January 11, 2009
Ending the West’s Proxy War Against
01.11.2009 | Wall Street Journal Europe
By GUNNAR HEINSOHN
Stop funding a Palestinian youth bulge, and the fighting will stop
As the world decries Israel’s attempt to defend itself from the rocket
attacks coming from Gaza, consider this: When Hamas routed Fatah in Gaza in
2007, it cost nearly 350 lives and 1,000 wounded. Fatah’s surrender brought
only a temporary stop to the type of violence and bloodshed that are
commonly seen in lands where at least 30% of the male population is in the
15-to-29 age bracket.
In such “youth bulge” countries, young men tend to eliminate each other or
get killed in aggressive wars until a balance is reached between their
ambitions and the number of acceptable positions available in their society.
In Arab nations such as Lebanon (150,000 dead in the civil war between 1975
and 1990) or Algeria (200,000 dead in the Islamists’ war against their own
people between 1999 and 2006), the slaughter abated only when the fertility
rates in these countries fell from seven children per woman to fewer than
two. The warring stopped because no more warriors were being born.
In Gaza, however, there has been no demographic disarmament. The average
woman still bears six babies. For every 1,000 men aged 40-44, there are
4,300 boys aged 0-4 years. In the U.S. the latter figure is 1,000, and in
the U.K. it’s only 670.
And so the killing continues. In 2005, when Israel was still an occupying
force, Gaza lost more young men to gang fights and crime than in its war
against the “Zionist enemy.” Despite the media’s obsession with the Mideast
conflict, it has cost many fewer lives than the youth bulges in West Africa,
Lebanon or Algeria. In the six decades since Israel’s founding, “only” some
62,000 people (40,000 Arabs, 22,000 Jews) have been killed in all the
Israeli-Arab wars and Palestinian terror attacks. During that same time,
some 11 million Muslims have been killed in wars and terror attacks —
mostly at the hands of other Muslims.
What accounts for the Mideast conflict’s relatively low body count? Hamas
and their ilk certainly aim to kill as many Israelis as possible. To their
indignation, the Israelis are quite good at protecting themselves. On the
other hand, Israel, despite all the talk about its “disproportionate” use of
force, is doing its utmost to spare civilian deaths. Even Hamas acknowledges
that most of the Palestinians killed by Israeli air raids are from their own
ranks. But about 10%-15% of Gaza’s casualties are women and minors — a
tragedy impossible to prevent in a densely settled area in which nearly half
the people are under 15 and the terrorists hide among them.
The reason for Gaza’s endless youth bulge is that a large majority of its
population does not have to provide for its offspring. Most babies are fed,
clothed, vaccinated and educated by UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and
Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Unlike the U.N. High
Commission for Refugees, which deals with the rest of the world’s refugees
and aims to settle them in their respective host countries, UNRWA
perpetuates the Palestinian problem by classifying as refugees not only
those who originally fled their homes, but all of their descendents as
UNRWA is benevolently funded by the U.S. (31%) and the European Union
(nearly 50%) — only 7% of the funds come from Muslim sources. Thanks to the
West’s largesse, nearly the entire population of Gaza lives in a kind of
lowly but regularly paid dependence. One result of this unlimited welfare is
an endless population boom. Between 1950 and 2008, Gaza’s population has
grown from 240,000 to 1.5 million. The West basically created a new Near
Eastern people in Gaza that at current trends will reach three million in
2040. Within that period, Gazans may alter the justifications and directions
of their aggression but are unlikely to stop the aggression itself.
The Hamas-Fatah truce of June 2007 allowed the Islamists again to direct all
their energy on attacking Israel. The West pays for food, schools, medicine
and housing, while Muslim nations help out with the military hardware.
Unrestrained by such necessities as having to earn a living, the young have
plenty of time on their hands for digging tunnels, smuggling, assembling
missiles and firing 4,500 of them at Israel since 2006. While this gruesome
activity has slowed the Palestinian internecine slaughter, it forced some
250,000 Israelis into bomb shelters.
The current situation can only get worse. Israel is being pushed into a
corner. Gazan teenagers have no future other than war. One rocket master
killed is immediately replaced by three young men for whom a martyr’s death
is no less honorable than victory. Some 230,000 Gazan males, aged 15 to 29,
who are available for the battlefield now, will be succeeded by 360,000 boys
under 15 (45% of all Gazan males) who could be taking up arms within the
coming 15 years.
As long as we continue to subsidize Gaza’s extreme demographic armament,
young Palestinians will likely continue killing their brothers or neighbors.
And yet, despite claiming that it wants to bring peace to the region, the
West continues to make the population explosion in Gaza worse every year. By
generously supporting UNRWA’s budget, the West assists a rate of population
increase that is 10 times higher than in their own countries. Much is being
said about Iran waging a proxy war against Israel by supporting Hezbollah
and Hamas. One may argue that by fueling Gaza’s untenable population
explosion, the West unintentionally finances a war by proxy against the Jews
If we seriously want to avoid another generation of war in Gaza, we must
have the courage to tell the Gazans that they will have to start looking
after their children themselves, without UNRWA’s help. This would force
Palestinians to focus on building an economy instead of freeing them up to
wage war. Of course, every baby lured into the world by our money up to now
would still have our assistance.
If we make this urgently needed reform, then by at least 2025 many boys in
Gaza — like in Algeria — would enter puberty as only sons. They would be
able to look forward to a more secure future in a less violent society.
If the West prefers calm around Gaza even before 2025, it may consider
offering immigration to those young Palestinians only born because of the
West’s well-meant but cruelly misguided aid. In the decades to come, North
America and Europe will have to take in tens of millions of immigrants
anyway to slow the aging of their populations. If, say, 200,000 of them are
taken from the 360,000 boys coming of age in Gaza in the next 15 years, that
would be a negligible move for the big democracies but a quantum leap for
peace in the Near East.
Many of Gaza’s young — like in much of the Muslim world — dream of leaving
anyway. Who would not want to get out of that strip of land but the
international NGOs and social workers whose careers depend on perpetuating
Mr. Heinsohn heads the Raphael Lemkin Institute at the University of
Bremen, Europe’s first institute devoted to comparative genocide