According to UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) tens of billions of dollars (one-third from US taxpayers, the rest mostly from Canada and European countries) have been spent over the last 50 years providing "Palestinian refugees" and their descendents. An estimated half million people 60 years ago, that number is now over four million and increasing daily.
UNRWA's purpose: to insure the "Palestinian Right of Return" - the destruction of Israel.
No Arab country except Jordan -- where they constitute more than two-thirds of the population - accepts them as citizens. Saudi Arabia, for example, recently passed a law allowing all foreigner workers in the country to apply for Saudi citizenship next year - except Palestinians.
More than 400,000 "Palestinian refugees" living in UNWRA-supported "camps" in Lebanon cannot work or even go to school outside their designated areas. Ditto for Syria.
Most "Palestinian refugees" listed by UNRWA (which includes Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and Gaza) in 2002, don't even live in the camps, but in nearby villages and towns. All receive free assistance and services for the rest of their life, including their children, their grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, ad infinitum.
According to UNRWA's rules, anyone who applied for relief, claiming they lived in Palestine for at least two years prior to 1948 (when Israel was attacked) and claimed to have lost property and livelihood was entitled to assistance, regardless of where they came from, or where they live today. Once a "Palestinian refugee," always a "Palestinian refugee."
That explains why the number of "Palestinian refugees" who receive aid has grown from a few hundred thousand to four and a half million (although no one really knows the exact numbers because of UNRWA's faulty records). That number could double in a generation - along with UNRWA's nearly half-billion-dollar annual budget.
UNRWA is supposed to verify that those who receive assistance don't work. Not surprisingly, however, no one checks. No one confirms the validity of those who receive benefits from UNRWA. After death, certificates of eligibility are simply passed on to others. No one checks bank accounts, automobile registrations, or property ownership.
With multiple wives, families can comprise scores of children - all "refugees." And, according to UNRWA rules, even if one parent is "Palestinian," the entire family is eligible for assistance and "refugee" status.
UNRWA openly admits that they don't monitor programs that support terrorism, or payments to families of terrorists by the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, Hezb'allah and (until recently) Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
In fact, nearly all teachers employed by UNRWA are members of terrorist-controlled unions. Funding these teachers and the curriculum of hatred and bigotry, supports terrorism and terrorist organizations. This may explain why so many children are willing to blow themselves up, carry weapons and explosives and place themselves as shields for terrorists.
Although responsible for what goes on in the areas it administers, UNRWA ignores the fact that terrorists are being trained there, including the next generation of homicide bombers, that bomb-making factories flourish inside the camps, and that arms and ammunition are stockpiled there.
UNRWA ignores the launching of thousands of rocket attacks against Israel from within territory under its responsibility.
And most outrageous, UNRWA is accountable only to the UN General Assembly, dominated by the 56-member Organization of Islamic Conference which is also part of the 115-member Non-Aligned Movement -- an automatic majority in the 191-member U.N.
UNRWA violates its own UN mandate (Resolution 302), which states (Paragraph 5): "constructive measures should be undertaken at an early date with a view to the termination of international assistance for relief."
UNRWA (Paragraph 7) indicates only two responsibilities: to work with Arab governments to provide jobs for the refugees and to help Arab governments end (not perpetuate) international assistance. UNRWA has been doing the exact opposite.
The "Palestinian Right of Return" (to Israel) -- their basic, non-negotiable demand - encourages the refusal to accept Israel's existence and fuels Palestinian terrorism. It reinforces Palestinians' belief in their victimization, promotes a culture of denial and self-destruction, and sabotages any hope for change. UNRWA facilitates this mess.
And we pay for it. Had enough? Stop the funding, now.
The author, a former asst professor of History, is a writer and journalist living in Jerusalem