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Right Turn
Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 05/14/2012

Palestinian refugees and the U.N.

There are many reasons to detest the United Nations. It treats proponents of genocide as legitimate world leaders. It is among the most anti-Semitic institutions on the planet. By inaction it has contributed to mass atrocities in Rwanda, Srebrenica and now Syria. Its oil for food program made Bernie Madoff look like a Boy Scout and feathered the nest of human rights abuser Saddam Hussein.

Now Cliff May alerts us to another reason for wondering if we (the Western world) would be better off without the U.N.: It perpetuates the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Palestinians’ misery. May explains that unlike other refugees (whom the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees oversees), Palestinians were assigned to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which deals exclusively with the Palestinians. As one might imagine, bad things ensued :

In 1950, UNRWA defined a refugee as someone who had “lost his home and his means of livelihood” during the war launched by Arab/Muslim countries in response to Israel’s declaration of independent statehood. Fifteen years later, UNRWA decided — against objections from the United States — to include as refugees the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of those who left Israel. And in 1982, UNRWA further extended eligibility to all subsequent generations of descendants — forever.
Under UNRWA’s rules, even if the descendant of a Palestinian refugee has become a citizen of another state, he’s still a refugee. For example, of the 2 million refugees registered in Jordan, all but 167,000 hold Jordanian citizenship. (In fact, approximately 80 percent of Jordan’s population is Palestinian — not surprising, since Jordan occupies more than three-fourths of the area historically referred to as Palestine.) By adopting such a policy, UNRWA is flagrantly violating the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which states clearly that a person shall cease to be considered a refugee if he has “acquired a new nationality, and enjoys the protection of the country of his new nationality.” . . .
According to UNHCR projections, by 2030 UNRWA’s refugee list will reach 8.5 million. By 2060 there will be 25 times the number registered by UNRWA in 1950 — even though not one of those who actually left Israel is likely to still be breathing.

The point of this charade is clear. May observes, “By increasing the number of refugees, by maintaining that population in poverty, dependence, and anger, by understanding that the ‘right of return’ will be demanded by some Palestinian leaders, UNRWA is helping the extremists to prevent peace and continue to wage a war of annihilation against Israel. This anti-peace policy is being funded largely by Americans: We’ve always been the largest donor to UNRWA, contributing about $4.4 billion since 1950.”

As May notes, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is trying to do something about it. A Kirk spokesman explained to me, “Senator Kirk believes U.S. taxpayers deserve to know whether their money is being used to provide relief to actual Palestinian refugees or to perpetuate a conflict narrative while subsidizing a welfare society in the West Bank and Gaza. As a long-time advocate for UNRWA accountability, Senator Kirk’s proposal seeks basic truth in accounting from Foggy Bottom.”

Kirk has therefore requested language in the State Foreign Operations Appropriations bill that would do two things. First, it would, as a matter of U.S. policy, define a Palestinian refugee as a person whose place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who was personally displaced as a result of the 1948 or 1967 Arab-Israeli conflicts, who currently does not reside in the West Bank or Gaza and who is not a citizen of any other state. Second, it would require the secretary of State to report on the number of Palestinian refugees (as defined above) eligible to receive UNRWA services; the number of residents of the Palestinian Authority living in the West Bank and Gaza who are expected to become citizens of a future Palestinian state and who are eligible to receive UNRWA services; the number of citizens of other countries eligible to receive UNRWA services; and steps being taken to incorporate U.S. policy into the annual Framework for Cooperation between UNRWA and the United States government.

In essence, Kirk wants to call an end U.S. taxpayer-funded welfare in the West Bank and Gaza that directly undermines the objectives of building a Palestinian state capable of providing basic services for its own citizens. If Palestinian leaders want to undertake “statehood building,” (a big “if”) they need to be held accountable for their residents who should, but do not now, receive basic services from the Palestinian Authority rather than UNRWA. And taxpayers should stop helping to magnify and indeed exaggerate the Palestinian refu­gee problem.

You have to wonder why this has been allowed to go on for so long. Might it be that the Islamic states and their partners in the nonaligned movement (who combined hold the majority of seats in the General Assembly) don’t want a resolution of the Palestinian issue? Hmm. It just might be that perpetuation of that conflict and using it to beat the U.S. and Israel over the head are their real aims. In that, they are certainly “succeeding.”­

By  |  12:00 PM ET, 05/14/2012

Categories:  foreign policy, Israel, Senate GOP

 
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