How does the West respond to the obvious exploitation of Palestinian refugees? Soon after my meeting with Mr. Abbas's chief of staff, I met with the ambassador of one of the West's most enlightened countries. I asked: Why are the Palestinians not willing to help their own refugees? "I can understand them," he answered. "After all, they don't want the refugee problem to be taken off the agenda."
This reflexive "understanding" for the Palestinian leaders' abuse of their own people is the heart of the problem. For decades, the international community has actively assisted in building the terrorists' unique system of control -- over where Palestinians live and in what conditions, and over what they think -- by allowing terrorists to turn the refugee camps into the center of the Palestinian war machine. Instead of working to relieve the refugees' misery, the United Nations has dedicated an entire agency, UNRWA, to perpetuating it. For the rest of the world's refugees, the U.N. works tirelessly to improve their conditions, to relocate them, and to help them rebuild their lives as quickly as possible. With the Palestinians, the U.N. does exactly the opposite, granting refugee status to the great-grandchildren of people displaced in 1948, doing nothing to dismantle the camps, and acting as facilitators for the terrorists' goal of grinding an entire civilian population under their thumb. Nowhere on earth do terrorists get so much help from the Free World.
It is not only the refugee camps that the West has helped sustain. For years, Hamas in Gaza -- like Hezbollah in Lebanon, and like the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat -- has been amassing huge stockpiles of weaponry, most of it under the noses of Western observers who are meant to prevent the import of such weapons. It's as if we are telling the terrorists: Go on, build your armies, prepare for war. We understand.
The same can be said about the use of children as human shields. Where was the West when Palestinian leaders were actively transforming their children's classrooms into indoctrination centers for martyrdom?
And so, invariably, the script is played out: Hamas fires its missiles, Israel responds with military force in Gaza, children are killed, their pictures are played countless times on televisions in the West, articles are published saying both sides are evil, and Israel is pressured to stop.
Whether this war will bring about lasting change, or just provide another breather before the next battle, depends to a very large degree on the Free World. A successful Israeli campaign -- in which Hamas is eliminated as the controlling force in Gaza -- will bring an unprecedented opportunity for Western leaders to change the rules of the game when it comes to Palestinian civilians. It's time for the West to recognize the human rights of Palestinians -- not only when they are suffering in war.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
From today's Wall Street Journal: