As has been amply reported in mainstream news, US president Trump has dramatically reduced US ‘aid’ to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. This, we are correctly told, deals a devastating blow to the principal agency supporting Palestinian refugees. But the money is, nonetheless, aid, right? It is assistance. Charity. A hand-out. Thank heavens for the US for having done so much to keep the refugees afloat.
That this is a reasonable public interpretation of events demonstrates how deeply the mass media has sunk into the mythical Israel-Palestine ‘Narrative’.
Palestinians do not need or want US hand-outs. They need us to stop crippling their own, historically self-sufficient society. We are the robber baron who strips a stranger naked at gunpoint and then expects him to jump in gratitude when we throw him the crust of our stale sandwich.
When Zionist colonization began in the early 1880s, Palestine, like most of the world, was largely agrarian, but not stagnant: Palestinian agricultural and industrial productivity had expanded in the nineteenth century. But Zionist colonization was not immigration as the word is commonly understood; it was the extra-nationalization of the land, the expropriation of land, labor, and resources. Palestinian resistance was not resistance to the presence of foreigners per se, but to their being extra-nationalized from their own land.
Following the official political and military benediction of the Zionist settler project with the 1917 Balfour Declaration and its incorporation into the League of Nations, the tactic of starving non-Jews off the land accelerated, and British Mandate laws forbidding such discrimination were simply ignored. Attempts to enforce non-discrimination were met with terror.
“I should hate to think,” Sir Charles Parkinson wrote in 1935 in reference to the settlers’ destruction of the livelihoods of non-Jews, “that ten years hence our successors … should say that perhaps in 1935 if we had had the courage we might have saved the situation.”
Not only did no one “have the courage,” but matters worsened in those ten years. US president Franklin Roosevelt’s death in 1945 brought Harry Truman and the shift of principal Zionist patronage from London to Washington, DC — as it remains today.
Even before Truman’s presidency, US intelligence made plain the Zionist destruction of the Palestinian economy and the farce of Zionism having made the desert bloom. A 1943 US report assailed “the crude conception” being spread of the Palestinians as “a nomad tent-dweller … with a little seasonal agriculture,” as being “too absurd to need refutation.” Citing the Palestinians’ priority for education and interest in modern agricultural techniques, the report noted the irony that it was from them that Zionist settlers learned, for example, the cultivation of Jaffa oranges that became such an important trade for the settlers, culminating with Israel’s theft of the entire Palestinian industry in 1948 — land, orchards, machinery, trade, and labor. Whereas the Palestinians were self-sufficient, the Zionists settlements exist on massive external financing. Should their overseas sponsors ever tire of supporting the settlers, the intelligence report concluded, “the venture [Zionism] will collapse like a pricked balloon.”
Palestinian ‘aid’ to Israel was total in 1948. Despite the vast infusion of foreign capital into the Zionist settler project, and despite its claims of modern efficiency, it was in the end its wholesale theft of the Palestinians’ worldly possessions that saved the Israeli state from stillbirth: the Palestinians’ land, homes, assets, money, orchards, quarries, 10,000 acres of vineyards, 25,000 acres of citrus groves, 10,000 business establishments, olive groves, and machinery.
Now fast-forward seventy years. Today, Israel reaps vast financial rewards from its theft of Palestinian natural resources, through its control of the Palestinian taxes, tourism, and trade, through captive Palestinian labor to produce “Israeli” products, and through international aid to the non-entity inappropriately called the Palestinian Authority, money that in truth is welfare to save Israel from paying for its own occupation.
The US remains Israel’s principal benefactor, financially and politically, and thus the principal underwriter of Israel’s anti-Palestinian terror. US political and economic ‘aid’ to Israel enables it to keep five million once-productive people destitute, leading lost lives in the squalor of scattered refugee camps, because — and solely because — they are the wrong ethnicity. The US finances and shields Israel as it reduces Gaza from a Mediterranean enclave with fertile land, fertile seas, and easy sea trade, into a sadistic prison starving under economic collapse.
So let’s call it what it is. The money the US gives to UNRWA is not ‘aid.’ It is an infinitesimal downpayment on restitution owed.
Tell this to the refugees whose only hope of survival is now UNRWA: Yes, we’re the reason your homes and worldly belongings were stolen, your livelihood destroyed; Yes, we helped ethnically cleanse you by corrupting the UN vote in 1947 and continue to be the Security Council bully; Yes, we subsidize the country that keeps you prisoner in a camp, enforces a deadly blockade and siege, destroys your infrastructure so you drown in sewage, and yes, we supply the weapons that bomb your family when you’ve no longer any place to go. In short, yes, we’re the reason you’re a refugee in a camp dependent on charity. But be fair — the US is a beacon of generosity. Admit it — for years, we’ve been giving you hand-outs — charity — aid — so you don’t starve altogether.
But, we’ve been thinking … why should we be so generous, when you refuse to be a partner for peace? Come to the negotiating table, and we’ll continue sending you scraps. Is that really too much to ask?
1. For 19th century production see e.g., Charles Smith, Palestine and the Arab-Israeli Conflict: A History with Documents, 22-23.
2. Parkinson quote from The National Archives, Kew, CO 733/272/12, verso of penciled ‘11’.
3. The National Archives, Kew, FO 1093/330, “Latest Aspects of the Palestine Zionist-Arab Problem.”
4. In the West Bank, economic activity, imports, and exports, are all controlled by Israel. Israel’s blatantly illegal theft of the Palestinians’ natural resources, for example acquirers and Dead Sea minerals, continues unchecked. Israel makes itself the principal profiteer of the lucrative tourist industry on Palestinian land, for example to the traditional site of Christ’s birth, and to the Dead Sea. The issue of ‘Israeli’ products made in Palestine is two-fold: one, products made in Israeli settlements (e.g., wine, well-reported in MW here, here, & here); and two, even more egregiously, Palestinians, left with no alternative, effectively forced to work in low-pay Israeli West Bank factories, making ‘Israeli’ products. The author witnessed this in the northernmost West Bank in 2008.