Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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How Many Refugees?

by Elliott Abrams
June 20, 2012

A general view of the Jenin refugee camp is seen near the West Bank city of Jenin September 6, 2011 (Courtesy REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini). A general view of the Jenin refugee camp is seen near the West Bank city of Jenin September 6, 2011 (Courtesy REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini).


Today the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (or PCBS) commemorated World Refugee Day by releasing new statistics on Palestinian refugees. Therein lies a tale.

The PCBS reported that there are now 5.1 million Palestinian refugees. Here is what it said about their age:

The Palestinian Refugees are characterized as young population where 41.7% of them are under the age of 15 years for Palestinian refugees in Palestinian territory, 35.9% of Palestinian  refugees in Jordan in 2007, and 33.1% for Palestinian refugees in Syria in 2009, while 30.4% for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon in 2010.

This means, for example, that more than a third of Palestinian “refugees” in Jordan were born after 1997. That is either thirty years (if after the 1967 war) or almost fifty years (if they fled when Israel was established in 1948) after their parents or more likely grandparents arrived in Jordan. Those in Jordan have full Jordanian citizenship and vote in Jordan, which means this: a young Jordanian of Palestinian origin, whose family has lived in Jordan for thirty years and who has himself or herself always lived in Jordan, is still considered a “refugee.”

This is bizarre, and the new statistics are a reminder of the unique definition applied to Palestinian “refugees.” For every other category of refugees in the world, the 1951 UN Convention on the status of refugees clearly applies to the refugee only and not subsequent generations. This is the definition used by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees today. Only in the Palestinian case does a separate organization, the UN Relief and Works Agency, count not only those who actually left their homes but those in succeeding generations, presumably forever, and regardless of whether those progeny were born and are settled elsewhere with full citizenship.

So a young American boy of, say, ten years of age born in Chicago to American parents, but whose grandparents were Palestinians who fled Israel in 1948, is counted by UNRWA as a “Palestinian refugee.”

It is not surprising that the Appropriations Committee of the U.S. Senate on May 31 adopted an amendment defining Palestinian “refugees” the way all other refugees are defined, and rejecting the definition that produces the number 5.1 million today and who knows how many more millions as the years roll by. What’s surprising is that this effort, led by Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois–who would represent the young boy in my illustration, and his parents–was widely held to be controversial. It is common sense.

Post a Comment 32 Comments

  • Posted by Cara Cicatriz

    As a young American of thirty years of age, born in Chicago to American parents, I would be eligible for Irish citizenship if my grandfather had been an Irish citizen (or Polish, for another example). I could therefore be considered Irish, hence ‘Palestinian’.

    But I grew up in Miami. So I’m a Floridian, hence ‘Jordanian’.

    Had I been born and raised in a detention camp under I-95, if they still existed and I still lived in one, I might not be a Marielito, but I would be taking refuge.

    I had a friend whose parents’ families fled Sindh after partition. They are Indian, not Pakistani. But their ancestors had probably lived in Sindh from time immemorial. They are Sindhi. Fortunately for them, they are wealthy. They can choose their identity, and they’ve moved on.

    These are Palestinian-Jordanian refugees. Dor l’dor.

  • Posted by Mohamed

    This article needs more evidence and support from what other refugee camps look like around the world. If the crux of your argument is that the US senate made the switch in counting refugees because thats how other refugees are counted, I think it would make for a better argument if examples were given of other refugees that are in such massive quantities as the Palestinians and who have similar experiences in become refugees. In other words, lets compare the Palestinian refugee case with 2 other refugee classes. Why have they become refugees? Where do they live? What are the conditions of the camps like? Is the regime that led them to become refugees considered criminal/frowned upon by the US government? Because if so (as I expect they would) that would make the Palestinian case the only one in which the persecutor still enjoys international support on a scale unseen in human history. So if we are going to go by what “makes sense” then sure lets count only the refugees that were displaced by Israel but then lets make sense of our treatment of the Israeli government and hold them responsible for this situation. Otherwise, its unfair to change the game for Palestinian refugees but not for the Israeli government. This change would only make sense in a wider context that saw the rectification of many policies that make absolutely no sense.

  • Posted by Jon

    To Cara: Your point would be well-taken…if it applied to everyone else equally. But you missed the point of the article, which is that this special Refugee status ONLY applies to Palestinians. Not to your friend’s parents. Not to the person camping under I-95. Not to the person who may have been forced to flee Ireland. And certainly not to the majority of Jews in Israel, who were refugees from Europe and the Arab/Muslim countries who kicked them out. Call them refugees if you would like, but they are not defined as refugees in the UN, only the Palestinian descendants. And therein lies the problem.

