I recently returned home from an unforgettable, two-week trip to Israel with the Young Jewish Conservatives. While there we spoke to members of the Israeli Knesset and Foreign Ministry, and traveled to parts of Israel—such as Hebron and Sderot—that most American groups never get to see because they are either politically incorrect or dangerous.
Here are 7 fascinating things I learned there that are worth sharing:
1.) I had the opportunity to visit the headquarters of “Save a Child’s Heart,” an Israeli medical charity that performs pediatric heart surgery for non-Jewish children in desperate need of help, free of charge. Since its inception in 1995, the organization has literally saved the lives of 3,000 non-Jewish children, 50% of whom came from Gaza, the West Bank and Iraq.
When I heard these statistics I could not believe it. I asked a worker there if this amazing organization helps the image of Israel in the Palestinian territories, as “Save a Child’s Heart” certainly assists many families who despise the Jewish State. She responded: “We hope so.”
2.) There are two UN refugee agencies in the world: First is the United Nations Relief and Works Administrations (UNRWA) for 5 million Palestinian refugees (which includes the descendants of the original 500,000 Palestinian refugees from the Israeli War of Independence) which employs 30,000 workers. The UNRWA has resettled no Palestinians.
The second refugee agency is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which assists every other refugee in the world–including 100 million displaced people during the last 50 years–and employs 7,000 people. The UNHCR has resettled tens of millions of refugees.
Looking at these numbers, one would think that the cause of the Palestinians is some how morally superior to that of all other war refugees. After all, why have so many more workers been assisting a dramatically smaller group of people? But if the Palestinians are unique it is only because of their moral inferiority, as they are the only group of refugees that regularly commit acts of terrorism against innocent civilians.
Another obvious question: why hasn’t the UNRWA resettled any of the Palestinian refugees? The answer, of course, is that the surrounding Arab states would rather have these refugees remain a thorn in Israel’s side, than help them start a new life. The UNRWA is happy to oblige.
3.) A couple interesting facts about the political right in Israel:
There are many on the Israeli political right who do not value the American-Israel relationship, and think it causes more harm than good (they are not big fans of AIPAC). And they are not just talking about the Obama era. Many of them, including Moshe Feiglin (Netanyahu’s political rival in Likud), think that America attaches too many strings to its support; they think that America routinely coerces Israel into making one-sided concessions; and they think that Israel needs to become independent of America, and more self-reliant in the international arena. In fact, Mr. Feiglin told us that he does not care if Romney or Obama wins the election, as Israel can take care of itself. Many of us in the YJC challenged his opinion, but to no avail.
Another interesting dynamic in Israeli politics was relayed to us by Gil Hoffman, the Chief Political Correspondent of the Jerusalem post. He told us that there are also many on the right in Israel who actually want President Obama to be re-elected because he has proven himself to be a failure with regard to the peace process, and they are therefore confident Israel will not relinquish any land as long as he is president. Conversely, they fear that Netanyahu would trust a President Romney, which could accelerate the peace process, eventually leading to Israeli concessions. Mr. Hoffman told us, “There is no peace process because of the President of the United States.” For this reason, many on the Israeli left are worried Obama will win re-election.
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