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The Palestinian Refugee Fallacy

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Since the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 the Palestinian refugee issue has been used as a pawn to castigate Israel for its “occupation” and denying the Palestinians the “Right of Return”. Embed from Getty Images

Today it is reasonable to ask, why do the Palestinian refugees still require the exclusive attention of a United Nations agency dedicated to its cause? What is the purpose of this exceptionalism and how have their numbers grown from 750,000 to 5.6 million today without any further major mass Palestinian displacement taking place since 1948?

I will show that the current refugee number of 5.6 million is a fallacy and is used to perpetuate the conflict with Israel and delegitimize the Jewish state with the United Nations playing the role as enabler.

Two agencies were created by the United Nations to deal with refugees, one is called the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (“UNRWA”) founded in 1949 and the other is called the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (“UNHCR”) founded in 1950. While UNRWA ‘s scope of work is limited to the Palestinian refugees as a result of the Arab Israeli conflict in 1948 (Israel’s “War of Independence”) UNHCR’s addresses refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people caused by all other regional conflicts after its scope was expanded beyond the refugees caused by the Second World War. The Palestinian refugees are not entitled to the services of UNHCR unless they meet special conditions outside of UNRWA’s areas of operation which are Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Gaza, and the West Bank.

The difference in the definition of refugees between the two refugee agencies offers proof that UNRWA is politicized and, unlike UNHCR, is not dedicated to resettling the refugees but to perpetuating their status with the specter of the “Right of Return” of Palestinian refugees to Israel which would destroy the Jewish state if millions were to return. In this context one discovers that while the number of refugees under the mandate of UNHCR (currently 20.4 million) rises and falls the number of Palestinian refugees continues to grow exponentially from 725,000 in 1948, near the time when UNRWA was founded, to 5.6 million registered refugees today! How can this happen!?

The answer is quite straight forward. Under UNRWA the refugees maintain their refugee status, regardless of their personal situation, until there is a political settlement of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict while the refugees under UNHCR are no longer considered refugees once they are resettled or have the same rights and obligations of the citizens of their host country. Additionally, refugee status under UNRWA is automatically granted to the next generations through patrilineal decent while UNHCR provides no such guarantee. In other words, UNRWA registrants have permanent refugee status until a solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is found which includes addressing the Right of Return.

Ben Bourgel, the Minister Counselor for the Mission of Israel to the United Nations made this statement on November 3 , 2020 to the Fourth Committee of the United Nations that has UNRWA under its purview.

“UNRWA defines who is a so-called “Palestine refugee” in
complete disregard of accepted international norms. Unlike the
refugees under UNHCR’s mandate, whose eligibility is checked
on a case-by-case basis, UNRWA automatically registers as a
refugee every descendant of Palestinian refugees, as........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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