As everyone knows, there are almost 5 million people who claim ‘Palestinian refugee’ status, although reasonable estimates of the number of Arabs who fled the area that would become Israel in 1948 range from 550,000 to 750,000.
No other refugee population has ever been granted the ability to pass down this special status — and the right to be maintained indefinitely on the international dole — except the Palestinian Arabs.
Think about that: all other refugee problems are by definition temporary. Wars and natural catastrophes create refugees, and the international community does its best to help them weather the crisis. There have been millions upon millions of refugees since the UN was created; Jews, Palestinian Arabs, Iraqis, Hmong, Somalis — the list is endless. What happens to them? Some are repatriated, some are resettled in other places, some die. Their descendants carry on, perhaps in new homes. The US and Europe are full of them.
But the Palestinian refugees are special, in two ways. One, it is forbidden to consider resettlement. The only way to end their refugee status is for them to ‘return’ to what is now Israel. And two, Palestinian refugee status is hereditary.
A consequence of the first special condition is, ironically, discrimination against Palestinians by host countries. Palestinians in Lebanon, for example, have been denied the right to work in many professions, own property, go to school with Lebanese, vote, etc. They are restricted to refugee camps, many of which would better be called ‘towns’ — or ghettos — because they are built of permanent structures.
The Arabs living in these ghettos are provided with their needs by UNRWA, which feeds and clothes them, and builds schools and housing. Some 99% of UNRWA employees, of course, are Palestinians, so UNRWA is the main, and in some cases the only, employer of Palestinians in a refugee ghetto. Most of the ghettos are controlled by terrorist factions, and organized crime flourishes.
The hereditary nature of ‘Palestinian-ness’ means that this will continue forever, or until the Arabs succeed in overrunning Israel. Since UNRWA humanely provides assistance in proportion to the size of each family, this encourages the population to grow without bound. It also has given rise to a dangerously youthful demographic pyramid.
UNRWA was created in 1947 by UN GA Resolution 302, which clearly intended it to be temporary:
[The General Assembly] Recognizes that, without prejudice to the provisions of paragraph 11 of General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948, continued assistance for the relief of the Palestine refugees is necessary to prevent conditions of starvation and distress among them and to further conditions of peace and stability, and that constructive measures should be undertaken at an early date with a view to the termination of international assistance for relief;
Needless to say, the idea that refugee status would be hereditary is nowhere mentioned in this resolution! Today, the UN funds UNRWA’s budget ($1.2 billion in 2009) with money mostly donated by the US (the biggest donor) and the EU.
It is remarkable that the UN, which produced resolution 302, could later accept a concept that would extend the problem indefinitely into the future. Perhaps by then it was a different UN. But it is even more remarkable that it would accept the Arab insistence that nothing short of ‘return’ could end refugee status. Together they imply agreement with the Arab project to end the Jewish state.
The two special conditions together are a lethal concoction: the ‘refugee’ population is primarily young, alienated, and educated by highly ideological Palestinian teachers. The population is rapidly growing, but there are few outlets for youthful (or adult, for that matter) energy. The only hope held out to them is that some day they will rise up and take back what they believe to be their patrimony.
In other words, the UN has created a monster.
Israel believes that there are no more than 250,000 (in my opinion, this number is high) Arabs who qualify for refugee status by the UN’s traditional definition. It will propose that they be assisted by the usual UN mechanism (the UN High Commission for Refugees, UNHCR), and that the special status be ended.
I would hope that the proposal would also include a demand for an end to the racist policies of discrimination against Palestinians in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Gaza and the Palestinian Authority, where the refugee ghettos exist. ‘Refugees’ that have lived all or most of their lives in these nations should be granted citizenship and full rights (ironically, the Palestinian Authority has said that it will not give resident refugees citizenship if it is granted statehood).
The chance of such a proposal being accepted, despite the fact that it is the only practical way to end the enormously expensive and dangerous Arab refugee problem, is near nil. This is because the root of the problem is not really Arabs, it is Jews. And when has the ‘international community’ ever been rational about Jews?