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Select Committee on International Development Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Joy Wolfe, President, Manchester Zionist Central Council

INTRODUCTION

  I am very involved in the British Zionist community and actively involved in Media Response regarding the current situation in the Middle East.

  I am a freelance journalist. I am 64 years old, married with three married children and five grandchildren.

  I am a magistrate, a school governor and the governor of a college for students with special needs and learning difficulties

  I travel frequently to Israel, and I am in regular contact with many organisations in Israel and around the world who take an active interest in the current situation.

  I keep myself informed from both sides of the conflict, receiving material from both pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian organisations

  I lecture publicly to Jewish and non Jewish audiences.

  While it would be clear to everyone that I come to this with a clear affinity to Israel, I am deeply aware of the suffering of the Palestinian people, who I feel have been badly misled and mistreated by their own leadership since 1948, when the opportunity to have their own state first was on the table. Over the years the many other opportunities offered by the various treaties, agreements and handshakes on the White House lawn have prevented the Palestinian State from coming into being.

  It is virtually universally agreed, other than by extreme right wing Israelis and their supporters, that a two state solution is the answer. This has been accepted by Ariel Sharon and the Israeli Government, and the only missing piece of the jigsaw is a Palestinian Authority willing to be a real partner for peace.

  It is interesting to note there are many organisations in Israel which promote the cause of the Palestinians, as befits a true democracy. What appears to be seriously lacking are any similar moves within the Palestinian community.

  There are many groups growing now who want to promote dialogue and understanding. I hope that the view of the Select Committee will be to promote this type of interaction.

  I am submitting several documents which I believe to be relevant to the Select Committee's deliberations. (Not printed).

  I believe a clear message has to go out to both sides that for too long has been devoted to the fighting, the incitement, the education of a new young generation to hate, and that it is now time to get back to negotiations that will bring a real breakthrough in the peace process.

  It will be better to concentrate on that aspect, rather than continuing recriminations, apportionment of blame etc.

  I apologise if it is felt that some of this submission in the attachments is not strictly relevant, but hope that due consideration will be given to this evidence.

  Finally, while I am sure the recent International Monetary Fund report on the finances of the Palestinian authority will already have been drawn to the attention of the committee I am adding a reference to it again to be sure that it is not overlooked.

OVERVIEW

  Clearly a major issue in all of this is that of the refugees.

  The question needs to be asked as to why there is still a refugee population, in undoubtedly highly unsatisfactory living conditions, 55 years after the original setting up of the State of Israel by a UN vote.

  At the same time that there were approximately an estimated 850,000 Palestinian refugees, a very similar number of Jewish refugees were kicked out of Arab lands with no more than what they could carry.

  There has been a history of refugee populations around the world for many years.

  All of them, with the exception of the Palestinians, have been allowed to integrate in the countries where they have settled, and been encouraged to live decent, productive lives. Not so the Palestinians who have been forced by their callous leaders to live in squalor, as political pawns.

  It should be noted that it was an Arab sponsored UN resolution that prevented Israel from improving the housing conditions of the refugees in Gaza. It was the same situation, when Libya offered to rehouse a large number of the Palestinians.

  It should not be forgotten that Palestinians were forcibly ejected from countries such as Lebanon, Kuwait and Jordan.

  Yet no-one seeks retribution for them.

  If a tiny proportion of the money from countries around the world, including Israel itself, that the Committee is now investigating, had gone for the purpose for which it was intended, namely to improve the infrastructure in the Palestinian Authority and to give the Palestinian people a better quality of life, then this Select Committee Inquiry would not have been necessary.

  Instead the money was siphoned off by Yasser Arafat, used to fund the corruption in his regime and to fund the terrorists, and to boost his personal fortune, said to be in billions.

  Up until 2000 when the Second Intifada was launched in response to the then Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak's peace offer, most of the territory in dispute was already under Palestinian control. Yet there was absolutely no attempt to improve living standards, education, health care or any other aspect of Palestinian life.

  If there is to be a positive outcome from this and other investigations into the reality of the current situation, very strong directives will need to be given to ensure that improving the lot of the refugees is top of the priority list.

  It is absolutely clear that there cannot and will not be a Right of Return for a claimed 6-7 million refugees, a clearly unrealistic and inflated figure.

  Compromises have to be found and a real effort made to promote peaceful negotiations.

  Israel has long ago accepted the concept of the Two State solution as the only way forward.

  It is the Palestinians who consistently refuse to accept this, removing Israel from maps in their text books and atlases.

  Those countries who genuinely seek a peaceful solution will need to put pressure on the Palestinians to be willing to compromise and get back to the negotiating table.

  Organisations such as UNRWA have exacerbated the situation rather than ameliorated it. They have turned a blind eye to terrorism in the camps and appear to have a biased and unfair attitude towards Israel. They have to be made to act as honest brokers and properly monitor and administer the situation. The question has to be asked, how did 200 terrorists find a haven in the Jenin refugee camp when it was under UNRWA control, how were bomb making factories allowed to go undetected, and how was it that all the homes were booby trapped under the very noses of UNRWA, without them doing one single thing to control this outrage?

