The news that the Trump Administration wants to strip refugee status from millions of “Palestinians” should be welcomed by all people of sense. For the “Palestinian” refugees now include every single descendant of those who left Palestine just before, during, and after the 1947-49 war. That means that if your grandfather, or great-grandfather, left in 1947, thinking he would return as soon as the invading Arab armies finished destroying the nascent state of Israel, you, too, are allowed to call yourself a “Palestinian refugee,” and more importantly, to receive all kinds of aid through UNRWA. The lists of these “Palestinian” refugees kept by UNRWA keep growing; no descendant ever loses his “refugee” status. There are more “Palestinian” refugees born every day. It’s an extraordinary situation. No other group of refugees in the world is defined in this most peculiar way. For all other (i.e., non- “Palestinian”) peoples, a refugee is someone who had to leave a particular place to avoid persecution, but his offspring, born in a new country, are not considered to be refugees. Henry Kissinger is a German Jewish refugee. His son is not. Nor is his grandson. Nor his great-grandson. But were Kissinger a “Palestinian,” all of his descendants would be considered to be “Palestinian” refugees. This ever-expanding roll of UNRWA refugees also increases what UNRWA demands, and gets, from bamboozled donors. One more twist to the tale: the “Palestinian” refugees seldom declare that one of their number has died, so dead “Palestinians” remain on the rolls forever.
The millions of “Palestinian” refugees have learned to enjoy the large amounts of aid lavished on them, and they are now long used to the culture of permanent dependence fostered by UNRWA. They find it agrees with them.
But now another note is being sounded in Washington.
According to the Times of Israel, “A Republican senator introduced a bill Thursday that would require the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) to change its definition of what constitutes a Palestinian refugee in order to receive future US assistance.” The Trump administration wants UNRWA, corrupt and inefficient, to be cut down to size. They want “Palestinian” refugees to be limited to those who really are refugees, that is, people who left Mandatory Palestine, or Israel, almost 70 years ago. They want “Palestinian refugees” to be defined the same way all other refugees have been defined: as people who have fled a particular territory or country, which does not include their descendants. How many “Palestinians” who left Palestine/Israel between 1947 and 1949 are alive today? Estimates range from 20,000 to 40,000. Compare that with the five million “Palestinian refugees” that UNRWA now claims are eligible for its services. But it is UNRWA that is wrong.