  • Posted by Claude Salem

    Let’s not mix apples and oranges:
    Ireland, Poland and Cuba are recognized nation-states. “Palestine” is not …yet! Many countries of Europe recognize the right to citizenship for descendants up to 2 generations , but no more. This can come in handy to those who like the ‘Palestinians” ( those who resided in the territory named Palestine by the League of Nations and accorded to the British as a ‘Mandated Territory”) remain in a “Stateless” status and are thus under the protection of the United Nations.
    In the case of “palestinian refugees” the definition regulating the status of “refugee” is set by the UNHCR : a stateless person who,like any other refugee, can be granted rights of citizenship by countries which allow them to immigrate and acquire permanent resident status. This did not and is still not happening in either Lebanon, Syria,Jordan, Iraq or Egypt . Despite the fact that they have resided in these countries way past the time it would take to acquire permanent residency and citizenship and thus no longer be “stateless refugees”.
    The “Palestine” exception is a human rights crime committed by their Arab and their UN allies for the past 4 generations for purely political and internal discriminatory reasons. None of these countries want higher achieving, more educated and cosmopolitan in their midst to compete with their own emerging elites or even their less literate, less educated nationals. And maintaining them as a a growing “refugee problem” makes them a demographic bargaining chip in any potential negotiated settlement ..in this century …or the next !!
    Maintaining human beings in a state of permanent dependence is tantamount to slavery. Isn’t there a UN statute protecting individuals and groups from that crime ?

  • Posted by Ernesto

    Cara Cicatriz,
    I can’t understand the comparison you made.
    UNRWA (hence world’s tax-money, specially American dollars) are keeping those people in a bubble of no reality.
    You are allowed to choose a nationality according to your parents or grandparents, but not to live in a limbo, be maintained by world charity forever, and be educated with hate and resentment, using that charity money.
    Would you please explain what did you mean?
    Or are you trying to defend the status-quo?

  • Posted by Elliott Abrams

    The examples I gave made it clear, I thought, that I find the status quo absurd.

  • Posted by Cara Cicatriz

    Jon, Claude, and Ernesto:

    Thanks for the opportunity to expand on my comment.


    According to Sec. Abrams, the distinction between refugee status and non- is being determined differently by two UN agencies, UNHCR and the ‘UNRWA for Palestinian Refugees,’ an agency established specifically for this crisis, as the name indicates. Surely, there is a fair amount of self-interest on its part- in advocating for the greatest possible number of displaced persons and the greatest possible mandate (and budget)- but it’s the UN agency designed for this purpose, and it’s asserted the right to assign the term in a way that’s appropriate to the uniqueness that you rightly point out, which the UN recognized in 1948.


    Brilliant point in illustrating the regionwide reality. Incidentally, I just finished a business program in Israel where one of my classmates was a UNRWA alum. We both agreed that the Palestinians have been failed by their leadership, which has consistently sought to destroy Israel rather than accept the territory which they petitioned for at the UN last year.

    The benevolence of the King of Jordan should not be lost in this. Despite his own minority rule and the threat to his regime, he has graciously imparted citizenship rights to these stateless actors, who could just as well have left for vacation and seen their land and property end up in someone else’s hands.

    Lost in this debate is the Law of Return, of course. If you have one Jewish grandparent anywhere in the world, you can return to Israel and become a citizen. Unless you are the child of an Israeli expat, and there are many, that means that your grandparents were alive in 1948 and rejected the right to live in Eretz Israel, yet you have the right to return when the refugees do not.

    As part of the orientation for the business program, we visited Yehiam, an iconic kibbutz named for a young soldier who died in 1948. There is no trace of the gallantry that the Zionist miracle evoked, only a tired and stagnant regime. The kids will ask you for cigarettes and beer and we were instructed to watch our stuff. I mention this because many of the kibbutzim are located on abandoned Arab villages, which could easily be reconstituted in some small but hugely meaningful way.


    I think we’re all here because we’re fed up with the status ‘qvuo’ (Israeli pronunciation), but in your comment: ‘UNRWA (hence world’s tax-money, specially American dollars) are keeping those people in a bubble of no reality. You are allowed to choose a nationality according to your parents or grandparents, but not to live in a limbo, be maintained by world charity forever, and be educated with hate and resentment, using that charity money,’ are you talking about Israelis or Palestinians?


