve lived in these countries for a long time; it is cruel to continue to keep them in camps, unable to work except at the most menial and ill-paying of jobs. As citizens, now able to support themselves, they can be taken off the UNRWA rolls.
Instead of the soul-crippling culture of endless dependence that UNRWA fosters, give the Palestinian “refugees” what they really need, by allowing them to integrate fully into the countries where most of them live — in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon — and not only to be naturalized, but also given the chance to practice every occupation. Then close down for good that most corrupt and corrupting of UN agencies, UNRWA.