In George Orwell’s novel 1984, a totalitarian state tortures the protagonist into believing the blatantly false equation, 2+2 = 5.
Unfortunately, much of the world has been indoctrinated to believe another blatantly false equation – namely, the Palestinian Arab refugee math that says 20,000 refugees from 1948 = 5.3 million refugees today.
And even 20,000 may be overstated, because the Arabs who left Israel in 1948-1949 were not indigenous to Israel, were not forced out, and did not constitute refugees under any customary definition of “refugees.”
Welcome to the twilight world of the United Nations Relief & Works Agency (UNRWA) – the unique UN agency, supported largely with annual infusions of hundreds of millions of American taxpayer dollars, which relentlessly and falsely expands Palestinian-Arab refugee numbers.
It recently came to light, that, during Barack Obama’s presidency, the U.S. State Department compiled – and then classified – a report about the numbers of Palestinian refugees from the 1948-1949 Arab war against Israel.
According to a report earlier this year in the Washington Free Beacon, quoting sources who had seen the unredacted State Department document, Palestinian refugees from the war only number about 20,000 today – instead of the millions of refugees falsely claimed by UNRWA, the Palestinians, and the international media.
That means that UNRWA’s enormous staff of over 30,000 employees could be far larger than the number of Palestinian Arab refugees!
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and other lawmakers have been correctly demanding that the State Department declassify this report so that Americans can have some much-needed transparency about the UN agency that we have so generously funded decade after decade. A redacted version of the report was recently declassified and released. The full report should also finally be declassified and released.
Palestinian Arab refugee fraud has long been known.
In contrast to other UN refugee agencies, which permanently resettle refugees in third countries, UNRWA maintains and expands the number of Palestinian refugees, and allows Palestinian refugee status to be passed down from generation to generation.
The numbers are in dispute even in Arab countries. Lebanon’s recent census found fewer than 175,000 “Palestinian refugees” located in Lebanon. Yet UNRWA had nearly 500,000 “Palestinian refugees” listed in Lebanon – three times the census number.
Moreover, Palestinian Arab refugees never even qualified as refugees at all, under the customary definition of refugees, because they were not driven out of Israel. The approximately 360,000 Arabs who left Israel in 1947-1949 did so at the urging of the Arab Higher Command and other Arab leaders, to clear a path for six invading Arab armies to murder Israel’s Jews.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Said infamously thundered: “We will smash the country with our guns and obliterate every place the Jews seek shelter in. The Arabs should conduct their wives and children to safe areas until the fighting has died down.”
Official British police reports and contemporaneous news accounts confirmed that Israel urged Arabs to remain in Israel (and substantial numbers did so and became full citizens of Israel).
Further, under UNRWA’s unique rules, Arabs only had to reside or work in Israel for two years (1946-1948) to be considered “Palestinian refugees.” Thus, the huge influx of Arabs into Israel from their indigenous homes in Egypt, North Africa, Syria and the Arabian peninsula shortly before 1948 ended up becoming “Palestinian refugees.” Common last names of “Palestinian refugees” such as al Masri (meaning from Egypt) and Mughrabi (meaning from the Magreb, North Africa), reveal their origin.
In the 1800s, Israel was largely barren — hence the famous slogan describing that area as “a land without a people for a people without a land.” The Arabs were attracted to Israel by the economic improvements brought by the Jews, who were resettling and developing the land, and by the British mandate (1922-1948), which discriminated against Jews, and in favor of employing Arabs.
The redacted State Department report also reveals that “New information on births, marriages, deaths, and change in place of residence is recorded only when a refugee requests the updating of the family registration card issued by UNRWA.” That means that people who have died or moved away can remain on UNRWA’s refugee rolls forever.
But the worst problem of all is that UNRWA has encouraged Palestinian extremism. Its school teachers have incited jihadist terrorism and antisemitism, including by posting pictures celebrating Hitler; its textbooks erase Israel from their maps and teach Palestinians to murder Jews; its schools have been used to stockpile Hamas rockets for launching at Israel; and its facilities have been used to launch terror attacks against Israel.
It is time to end the travesty of American taxpayers footing much of the bill for a bloated UN agency that foments antisemitism and terrorism.
Thankfully, the Trump administration and our lawmakers are paying more attention nowadays to the issues of U.S. taxpayer support for UNRWA, and UNRWA’s failings.
In January, the Trump administration withheld for future consideration $65 million out of a $125 million U.S. annual pledge to UNRWA. According to unconfirmed reports, Trump administration officials, including senior adviser Jared Kushner, are considering much-needed transformative steps, possibly including transferring UNRWA’s functions to entities that will resettle (rather than perpetuate) purported Palestinian-Arab refugees. They also reportedly want UNRWA to remove all antisemitism from its educational materials. Kushner also reportedly wrote an email that correctly explained that UNRWA “perpetuates a status quo, is corrupt, inefficient and doesn’t help peace.”
Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-CO), along with 10 co-sponsors, introduced The UNRWA Reform and Refugee Support Act (H.R. 6451) to no exclude the ever-expanding number of descendants among recognized Palestinian refugees. Cong. Lamborn explained:
We must return UNRWA to its original framework and address this false narrative of an inflated refugee population, which has made a mockery of both those who are true refugees around the world . . . . Palestinians in Gaza are not refugees; they are a population suffering under the Hamas terror regime, whose leaders take aid money and instead of building schools and hospitals, build terror tunnels and send rockets hidden under UNRWA schools in Gaza into kindergartens in Israel.
These are important steps towards ending UNRWA’s costly, dangerous Palestinian refugee math.
2+2 =4. And 20,000 = 20,000. Not 5.3 million.
Morton A. Klein is the national president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), and a former lecturer in statistics at Temple University, bio-statistician with the Linus Pauling Institute for Science and Medicine in Palo Alto, California and senior economist in the US Dept of Health and Human Services in Wash. DC. A national Jewish weekly named him one the five most influential Jewish leaders. Another named him one of the top dozen Jewish activists of the Century. Follow him on twitter @mortonaklein7 and ZOA.org.