A recent lengthy article in the New York Times Magazine described life in Shuafat, a slum located within the borders of Jerusalem but outside the security barrier that, over the past decade, has greatly reduced the ability of terrorists to strike Israel. Shuafat’s poverty stems in part from its being outside the jurisdiction of both the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority and in part from its being administered by the United Nations, whose mandate is to perpetuate the suffering of its Palestinian residents. Jonathan Tobin writes:
People are in Shuafat and every other Palestinian refugee camp because the Arab world and its leaders and organizations have kept them there for some 68 years. In the years that followed World War II, . . . the United Nations set up two separate refugee agencies: one—UNRWA—that was solely devoted to the Palestinians and one for [the millions of other refugees] in the world. The latter was successful in caring for and finding new homes for its charges. UNRWA kept the Palestinians in the camps, and the Arab nations and Palestinian groups have ensured that this remains the case up until the present day. The sole purpose of keeping the refugees and their descendants—who now number in the millions—in place was to use them as a weapon against Israel. They sit in camps like Shuafat still being told that someday they will return to their old places of residence when Israel ceases to be a Jewish state.
That the camps have become awful slums is a function of the refusal of the world body, or the Arab world, to contemplate any solution other than the so-called “right of return,” which would mean the destruction of Israel. That they are not only poverty-stricken but hotbeds of anti-Israel extremism and terror is hardly surprising. In Shuafat’s case, the residents’ plight was worsened by the terrorist war of attrition launched by Yasir Arafat, which forced Israel to erect a barrier that succeeded in stopping the suicide bombings. . . .
Israel may be accused of lacking sympathy for the refugees, but it lacks the power to improve conditions in Shuafat or other camps in the West Bank, let alone Hamas-run Gaza. The responsibility belongs solely to UNRWA and the Palestinian leadership, both of which remain content to continue the same cynical policies. . . . When biased media ignore this fact, the biggest losers are the refugees.