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June 21, 2021 10:41 am
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AP Conflates Palestinian ‘Refugee’ Myth With Millions Displaced During Pandemic

avatar by Gidon Ben-zvi

Opinion

Police officers wearing face masks stand at a police checkpoint, as Israel tightens a national lockdown in a bid to curb a sharp rise in new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections, in Jerusalem January 8, 2021. Photo: REUTERS/Ammar Awad.

The Associated Press (AP) on June 18 promoted a contentious Palestinian narrative in an article ostensibly focused on a United Nations report detailing the plight of millions of people displaced in 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The piece, titled “UN: Millions driven from homes in 2020 despite COVID crisis,” was subsequently republished by news organizations such as the Los Angeles Times, ABC News, US News & World Report, Fox News, and The Independent (UK).

The AP’s piece is important because it effectively conflates a central issue of the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a story about how war, persecution, and human rights violations last year caused millions of people to flee their homes despite the global health crisis.

Indeed, the AP seemingly used the opportunity to promulgate the Palestinian leadership’s claim for a “Right of Return” to Israel of some 5.7 million so-called refugees — even though they are not truly refugees, and this would result in the end of Jewish self-determination.

AP Cites UNRWA Stats, But Not UNRWA

Instead of focusing on the issue at hand, the Associated Press piece written by James Keaten and Edith M. Lederer veers off course:

The [UN] report said that at the end of last year there were 5.7 million Palestinians, 3.9 million Venezuelans and an additional 20.7 million refugees from various other countries displaced abroad…”

It is curious that the AP uses the 5.7 million figure without citing its source — the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). This may have to do with the fact that the Palestinians are the only people in human history whose population of “refugees” has increased over time — and that UNRWA actually perpetuates rather than solves the issue of Palestinian refugees.

This is because UNRWA was created uniquely for Palestinians, and oversees only them. Every other refugee — from every other country in the world — is overseen by a separate UN body.

The UN Agency the AP Does Mention

Meanwhile, the AP does note the name of the UN agency that is tasked with caring for every other refugee in the world:

In its latest Global Trends report, UNHCR said the world’s cumulative number of displaced people rose to 82.4 million — roughly the population of Germany and a new post-World War II record.”

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was formed in 1950, with the explicit goal of helping displaced persons either return to their home countries or resettle elsewhere.

However, UNRWA does the exact opposite. The agency introduced a unique definition of “refugee” that applies only to the Palestinians, and which essentially transforms the status into a hereditary trait passed on to all descendants of the estimated 750,000 Palestinians that were displaced during the Arab-initiated war following Israel’s declaration of independence in 1948.

Incredibly, UNRWA somehow counts as “refugees” most Palestinians living in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, as well as a significant percentage of Palestinians living in the West Bank. The icing on the cake: Even those of Palestinian heritage who were granted citizenship by other countries are by UNRWA’s standards in many cases still categorized as “refugees.”

Instead of attempting to integrate Palestinian refugees into their current host countries — primarily Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon — UNRWA has created a cradle-to-grave welfare system for them that has exacerbated the matter. Moreover, Arab nations have actively prevented Palestinians from becoming citizens and have implemented discriminatory policies against them.

In other words, the agency has essentially weaponized the concept of displaced persons so that it can be used as a tool to attack the Jewish state.

200,000 Reasons AP Got It Wrong

With the help of HonestReporting, UNRWA’s deception was exposed in January by former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Yet the Associated Press, the self-proclaimed “definitive source for independent journalism from every corner of the globe,” has opted to ignore the facts — or, at the very least, cannot be bothered to explain the complexity of the issue.

Rather, it just parrots a figure pushed by a dubious organization.

In doing so, the wire service is minimizing the very real suffering of tens of millions of displaced persons.

Gidon Ben-zvi is a contributor to HonestReporting — a Jerusalem-based media watchdog with a focus on antisemitism and anti-Israel bias — where a version of this article first appeared.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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