  • Posted by Shaka

    Since my cousin’s Uncle on his Father side was a beduin migrant worker that came to Israel for work in 1946 for several months and left with many other Arabs during the War trying to destroy the Zionist entity of Israel and the remaining Jews, therefore I too am a Palestinian and want my right of return now!!! This is the crux of the Palestinian Refugee Status. Male relations of any Arab that lived in Israel for however a brief period, whether for work or vacation prior to 1948 are considered Palestinian Refugees. This status would be ridiculous if it were not so malicious. The intent is to perpetuate the ARAB – Israeli conflict. Jews who where forced out of Arab lands during those Wars had much more history in their Arab lands, much more property and much better claims then the so called Palestinian Refugee. Yet the UN and the international community don’t mention them. As for the poor Palestinians that the world’s heart bleeds for have no one but themselves to Blame. They are the perpetual victim with the Jews as the scapegoat. Never in history has there been a country, a government or an entity that was controlled by Arabs called Palestine. There are 22 plus Arab countries in the world most of those that call themselves Palestinians came from one of those other countries, why because the Palestinian area was a wasteland before the rest of the Jews returned home to dredge the swamps, plant the fields and rebuild their homeland. Israel is Jewish land and the Arabs covet this land and want to destroy the Jews no matter what. They use the so called Palestinian Refugees as another weapon for such a destruction because their attempts at military destruction keep failing. The Arabs know this but are beginning to believe their own lies.

  • Posted by Eliyahu

    Cara, it generally is not healthy for people to overly cherish their scars, their wounds from the past. Although one cannot forget either. One of the problems in this discussion is that historically & traditionally the Arabs/Muslims did not recognize a country called “palestine” or “Filastin.” That was true in 1946 when Arab expert witnesses testifying before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine denied that there was never any such place as “palestine,” it was all “Syria,” they said. That is, what the West called “palestine” officially starting in 1920 and what the Jews traditionally call the Land of Israel. was seen by the Arabs as an undefined part of Syria [bilad ash-Sham in Arabic]. After the Arabs failed to prevent the independence of Israel in 1948, the Catastrophe or Nakba [as defined by Constantine Zurayk], they were persuaded to speak to the world on behalf of a previously unknown “Palestinian people.” And the PLO emerged in 1964 defining “palestinians” in its charter as a sub-set of Arabs, a section of the Arab nation and “Palestine” as a part of the Arab fatherland.

    Apparently somebody /somebodies/ considered it advantageous to keep the Arab refugees from 1948 in a political limbo in order to garner humanitarian sympathy for the Arab side and maintain a moral claim on Israel however unjustified. Likewise, the novel notion of a “palestinian people” must have been thought to be in somebody’s interest.

  • Posted by Eliyahu

    . . . denied that there was EVER any such place as “Palestine”

  • Posted by Rex Brynen

    It is undoubtedly true that the overwhelming majority (but not all) Palestinians in Jordan would not count as refugees under UNHCR rules. However, it is clearly inaccurate to state that “For every other category of refugees in the world, the 1951 UN Convention on the status of refugees clearly applies to the refugee only and not subsequent generations. This is the definition used by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees today. ”

    Actually, for stateless and other populations unable to avail themselves of state protection, UNHCR DOES recognize subsequent generations as refugees. The majority of refugees that returned to Afghanistan (with UNHCR assistance) after 2001 were subsequent generation refugees, for example. This is known, in UNHCR parlance, as “derivative status.” Subsequent to the passage of the Kirk amendment, this principle was reiterated by the State Department too.

    Consequently, under current UNHCR rules, Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Syria, and Lebanon would almost certainly be counted as either refugees or related “persons of concern.”

    Moreover, UNRWA’s refugee definition pertains to service eligibility, not refugee status in some broader political sense. Indeed, it is limited only to those areas where UNRWA offers services, so the example given is wrong: “…a young American boy of, say, ten years of age born in Chicago to American parents, but whose grandparents were Palestinians who fled Israel in 1948, is counted by UNRWA as a “Palestinian refugee.” In point of fact, a Palestinian born and living in the US could not be registered with UNRWA as a refugee.

    I’m surprised that Elliott Abrams doesn’t realize this, because it was a key issue in Iraq post-2003. Palestinians there were not eligible for UNRWA services (because it is not an UNRWA area of operations), and instead were dealt with by UNHCR.

    Finally, it is important to recognize that the issue of eligibility for UNRWA services is a rather different issue of refugee status under any future peace agreement. One hardly needs to be recognized by the UN to make claims to return to a territory: the fundamental principle underpinning the establishment of the state of Israel was that forced displacement millennia earlier justified a contemporary political and territorial claim.

  • Posted by Cara Cicatriz


    Eretz Israel is Jewish land so long as its tenants abide by the responsibility inherent in such a biblical claim. So long as Israelis steal, murder and defecate on community in the streets of Tel Aviv, they will have a target on their backs.

