On Thursday morning, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) — which exists as a discrete group solely to support those whom UNRWA identifies as Palestinian-Arab “refugees” resulting from Israel’s 1948 War of Independence — claimed that it defines “refugee” in precisely the same manner as does its sister organization, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). UNHCR, in contrast to UNRWA, exists to support “refugees” resulting from every other conflict in the world besides the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The main problem, as the inestimable Hillel Neuer of UN Watch tweeted, is that this is a bald-faced lie.
As Neuer claims, UNRWA’s very own former General Counsel, James Lindsay, confirmed in a 2012 Middle East Quarterly essay that UNRWA calculates its “refugees” in a very different manner than does UNHCR:
The UNRWA definition makes no mention of citizenship, and UNRWA makes no effort to de-register persons who were formerly refugees but are now citizens of a state. As such, UNRWA is the only refugee organization in the world that considers citizens of a state to be refugees, and there are many of these oxymoronic “citizen-refugees” on UNRWA rolls.
As Lindsay noted in his essay, UNRWA’s lack of mention of citizenship is hugely consequential — and it differs from UNHCR’s definition of “refugee,” which “specifically does not apply to any person who ‘has acquired a new nationality, and enjoys the protection of the country of his new nationality.'”
Therefore, all the millions of descendants of the Palestinian-Arabs displaced by Israel’s 1948 War of Independence — a genocidal war launched by the Jewish state’s Arab neighbors only after those neighbors flatly rejected the incipient United Nation’s previously proffered two-state partition proposal — who have since acquired citizenship in a distinct sovereign nation, such as the 1.8 million Jordanians Neuer references, would not be considered “refugees” under UNHCR’s definition but are considered “refugees” under UNRWA’s definition.
As The Washington Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo reported last April, Capitol Hill lawmakers have been pressing the U.S. State Department to release a classified report that will confirm that the actual number of Palestinian-Arab “refugees” is therefore orders of magnitude smaller than what UNRWA disingenuously and self-aggrandizingly claims:
The U.S. government continues to inappropriately keep classified a report on Palestinian refugees that congressional officials view as a potential game changer in how America approaches its regional policies and allocates billions in taxpayer funds, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the report.
Congressional officials familiar with the classified report…say the State Department continues to keep it secret in order to not disrupt billions of dollars in allocations to [UNRWA], the organization responsible for providing aid to what they claim is some 5.2 million Palestinian refugees.
Those familiar with the report say the U.S. quietly determined under the Obama administration that the actual number of Palestinian refugees is far smaller, closer to around 30,000. This disclosure could fundamentally change the way billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars are allocated to UNRWA and the Palestinian government and impact America’s longstanding policies regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Last August, the Trump Administration announced its intention to fully defund UNRWA. The U.S. had previously been the largest donor to UNRWA, donating more than $350 million in 2017.
“The United States will no longer commit further funding to this irredeemably flawed operation,” U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said, at the time. “We are very mindful of and deeply concerned regarding the impact upon innocent Palestinians, especially school children, of the failure of UNRWA and key members of the regional and international donor community to reform and reset the UNRWA way of doing business.”