In a recent Tweet, UNRWA displayed how blatantly absurd the claims about Palestinian refugees really are, and how anti-Semitic the UN really is.
How Many Refugees Are There Really?
In a tweet posted last week, UNRWA stated, “Palestine refugees are defined as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.”
The next paragraph describes the aid UNRWA provides, noting that when they were founded in 1950, “it was responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees.”
The definition as presented in the post is consistent with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees definition which states, “someone who is unable or unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.” The UNHCR is responsible for all refugees from every country with one notable exception: Arab refugees who left Israel during the 1948 and 1967 wars for which UNRWA was created.
The post then notes that “today, some 5.7 million Palestine refugees are eligible for UNRWA services.”
The current number of refugees claimed by UNRWA is clearly absurd. According to the post, the number has increased over sevenfold in the course of the past 70 years. But this figure is grossly inaccurate. In 2018, a State Department report disclosed by the Washington Free Beacon recorded that of the estimated 800,000 original Arab refugees from the 1948 War of Independence, around 20,000 of the original 800,000 refugees are still alive today.
The discrepancy is due to the post misrepresenting the full UNRWA definition of a Palestinian refugee which adds that “the descendants of Palestine refugee males, including adopted children, are also eligible for registration as refugees.”
Intentionally Extending the Conflict
Due to this multi-generational addendum, UNRWA has created a situation in which the conflict between the Jews and Palestinians will be perpetuated indefinitely and actually increase with time as new generations are born. This clause is also problematic as the Palestinian Authority has demanded that the right of return be a non-negotiable pre-condition to negotiations with Israel. An influx of 5.7 million Arabs would present an existential demographic threat to Israel as the Jewish state. It is precisely this UNRWA definition of refugee status that has proven to be one of the insurmountable obstacles to a peace agreement.
It was this untenable definition that led Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018 to call for the UNHCR to take over the mandate of the “Palestinian refugees” from UNRWA. Eight months later, President Donald Trump’s administration announced that it was completely defunding UNRWA. One of the reasons given was that as the number of “refugees” being served by UNRWA increased geometrically, funding for the organization also increased at an ever-increasing rate.
“The fundamental business model and fiscal practices that have marked UNRWA for years – tied to UNRWA’s endlessly and exponentially expanding community of entitled beneficiaries – is simply unsustainable and has been in crisis mode for many years,” the US government statement said.
Citizens of Foreign Countries or Refugees?
The recent UNRWA post goes on:
“Nearly one-third of registered Palestine refugees live in 58 recognized Palestine refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and the Gaza Strip and the West Bank including East Jerusalem. The remaining two-thirds live in and around the cities and towns of the host countries, and in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, often in the environs of official camps. Each Palestine refugee camp is different. What they share in common is are generally poor socioeconomic conditions, high population density, cramped living conditions, and inadequate basic infrastructure such as roads and sewers.
“A Palestine refugee camp is defined as a plot of land placed at the disposal of UNRWA by the host government to accommodate Palestine refugees and set up facilities to cater to their needs.”
It is important to note that the UNHCR definition states that if a person fleeing persecution has acquired citizenship or the rights of citizenship in a country in which they have sought refuge, he or she would not be eligible to receive refugee status. Under the UNHCR definition, almost all of the people served by UNRWA would lose their refugee status.
UNRWA’s website, which last updated its numbers in March 2018, says the organization has registered 2.2 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan; 560,000 in Syria, of whom an estimated 438,000 live in the country; 521,592 in Lebanon, of whom 260,000 to 280,000 reside there; 1.34 million in Gaza; and some 818,000 in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In all, that makes for 5.44 million Palestinians registered as refugees; when those no longer living in Syria and Lebanon are deducted, the total is 5.07 million.
After Jordan took over the West Bank in 1949, it granted all Palestinians within its borders citizenship. More than 90 percent of 2.2 million Palestinians who UNRWA has registered as refugees have Jordanian citizenship, which, under the UNHCR definition, would disqualify them from claiming refugee status.
Under Law 260, Syrian legislation passed in 1956, Palestinians in Syria registered by UNRWA as refugees enjoy most of the rights of Syrians with the major exceptions of suffrage and citizenship and the 425,000 Palestinians in Syria would be disqualified from claiming refugee status.
The status of the Palestinians living in Gaza and Judea and Samaria would also be questioned. Gaza has an independent government and, according to UNRWA figures, there are 1.4 million registered refugees out of total population of 1.9 million. In other words, 73 percent of the Palestinians living in Gaza have refugee status despite being citizens. Similarly, the 828,000 registered refugees who live in Judea and Samaria are citizens of the Palestinian Authority, have voting rights, and are subject to the laws of that governing body.
It should also be noted that the UNHCR often resettles refugees who cannot return to their home country. UNRWA has failed to enact this option in the 70 years it has been in existence and has, in fact, gone to great expense to ensure this does not happen.
Despite the massive funding and the establishment of a totally separate institution to cope with the 750,000 Arabs who fled Israel, no such efforts were put into helping the plight of the 800,000 Jews who were expelled from their native Arab and Muslim nations from 1948-1951. Many fled anti-Semitic government-sanctioned pogroms. Most were forced to leave behind their property. Approximately 500,000 of these refugees from Iraq, Tunisia, Syria, Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, Libya, and Morocco were absorbed into the new State of Israel with no UN or international aid being offered.