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May 28, 2004 - Image 27

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2004-05-28

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Editorials are posted and archived
on JN Online:

The End Of Relief

Dry Bones



n a recent opinion page article in Le Monde,
the prestigious French newspaper, a top official
of the United Nations Relief and Works
Agency (UNRWA) invited readers to walk with him
along the streets of the Palestinian refugee camps in
the Gaza Strip to see for themselves the squalor of
the airless homes, the overcrowded schools, the end-
less dirt, the omnipresent bugs and rats.
How, he asked, could the world have allowed its
annual aid to these poor people to slip to $70 per
person per year from already inadequate $200?
Well, sure. But ask the Nigerian living 200 feet
from an endlessly noisome highway in Lagos in a
pup tent made of small branches and plastic sheet-
ing if his life would not be better if he had
that $70. Offer it to the blind beggar in
Calcutta or the family picking through the
trash heaps of Manila or the peasant
woman kicked out of her village in China because
she tested positive for HIV and see if the response is
gratitude — or the desire to kill a Jew, any Jew.
The official wrote of the hopelessness he saw on
the streets of Rafah. Actually, he was missing the
truth, which is that his own agency has encouraged
a false hope, the belief that these people will, one
day, "return" to their "homeland" in what is now
Israel. That belief — dating back to their 1948 deci-
sion to reject the U.N. partition of Palestine and to
flee in anticipation that Arab armies would quickly
destroy tiny Israel — continues to stand in the way
of their ability to take control of their own destiny.
While the U.N relief agency kept pouring money
into the refugee establishment and underwriting
corrupt leaders, the Zionists made the desert bloom
with less help — no, make that no help — from the
global community. The Palestinians had the United
Nations; the Israelis had only their Jewish nation, a
people who were still reeling from a Holocaust that ,
the world chose to ignore.


Of course, Israel is hurting itself
when its efforts to stem the vast
flow of arms and ammunition
through the tunnels linking Egypt
to Rafah include the deaths of
innocents. No one wants to kill
people, even those walking along
with chants of how Allah will allow
them to wipe out not just the
Jewish state bin the Jewish nation
as well on their path to imposing
Islam on the world.
Missiles are terrible weapons,
particularly when they land in a
crowd of men, women
and children. But the
world, watching CNN's
endless video loops of
Palestinians carrying their wound-
ed and dying to ambulances in
Rafah, should not forget the ambu=
lances around the bombed buses in
Jerusalem and the restaurants in
Tel Aviv. Neither side has a
monopoly on senseless suffering.
Perhaps after 50-plus years of
failing to fix the problem by doling
out aid, UNRWA might ask itself
whether the failure is because of
Israeli tanks and helicopters or
because its own operations are
flawed. Instead of encouraging a
culture of dependency, the agency
could have spent the money on
providing education that would
able to say. Maybe that makes for a meaningful life
have helped the Palestinians build a forward-looking
for UNRWA officials who will draw their salaries
and write opinion pieces. But it doesn't lead the
Of course the conditions in the Palestinian camps
Palestinians out of the dead end in which they live
are miserable. No one says they are not. The prob-
lem with UNRWA is that that is all it seems to be


,t• \,


Taking The Initiative

Community Perspective


arlier this month, I had the opportunity to
spend time with 100 children from Detroit's
Latino community at Tamarack's Camp Maas.
I went on a Friday with Alyssa Simko, who attends the
Jewish Academy of Metro Detroit with me, along with
Orian York and his mother, Nitzana, the Detroit
Jewish Initiative coordinator for the Jewish
Community Council of Metropolitan Detroit.
I had no idea what to expect. So when the buses car-

Noah Curhan, 15, is the son of Michael and Suzan
Curhan of West Bloomfield. He's a ninth grader at
JAMD. The Harms Camping Weekend, in its sixth
year, is sponsored by the JCCouncirs Detroit Jewish
Initiative, the Kaufman Memorial Trust and the con-
tribution of a private donor.

rying the children and faculty of Harms
Elementary rolled up to the village, I felt a
mixture of anxiousness and fear.
On one hand, I was looking forward to
the weekend and giving the kids a time that
they would remember for the rest of their
lives. On the other, I feared the kids would
not listen, that someone would say the
wrong thing at the wrong time or the
weather would not cooperate.
Before I knew it, kids of different ethnic
backgrounds, primarily Latino, were rum-
bling off the bus like an avalanche, and the
other chaperones and I, as well as the adults
who were helping out, helped the kids drop
off their luggage. After Shabbat dinner, with
the kids bouncing off the walls, we some-
how settled them down and gave than their
CURHAN on page 28

Noah Curhan with Harms Elementary students at Camp Maas.

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