While the Palestinian Authority has witnessed unprecedented economic growth of late, life for 4 million descendants of Arab refugees who live inside or contiguous to their presumably "temporary" facilities has remained stagnant.
UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which oversees the life of Arab refugees, premises all its policies on adherence to the "right of return" to villages that no longer exist. The spokesman of the Palestinian Authority city of Rawabi, near Ramallah, has made it clear to the media that residents of teeming UNRWA housing projects in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and Jerusalem would not live in the new P.A., because that would violate their "right of return" to the 531 Arab villages lost in 1948.
UNRWA has even adopted school books of the Palestinian Authority for its half a million pupils that "educate" Arab refugees' descendants to believe that their only solution is to return to villages their ancestors left in 1948.
Yet UNRWA is not funded by extremist nations. Rather it is financed to the tune of $1.2 billion by 20 Western democracies, including $247 million dollars from the United States each year.
The good news is that funding from the United States and the West means that they can have leverage over UNRWA.
On Jan. 26, a leading expert on Arab education, Dr. Arnon Groiss, who has reviewed all of the 200 new school texts used by the P.A. and UNRWA, briefed staffers from 30 congressional offices on Capitol Hill, in a session hosted by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.). Groiss, a senior reporter for Israel Radio's Arabic language service, holds a Princeton Ph.D. in Islamic studies, and sits on a U.S.-Norwegian-Israeli-Palestinian panel mandated to review incitement in the Middle East.
Groiss presented the "right of return" curriculum used by UNRWA, in schools built by U.S. foreign aid, and screened two films produced by the Center for Near East Policy Research that were filmed in UNRWA school facilities. The films show UNRWA administrators, teachers and pupils espousing the right of return.
At the briefing, Groiss presented a dozen school books now used by UNRWA schools and noted that "Israel does not exist on any map." The textbook for grade 9, Reading and Texts, asks students to "reconcile between the following poetical lines and the feelings they express":
"The morning of glory and red liberty watered by the martyrs' blood ... the hope for the Liberation of Palestine."
The eighth-grade version of Reading and Texts reads: "Your enemies killed your children; split open your women's bellies, took your revered elderly people by the beard, and led them to the death pits."
The seventh-grade textbook, Our Beautiful Language, features a poem titled "The Martyr": "Hearing weapons' clash is pleasant to my ear and the flow of blood gladdens my soul/As we as a body thrown upon the ground skirmished over by the desert predators/... By your life! This is the death of men and whoever asks for a noble death -- here it is!"
The fifth-grade version of Our Beautiful Language includes a poem titled "We Shall Return," which inculcates the "right of return"-- by force:
"Return, return, we shall return/Borders shall not exist, nor citadels and fortresses/Cry out, O those who have left:/we shall return!/[We] shall return to the homes, to the valleys, to the mountains/Under the flag of glory, Jihad and struggle/With blood, sacrifice, fraternity and loyalty/We shall return/... To jihad in the hills; [to] harvest in the land."
In all these school books, all Israeli cities -- Haifa, Ramle, Jerusalem, Acre -- are shown as Palestinian Arab cities.
After the briefing, Rep. Smith declared that he would conduct hearings on U.S. aid to UNRWA and would condition U.S. funding to the U.N. body on the cancellation of school books used by UNRWA, which Smith characterized as anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and anti-American.
Our agency asked USAID, the U.S. governmental agency that provides economic and humanitarian assistance and is the conduit for U.S. funds to UNWRA schools, whether it would review their curriculum. USAID responded that they would not do so.
However, USAID could easily place funds for UNRWA in escrow until "right-of-return" brainwashing is deleted from books used by the organization. The United States and other funders should require UNRWA to do so.
David Bedein, a Philadelphia native who now lives in Israel, directs the Israel Resource News Agency and Center For Near East Policy Research, www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com