December 18, 2013

Who—and How Many—Are the Palestinian Refugees?

How, under the auspices of the UN Relief and Works Agency, can their numbers have exploded from 650,000 in 1948 to more than five million today?

In 1948, some 650,000 Arabs fled from Israel during Israel's war of independence against six invading Arab armies. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) was then formed to provide humanitarian aid to those Arab refugees. Sixty-five years later, UNRWA has grown into a huge, half-a-billion-dollar-a-year bureaucracy that claims a constituency of five million Palestinian-Arab refugees.

How has the number of Palestinian refugees grown so dramatically? Is UNRWA helping resettle the refugees, or is it exacerbating the problem? Finally, why would the Palestinian Authority in negotiations for a Palestinian state insist that these refugees be moved to Israel?
What are the facts?

UNRWA's original definition of a refugee was someone "whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict." UNRWA began by providing emergency assistance, temporary shelters and basic relief. Soon after, UNRWA helped resettle the refugees in permanent housing and create educational and health institutions. But, unlike the treatment of refugees in all other wars, UNRWA dramatically and inexplicably expanded the definition of "refugee" to include descendants of Palestinian refugees.

Today, UNRWA claims more than five million Palestinian refugees, most of whom are in fact descendants and have never lived in Israel. UNRWA currently employs 30,000 people, mostly Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank. The organization receives more than $600 million annually to serve these people, almost 40% of which comes from the U. S., and the Palestinian economy has become absolutely dependent on this aid.

The surrounding Arab states and Muslim countries beyond (such as Iran) would certainly join the fray and assist in the final destruction of the beleaguered and helpless Jewish state.

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