The Lie of Palestinian ‘Refugees’
As Israel approaches its 70th anniversary of independence, the time has come to finally resolve the Palestinian refugee problem. By that, I mean the real one — and not the fake news incessantly circulated by Palestinians, their left-wing allies and UNRWA (the organization that nourishes itself on the ever-growing population of invented refugees.)
UNRWA — the United Nations Relief and Works Administration — was established in 1949 for the worthy cause of assisting Palestinian refugees dislocated due to a war that was initiated by Arab states against Israel.
UNRWA’s dependents were defined as “persons whose regular place of residence was Palestine during the period from 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict” waged by Arab states to annihilate Israel. The largest UN agency, UNRWA is now an employment organization for a staff of 30,000 — the overwhelming majority of whom are Palestinians. Between 2010-2016, the United States was the organization’s most generous benefactor, providing upwards of $3 million annually — before finally recognizing the scam and cutting its monthly contributions in half.
The underlying narrative for this unprecedented generosity is clearly articulated by The Palestinian Right to Return Coalition:
“Zionist policy sought to create an exclusive homeland for Jews in Palestine,” already inhabited by “an indigenous population with a history stretching back thousands of years”[sic]. Jewish “terrorist groups … destroyed villages and slaughtered entire Palestinian families” in pursuit of their aim “to annihilate the Palestinian population.” Committed to a “systematic policy of ethnic dispossession and elimination,” Israel “forcibly evicted 737,166 Palestinians from their homes and land.”
Consequently — and preposterously — the Coalition claims that there are “about 7.2 million Palestinian refugees worldwide.” As they inevitably grow in number with the birth of (non-refugee) babies to (non-refugee) families, their inflated numbers can only increase over time.
The problem with this plaintive narrative of perpetual suffering (based on inexorable refugee inflation) is that it is blatant falsity. Yet, this myth has managed to attract devoted adherents.
Take, for example, The New York Times. Its first editorial on the plight of Palestinian refugees (11/9/52) cited 850,000. Two years later, Cyrus Sulzberger, the publisher’s nephew, referred to 900,000 (1/31/55).The number subsequently peaked at 925,000 (4/2/57). Along the way, the Times‘ mantra of “All the News That’s Fit to Print,” was transformed into all the news that fit the Times‘ narrative of Israeli blame for Palestinian suffering. Long opposed to the very idea of Jewish statehood, the Times had — and occasionally still has — trouble coping with the reality of Israel as the only flourishing democracy in the Middle East.
As for the actual number of Palestinian refugees from the war forced on Israel by its Arab neighbors, the most reliable source is historian Efraim Karsh’s Palestine Betrayed (2010). Extensively researched in British and Israeli archives, Karsh concluded that actual Palestinian refugees numbered between 583,000-609,000. Anyone can trace the sorrowful town-by-town Palestinian exodus of 1947-48 that he meticulously documented.
Had Palestinian leaders been willing to accept the November 1947 United Nations resolution calling for the partition of Palestine into two independent states — one Jewish and one Arab — Palestinian refugees could have returned to their own sovereign state — in Palestine. It would have ended the conflict.
As future Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meyerson (Meir) told Israeli celebrants: “Our hands are extended in peace to our neighbors. Both states can live in peace with one another and cooperate for the welfare of their inhabitants.” Instead, the Arab High Committee, led by Haj Amin al-Husseini, chose war. Palestinian displacement was the consequence.
Fast forward seven decades. It is estimated that 99% of UNRWA’s currently designated Palestinian “refugees” are, in fact, only descendants of actual refugees. That leaves some 30,000 as bona-fide refugees — the same number of people that UNRWA employs. It is well past time for the United States (and even The New York Times) to dissociate itself from the world’s longest swindle.
Jerold S. Auerbach is author of the forthcoming “Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel (1896-2016),” to be published this summer by Academic Studies Press.