TEL AVIV — The Palestinian Authority’s war of misinformation over Trump administration policies continued full speed ahead on Wednesday, with a senior Palestinian official fancifully claiming President Donald Trump’s threat to cut aid would result in starving Palestinian “refugee” children.
The Times of Israel reports:
For years the “Palestinian leadership has engaged in good faith in numerous meetings and encounters with the US administration,” said Saeb Erekat, the longtime senior Palestinian negotiator, after a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s political committee in Ramallah.
…“Now, he is threatening to starve Palestinian children in refugee camps and deny their natural rights to health and education if we don’t endorse his terms and dictations,” Erekat said, referring to Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“Instead of treating the Palestinians with fairness, President Trump has chosen a game of blame rather being an honest broker,” Erekat said. “His statements against the Palestinian people have encouraged Israel to continue its heinous crimes and violations of International Law.”
Erekat was partially responding to Trump’s statements on Twitter on Tuesday in which he seemingly threatened to cut off U.S. financial aid to the PA.
…peace treaty with Israel. We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more. But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 2, 2018
The issue of the “refugee camps” seems to specifically refer to threats from US Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, who warned on Tuesday that if the Palestinian Authority refuses to continue peace negotiations with Israel, the Trump administration could withhold funding to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which ministers to so-called Palestinian refugees.
Erekat failed to mention that there is information UNRWA has been taking in funding for a wildly inflated number of so-called Palestinian refugees while the UN agency has been accused of using its facilities to support anti-Israel incitement and further the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Also, the definition of a Palestinian “refugee” has long been the subject of debate.
Erekat conveniently ignored perhaps the primary reasons for the poor economic conditions of many Palestinians – the PA’s own rampant financial corruption and its abject refusal to accept numerous statehood offers.
The UN Palestinian “refugee” agency, meanwhile, defines a Palestinian “refugee” in a manner that is different from all other refugees worldwide. The international body has another agency, the UNHRC, which ministers to the world’s refugees other than Palestinians. Only Palestinian “refugees” have a separate agency, UNRWA.
The UNHRC has a concrete definition of what a refugee is: “A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.”
In other words, the UNHRC defines a refugee as someone who was forced to flee his or her home and cannot return for fear of persecution.
UNRWA, however, defines a Palestinian “refugee” entirely differently. A Palestinian “refugee” is any person 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.” So UNRWA counts as “refugees” any local Arab who lived in Palestine for as little as two years, knowing that scores of Arabs immigrated to the area during those years in search of employment amid talks of creating a future Jewish state.
UNRWA states that “Palestine refugees are persons who fulfill the above definition and descendants of fathers fulfilling the definition.” This means that even if original Palestinian “refugees” long ago immigrated to another country and became citizens of that country, they and their descendants are still considered “refugees” according to UNRWA.
The definition flies in the face of what a refugee is supposed to be. It is also in direct contrast to the Convention on Refugees, which dictates that a person who “has acquired a new nationality, and enjoys the protection of the country of his new nationality” is exempted from the status of refugee.
UNRWA’s definition of a “refugee” doesn’t mention UNHCR’s “well-founded fear of being persecuted.” Indeed, the Palestinians have no fear of being persecuted by Israel, and would not be considered a “refugee” under ordinary international criteria.
The actual number of Palestinian “refugees” is in question.
The Jewish Virtual Library notes:
Many Arabs claim that 800,000 to 1,000,000 Palestinians became refugees in 1947-49. The last census was taken in 1945. It found only 756,000 permanent Arab residents in Israel. On November 30, 1947, the date the UN voted for partition, the total was 809,100. A 1949 Government of Israel census counted 160,000 Arabs living in the country after the war. This meant no more than 650,000 Palestinian Arabs could have become refugees. A report by the UN Mediator on Palestine arrived at an even lower figure — 472,000.
The Library notes that at the same time that Arabs were left stranded, about the same number of Jews were forced to leave their homes in Arab countries:
The number of Jews fleeing Arab countries for Israel in the years following Israel’s independence was roughly equal to the number of Arabs leaving Palestine. Many Jews were allowed to take little more than the shirts on their backs. These refugees had no desire to be repatriated. Little is heard about them because they did not remain refugees for long. Of the 820,000 Jewish refugees, 586,000 were resettled in Israel at great expense and without any offer of compensation from the Arab governments who confiscated their possessions.
There is evidence that scores of Arabs joined the local inhabitants and became “refugees” attended to by UNRWA when the agency began operations in May 1950 to help the Arabs impacted by the 1948 war.
That year, UNRWA’s director admitted, “a large group of indigent people totaling over 100,000 … could not be called refugees, but … have lost their means of livelihood because of the war. … The Agency felt their need … even more acute than that of the refugees.”
UNRWA’s Annual Report of the Director from July 1951-June 1952 acknowledges it was difficult to separate “ordinary nomadic Bedouins and … unemployed or indigent local residents” from genuine refugees, and that “it cannot be doubted that in many cases individuals who could not qualify as being bona fide refugees are in fact on the relief rolls.
UNRWA, meanwhile, has been caught supporting terrorism.
A February 2017 report by the UN Watch watchdog group documented that UNRWA employees were using social media to support terrorist ideology, incite against Israel and propagate anti-Semitism.
David Horovitz, editor in chief of the Times of Israel, documents some of the history of UNRWA’s alleged terror support and assistance to Hamas:
Supporters of Israel have repeatedly criticized the curriculum taught in UNRWA schools. Israel has charged in the past that UNRWA ambulances were abused by Hamas gunmen. It has charged that UNRWA employed Hamas members on its vast, 30,000-strong payroll (five times the staff of the UNHCR, with its global responsibilities), an allegation that one previous UNRWA commissioner-general seemed to acknowledge.
And most pertinently amid the Israel-Hamas war, it is Israel’s contention that UNRWA’s work indirectly facilitates both Hamas’s rule over Gaza and its war effort. With UNRWA in place to grapple with so many Gazans’ basic needs, Hamas was that much freer to redirect resources to tunnel construction and rocket manufacture, and all other aspects of the pernicious and sophisticated military mechanism Israeli troops are now doing their best to uproot.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.