After 75 years, this too shall pass

After 75 years, this too shall pass

Max L. Kleinman

Max Kleinman of Fairfield is the CEO emeritus of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest and president of the Fifth Commandment Foundation.

In 1956, at the recently settled kibbutz of Nahal Oz, then IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan spoke at the funeral of Roi Rotberg, who was murdered by Arab terrorists who crossed Gaza to claim their victim.

“Let us not cast the blame on the murderers,” Dayan said. “For eight years, they have been sitting in refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we have been transforming the lands and villages where they and their fathers lived into our estate.”

He warned that we should not be “deterred from seeing the loathing that is inflaming and filling the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs around us.” He concluded by prophesizing that “this is our life’s choice — to be prepared and armed, strong and determined, lest the sword be stricken from our fist and our lives cut down.”

Sixty-seven years later, 1,200 lives were cut down, thousands were injured, and 236 were abducted by marauding Hamas terrorists who crossed into Israel from Gaza.

But what of the 750,000 Arabs who fled to Gaza, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and other Arab countries? They and their descendants now number over 5.6 million and are considered refugees, 76 years after the event that caused their ancestors to flee. They are housed, educated, fed, and cared for by the only U.N. agency that perpetuates dependency and permanent refugee status, the United Nations Work and Relief Agency.

The other U.N. refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has resettled tens of millions of refugees in dozens of countries, where they have been productive members of their societies.

Since the end of World War II, millions of Germans were expelled from Eastern Europe and resettled in Germany. Germany’s population grew from 60 million in 1939 to 66 million in 1946, despite Germany’s horrendous losses during the war. It’s estimated that the establishment of India and Pakistan created a refugee flow in the millions, with Muslims fleeing to Pakistan and Hindus to India. Tens of millions of additional refugees were resettled in ensuing decades, including my parents and brother.

So why is this burgeoning Palestinian population treated so differently? An inkling of this is revealed in a recent headline in Al Jazeera: “If UNWRA goes, so do our dreams of returning home.”

In Aida, a refugee camp near Bethlehem, Mohammed Damaseh bemoans the fact that as refugees we now see there is a “major political plan to end UNWRA’s existence, preventing the right of return. This is something we will not allow. My son Ahmed (fifth generation) will study in Aida camp school until he returns to our original village.”

So these refugees have been used as political pawns by Arab nations to keep the idea of the destruction of the Jewish state alive, to cynically imitate the yearnings of our ancestors through the millennia never to forget Jerusalem. Except these states have sovereignty and the means to mainstream these refugees into their societies today instead of keeping them in refugee camps, immobilized by unrealizable dreams.

Led by the United States, Western powers are pressuring Israel to accept a Palestinian state after the war, even though the majority of Israelis and Palestinians reject this idea, the former for security reasons, the latter largely supporting Hamas.

Will the cause of Palestinian nationality  be furthered by instilling this sense of dependence on millions of the camps’ residents, living on the dole of foreigners decade after decade?

Meanwhile UNWRA is doing a good job of keeping the illusion of the “return “alive by not including Israel in geography lessons and instilling hatred of Jews. A map recently recovered in the tunnels had Arabic names for all the cities in Israel, extinguishing any Jewish sovereignty of the land. Dozens of its employees were involved directly or indirectly in the October 7 attacks, Israel intelligence believes 10% of its workforce in Gaza — that’s 1,200 employees — are Hamas supporters.

So why has the West, led by the United States, been supporting this fantasy for decades? We ought to ask our politicians that question. We should ask why we expended $343 million for UNWRA, with our European allies contributing $500 million more, constituting 75% of its annual budget. China and Russia donated $1 million and $2 million respectively. The leading Arab country, Saudi Arabia, donated $27 million, less that 10% of the US’s commitment.

We should pressure our politicians to begin dismantling this monstrosity while concurrently providing humanitarian aid by legitimate and neutral relief agencies. And the schools should be reformed to teach civility, not hatred.

The end of UNWRA, defeating Hamas militarily, and safely returning the remaining hostages will lessen the grief we all have suffered in the days after October 7.

The Jewish people deserve no less.

Max Kleinman of Fairfield was the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest from 1995 to 2014. He is the president of the Fifth Commandment Foundation and consultant for the Jewish Community Legacy Project.

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