The Trump administration seems poised to help bring real and lasting peace to the Middle East by recognizing the long-ignored reality that the Palestinian “refugee” issue is a giant fraud perpetuated by the Palestinians together with the United Nations.
According to several reports, the Trump White House is planning to issue a policy paper capping the number of Palestinian “refugees” at about 500,000, which is one tenth the number claimed by the UN. The U.S. administration is also reportedly set to reject the UN’s definition of a Palestinian “refugee,” which scandalously differs from the way all other refugees are officially categorized by the international body and is clearly designed to perpetuate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Already in January, the Trump administration slashed aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the UN body that ministers to the Palestinian “refugees.” On Tuesday, Foreign Policy magazine cited sources saying the U.S. has decided to stop funding UNRWA altogether, an overdue move given that UNRWA’s very existence only fuels radicalism and Palestinian intransience.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley on Tuesday signaled a sea change in U.S. policy toward UNRWA when she questioned the official number of Palestinians designated as refugees and advocated an overhaul of UNRWA if the U.S. is going to continue to provide support.
The U.S. moves against UNRWA and toward a clearsighted Mideast approach have predictably been met with anger and derision from the Palestinians and some in the international community. However, even utilizing the UN’s own exaggerated definition of a Palestinian “refugee,” the agency was caught red-handed last December wildly inflating “refugee” numbers.
Lebanon’s census data released that month put the Palestinian “refugee” population living inside Lebanon at about one third of the nearly 500,000 reported by UNRWA. I24 News added the census was “conducted by 1,000 Lebanese and Palestinian employees and was taken over the course of a year.” If accurate, that would mean UNRWA has been taking in funding for a massively inflated number of so-called Palestinian refugees. UNRWA would not comment when asked by this reporter to provide the total number of Palestinian “refugees” that the UN body services in Lebanon. Accurate census data is not available for UNRWA camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
There are many reasons the U.S. should immediately stop funding UNRWA and instead take the approach recommended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called for the dismantlement of the UN’s Palestinian “refugee” agency.
The existence of UNRWA is unnecessary. The international body has another agency, the UNHRC, which tends to the world’s refugees other than Palestinians. Only Palestinian “refugees” have a separate agency, UNRWA.
The Palestinians and Arab states know that the so-called Palestinian refugee problem could only be sustained through a separate agency since Palestinian “refugees” do not meet the UN’s basic criteria for the definition of refugees.
The UNHRC, which again deals with all other refugees outside the Palestinian arena, has a fairly sensible definition of a refugee: “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, in contrast, defines a Palestinian “refugee” as 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 foreign Arabs immigrated to the area during those years in search of employment amid talks of creating a future Jewish state.
Amazingly, 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, Palestinians have no fear of being persecuted by Israel, and would not be considered a “refugee” under ordinary international criteria.
In defining a refugee as it does, UNRWA has ensured that the Palestinian “refugee” problem has only grown throughout the years.
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” tended 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.
The Palestinian “refugee” issue is one of the most potent weapons utilized by the Palestinians against Israel. The Palestinians use their “refugee” status to threaten Israel’s existence by demanding the so-called right of return, meaning flooding Israel with millions of Palestinian and foreign Arabs considered Palestinian “refugees,” thus threatening the very nature of the Jewish state. If the “refugee” problem is ever solved, the Palestinian Authority’s main trump card against Israel will be taken away and they know it.
As I wrote in my book, The Late Great State of Israel:
When UNRWA began operations, it was assumed that the refugee problem would be resolved and that the agency would function only temporarily. It was not anticipated that the Arab states, which were directly shaping the mandate of this new organization, had another idea: the refugees would be kept in camps for as long as it took, and the burden of political responsibility for them was to be placed permanently upon Israel.
As one PLO document on the refugees explains: “In order to keep the refugee issue alive and prevent Israel from evading responsibility for their plight, Arab countries—with the notable exception of Jordan—have usually sought to preserve a Palestinian identity by maintaining the Palestinians’ status as refugees.”
Arlene Kushner, an Israel-based researcher on UNRWA, explains: “In other words, as a matter of deliberate policy, most Arab nations have deliberately declined to absorb the refugees or give them citizenship, and have instead focused on their right to ‘return’ to Israel.”
The Palestinians and Arab nations, meanwhile, have distorted the history of “Palestinian refugees” to manipulate the international community.
The Palestinian narrative is simple: When the Jewish state was founded, Israel largely kicked the Palestinians (who, by the way, did not exist at the time under the name “Palestinians,” but were local Arab inhabitants who lived in a region also inhabited by Jews) out of their homes, thus causing hundreds of thousands to become refugees. The Palestinians refer to Israel’s creation as the “Nakba,” or catastrophe when Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from their homes.
The reality is quite different. After Israel was founded in 1948, a military coalition of Arab nations immediately formed to wage war on the new Jewish state. Some local Arabs, who did not yet go by the name of Palestinians, left the area in anticipation of the war, others directly responded to the dictates of Arab states to stay out of the way so that invading armies could conquer Israel, and still others fled once the war started so that they were not caught up in the fighting.
Arab states waged the war after refusing to accept UN Resolution 181, which called for the partition of the British Mandate of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. The Jews immediately accepted the resolution, but the Arabs forthrightly rejected the plan, launching a war to destroy the Jewish state.
It should be noted that Israel’s Declaration of Independence called on the local Arab population to remain in place:
In the midst of wanton aggression, we yet call upon the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve the ways of peace and play their part in the development of the State, on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its bodies and institutions.
It is true that some Jewish groups, including the Haganah, encouraged local Arabs to flee, however those few documented cases are the exception and not the rule.
The Economist, for example, reported that the Arab residents of Haifa left their homes in large part because of Arab army warnings:
Of the 62,000 Arabs who formerly lived in Haifa not more than 5,000 or 6,000 remained. Various factors influenced their decision to seek safety in flight. There is but little doubt that the most potent of the factors were the announcements made over the air by the Higher Arab Executive, urging the Arabs to quit. … It was clearly intimated that those Arabs who remained in Haifa and accepted Jewish protection would be regarded as renegades.
“Arab officers ordered the complete evacuation of specific villages in certain areas, lest their inhabitants ‘treacherously’ acquiesce in Israeli rule or hamper Arab military deployments,” wrote historian Benny Morris.
Based on the latest reports, it seems the Trump administration has recognized the “fake news” narrative of Palestinian “refugees” and is about to deploy a heavy dose of reality to one of the world’s greatest frauds.
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.