  UNRWA has never tried to fulfil its mandate of resettling refugees, but instead created the world's only "hereditary refugees". The Jewish refugees from Arab countries, who were persecuted out of their homes, have resettled around the world and mainly in Israel without any specific international aid or compensation. A similar number of Palestinians who chose to flee rather than make peace with the State of Israel remain refugees and often live in poor conditions in cities designated as refugee camps in the Middle East.

  UNRWA is largely responsible for running the administrative services in these camps, and have never created an environment or incentive for these "refugees" to integrate into their host environment. In fact, they helped the Arab host environments—including the Palestinian Authority—to deliberately prevent such integration, using these people as political pawns in the effort to eliminate the State of Israel.

  UNRWA allowed its camps to become armed militant enclaves, using civilians as human shields and cover, in direct contravention of the Geneva Conventions. UNRWA employees, including teachers and others, were associated with terrorist organisations. The UNRWA schools became places where children were inculcated with the glorification of violence and the aspiration to become suicide bombers and perpetrate crimes against humanity. UNRWA became a mouthpiece for the Palestinian narrative—a gross example being their determination to actively promote the lie of a "massacre" in Jenin, even long after it had been disproved.

  The sad thing is that the real losers in this process are the ordinary people. The Palestinians upon whom so much money has been spent, but do not feel the results. They are still refugees in a poor, broken economy when they should be productive citizens of a peaceful, thriving Palestinian entity. The Israelis who have suffered the pains of terrorist attacks and the accompanying economic hardships of a shrinking economy as a result of war.

  Why have other charitable organisations who are moving in to help the financial crisis caused by the Palestinian refusal to make peace not learned the lesson? Christian Aid, the World Council of Churches, War Against Want and others are all adopting the Palestinian narrative, and actively peddling the story that Israel is to blame for all the ills of Palestinian society. UNRWA managed to fool its donors for many years, but I wonder now that the UNRWA donors have woken up, whether the self-destructive path that UNRWA followed will not be shorter for Christian Aid, War Against Want and others.

  Christian Aid has issued reports which rightly highlight the plight of the average Palestinian resident of the West Bank and Gaza. They are very careful to follow the Palestinian narrative as closely as possible, blaming Israel for all hardships and in no way accounting for the legitimate legal and moral reasons that Israel may have for the actions it takes. The solutions are for Israel to take suicidal steps and withdraw from all disputed territories (and presumably wait for its citizens to be murdered in their beds). They fund political actions and visits and call press conferences comparing Gaza to the Warsaw ghetto. In short—they are following the UNRWA path.

  Christian Aid, Save the Children, Oxfam and War on Want should all be encouraged to stop pointing the finger only at Israel, but to actively lobby the Palestinian leadership and ask them to take practical steps to resettle refugees rather than waste their donors money on pushing a political barrel.

  Then, and only then, can the Palestinians look forward to a better future, and a state of their own alongside Israel, reaping the benefits that peace with their neighbour would bring.

POSTSCRIPT

  Today, Tuesday 18 November, the European Auditors refused to sign off an audit on the European Union funding.

  In their announcement the auditors said "Only 10% of the European funding can be accounted for." This is the third year running they have refused to ratify the accounts which clearly brings into question any claims being made to the Select Committee in evidence that the EU's money to the Palestinian Authority has been properly monitored and accounted for.

ADDENDUM

  When considering the evidence I have submitted I wish to draw your attention to some background documents you already have on file from Dr Rachel Ehrenfeld which give detailed evidence of the misuse of funds, particularly those from the EU, and also a recent document from the International Monetary Fund which highlights the misuse of funds.

  The EU itself has admitted the total inadequacy of the auditing procedure which should have been monitoring the use of the funds regularly given to the Palestinian Authority. It has now been publicly stated that no such auditing or monitoring was actually taking place.

  I would also like to refer to the evidence given by Mr Alan Seatter.

  One of the points he made was that the EU ensures transparency and accountability within the PA through 54 internal auditors and the IMF.

  I would respectfully draw the Committee's attention to the fact that the IMF has issued a report publicly stating that it has not been able to properly audit or verify any of the monies the EU have handed over to the Palestinian Authority.

  Similarly the EU has publicly admitted that its auditing system falls woefully short of the standards needed to be able to give any assurances that the money given to the PA goes for the purposes intended and have said they could not vouch for the fact that some of it could be misused or diverted.

  It is for that reason that on quite a number of occasions payments have been withheld pending further investigation.

  Reference has been made to the fact that Israel is behind with some of its payments to the Palestinian Authority. It is worth noting that regular payments have been being made since 2002 and that Israel has not only handed over large sums of monies due, but also, at the beginning of the negotiations when it looked as if peace was a real possibility and Israel withdrew from most of the territories, handing them over to PA control, Israel was among those international countries who donated money to the PA in an effort to ensure the PA had the means to improve the living standards and quality of life of the Palestinian people. (It needs to be acknowledged that it is a very ironic situation that Israel should be regularly paying over money to an Authority which is actively encouraging terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens.)

  If that money had, indeed, been used for the purpose for which it was intended, the Palestinians would have been able to experience the tangible benefits of peace. Sadly they have seen little or no benefit, so it is not surprising they are bitter and resentful, choosing to incorrectly blame Israel instead of their own leadership.

  Several appendices were also submitted, which have not been printed. Copies have been placed in the House of Commons Library.

November 2003


 
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