The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has expressed support for President Donald Trump’s reported intention to further pressure Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) for its refusal negotiate with the Israelis. He is proposing to do this by completely suspending US payments to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) and oppose its categorization of Palestinian Arab refugees which, uniquely, extends refugee status to successive generations born to the original refugees.
UNRWA defines as ‘refugees,’ not only Palestinian Arabs who fled the fighting and chaos during the 1948-9 Arab/Israel war –– which would be in accord with the standard definition of the term ‘refugee’ as applied in all other cases –– but also successive generations of their descendants. In this way, instead of the Palestinian Arab refugees numbering 20,000, their number is officially some 5.3 million.
Thus, unlike the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which uses a universal definition of refugee status that applies solely to those who actually fled their country or war zone during hostilities or civil war or similar disturbances, UNWRA counts all of the children and grandchildren of those who fled as ‘refugees’. UNHCR also does not permanently house and maintain these refugees, but rather works for their expeditious resettlement and thus the liquidation of the refugee problem in question.
In stark contrast, UNRWA applies its own, unique definition of ‘refugee’ and does not work for their resettlement. Rather, it maintains Palestinian Arab refugees and their millions of descendants in refugee camps across the Middle East and permits them to be radicalized into the cause of returning to their homes and destroying the State of Israel.
In addition, President Trump is considering suspending completely the transfer of UNRWA funds, currently in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and transferring the money to other UN organizations operating in Gaza instead (‘Ido Ben Porat, ‘Trump continues to threaten the PA,’ Israel National News, January 30, 2018).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “The ZOA applauds President Trump’s reported intentions with regard to UNRWA and Palestinian Arab refugee status and regards it as a deeply important development in ending the use of Palestinian Arab ‘refugees’ and their descendants as a weapon designed to destroy Israel.
“Doing so will ultimately contribute to the eventual creation of peace, however far off that day might be.
“For decades, instead of the Palestinian Arab refugee problem being solved by settlement, like every major other refugee problem of the twentieth century, it has been kept alive and unresolved by UNRWA and the international community — by maintaining the refugees and even their descendants in limbo.
“Worse, American taxpayers are essentially helping to prolong the Arab war on Israel and fuel the conflict by funding the continuing operation of UNRWA, which functions in a manner completely at variance from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
“UNRWA doesn’t aim for resettlement. Instead, it encourages and enables the people in its charge to demand repatriation to Israel, the better to destroy it.
“In this way, unlike every other refugee problem, which has been solved in time, the Palestinian Arab refugee problem remains unsolved and expands, as literally millions of descendants of the original refugees –– perhaps now only about 30,000 in number –– join the burgeoning ranks of those under the care of UNRWA.
“This is a refugee problem made worse, not better, and the Arab war on Israel’s existence kept alive.
“It is long past time for the plug to be pulled on UNRWA, for Palestinian Arab refugees to be treated like other refugees –– enabled to resettle elsewhere –– and for the tremendous misuse of international aid money to cease.
“The ZOA sincerely hopes and urges the President to lead here, as he has already done on the issue of Jerusalem, by calling time on UNRWA, its unique, bizarre and pernicious mandate to preserve and worsen the original Palestinian Arab refugee problem and to direct the funds to programs that militate in favor of their ultimate resettlement.”