Inflating Palestinian Refugee Numbers?

July 24, 2018

3 min read

Members of Congress are demanding to see a report that could change the entire Middle East political picture by answering one simple question: Has the attempt to produce a solution to the Israel-Palestinian problem been predicated on inflating the number of Palestinian refugees?  And in addition, has the answer been hidden to fuel a multi-billion dollar political agenda, one which gives the Palestinians the upper-hand in peace negotiations?

The report was compiled under the Obama administration in 2015 but was immediately classified. According to a report in the Washington Free Beacon published in January, that report is still being kept under wraps by the State Department. A Freedom of Information Act request, a lawsuit, and a letter from 51 members of Congress to Donald Trump have all tried to convince President Trump to declassify the report. U.S. lawmakers are demanding to see it due to the implications concerning the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The report is all of five pages long and its basis is simple. In normal parlance, a refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country and cannot return because of persecution, war or violence. When Israel declared itself a nation in 1948, an estimated 700,000 Arabs fled the newly-formed state. Approximately 750,000-850,000 Jews either fled or were expelled from Arab countries at around the same time, although they were absorbed into Israel.

When the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was established in 1949 to aid Palestinian refugees, the definition of ‘refugee’ was expanded to include all patrilineal descendants of any Arab that had lived in Israel for at least two years prior to being displaced by Israel’s War of  Independence in 1948. As a result of this open-ended inherited refugee status, the number of Palestinian refugees has grown and UNRWA now claims there are an estimated 5.3 million registered patrilineal descendants of the original “Palestine refugees.”

According to the report in the Washington Free Beacon, the report hidden away by the State Department determines the number of Palestinian refugees who personally fled Israel as per the normal definition of the term ‘refugee,’ at around 20,000.

It has also been criticized for prolonging the UNRWA’s raison d’etre and swelling its pool of recipients. UNRWA is a big business. It is the United Nations’ largest agency. It is the only UN agency dedicated to helping refugees from a specific region or conflict and its recipients receive more than twice the per capita aid of any other refugees. The UNHCR formed in 1950, is the main organization through which the world’s other refugees are aided. The UNHCR has a specific mandate to aid its refugees to eliminate their refugee status by local integration in current country, resettlement in a third country or repatriation.

By remaining under the auspices of the UNRWA, the conflict between the Palestinians and Israel is artificially prolonged. The Palestinian Authority insists on the right of return for all 5.3 million of UNRWA Palestinians as a precondition to negotiations. This would be demographic suicide for Israel, a country of 6.5 million Jews.

To prevent this, Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu recently called for UNRWA to be abolished and for the Palestinian refugees to fall under the auspices of the UNHCR.

U.S. lawmakers are demanding to see the report because they have their own questions concerning UNRWA. The U.S. has given an estimated $4.8 billion to UNRWA since 1950.

Sen. Ted Cruz, (R-TX) told the Free Beacon that access to the report was necessary for Congress to provide oversight for American taxpayers.

“UNRWA lashes out against America and engages in antisemitic incitement. Hamas terrorists use UNRWA facilities to target Israeli civilians,” Cruz was reported as saying. “The American people deserve to see this reported State Department assessment, so Congress and the administration can have a transparent and productive debate about America’s role in the organization.”

“The American people deserve to see the numbers inside the State Department assessment,” Cruz  told Emily Benedek of Algemeiner last week, “so Congress and the Administration can have a transparent and productive debate about America’s role in the organization.”

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