    The exponential material progress of Zionism has been matched by an explosion of Arab ‘human material’, which could be an asset to the worldwide Jewish community instead of its bane.

    Muhammad’s message and the Rebbe’s, OSM, is one and the same- get it together.

    Reject the bitheism and decadence of the post-Christian world, which is rapidly fading into oblivion. Reject the scoffing and ambiguity of atheistic people. Embrace the overtures of your half-brothers, the sons of Ishmael. Understand that your fate has been handed to them, in the way that your ancestors betrayed one who was not Anointed, but who was indeed chosen before birth, forced to play that role.

    Repent, and you will have your capital.

    (Know that I am not a ‘Jew for Jesus’, but the historical reality is a scar that is, Eliyahu, ignored, and a component of Muhammad’s revelation that is more inclusive, at present, than the mechanical Judeo-Christian consensus. There was no ‘Palestine’ before 1948- in fact, early Zionist literature propagated the term- but there was no ‘Israel’, either. There should be some separation between the State and the Family historically denoted by the eponym and defamed and endangered by the pagan Ba’al-worshipping present (the ‘god’ of fertility) in the Land.

  • Posted by Elliott Abrams

    I appreciate this comment, but there is a difference between saying someone is “not eligible for UNRWA services (because it is not an UNRWA area of operations), and instead were dealt with by UNHCR” and saying that person is not a refugee. The PCBS and UNRWA appear to count as “refugees” everyone who left the territory of Israel, regardless of whether they happen to be eligible for UNRWA services.

    UNRWA’s web site says this: “Under UNRWA’s operational definition, Palestine refugees are people whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict. UNRWA’s services are available to all those living in its area of operations who meet this definition, who are registered with the Agency and who need assistance. The descendants of the original Palestine refugees are also eligible for registration.” And UNRWA uses the same figure as the PCBS, a total of over 5 million “refugees.” To put it another way, there are persons who are not refugees but get UNRWA services (see http://www.unrwa.org/userfiles/2010011995652.pdf) and persons who are refugees according to UNRWA definitions but do not get services because of their location.

  • Posted by Rex Brynen

    UNRWA is not counting all descendants of those who were forcibly displaced from Israel in 1948, it is only counting those who are registered, usually in its area of operations (or, sometimes, those children of registered refugees who register their children in an UNRWA area). Very few of the Palestinians in Iraq, for example, were registered with UNRWA, and certainly most of the current younger generation of Palestinian-Americans of refugee descent aren’t registered (as you’ll find out if you ask).

    Because of the wording of the exclusion clause (1.e) in the 1951 refugee convention, UNHCR refugee determination rules apply to Palestinians outside UNRWA areas of operation

    The more important point about the difference between refugee counting rules really only applies to those in Jordan. The bulk of UNRWA-registered refugees would still be refugees under UNHCR rules (and I’m sure the UNGA would be only too pleased to reaffirm this should anyone push the issue). Moreover, the claims that Palestinian refugees make against Israel–whether well-founded or not–are quite independent of whether they do, or do not, have UNRWA registration.

  • Posted by Michael Dar

    When UNWRA was created there was never any mention of Palestinians but well of Arab refugees from Palestine. Only a very small part of those refugees were in fact forcibly (manu military) removed, most left even before the fighting of their free will or instigated to do so by their own “leadership”. They furthermore went to settled in Arab surrounding countries from which most of them originated in the first place, had the same language, the same tradition and culture, the same religion etc. Not really refugees..only moved and changed the neighborhood! Why was a special, exclusive organization created for the Arab refugees from Palestine aside of the UN’s organization for all other refugees in the world? Why are they the only specific group of people in the world who inherit a “refugee” status for generations? Why is it the only “refugee’ problem in the world who never found a solution and has been artificially perpetuated? Why is the plight of the 1 million Jewish refugees from Arab lands not part of the equation…for after all those became also refugees as result of Pan-Arab war of aggression against Israel? etc.. Soo many question which the world hypocrits would be very embarrassed to answer!

  • Posted by Al

    Question: Are the 500,000 Israelis who have, contrary to the Geneva Conventions, illegally settled in the lands ceded to the Palestinians “Israeli refugees”?

  • Posted by Ernesto

    Cara Cicatriz,
    what you wrote, that perhaps you assume is “funny”, most of it is actually of a VERY bad taste. No more comments for you.

    It’s good to read the comment above, posted by Michael Dar June 22, 2012 at 2:34 am “… So many questions, which the world hypocrits would be very embarrassed to answer!”

  • Posted by Cara Cicatriz

    Taste is a difficult thing to legislate, Ernesto. It’s culturally relative. Only religion serves as a binding code to block the pervasive creep of pushed boundaries. For you to take offense from deep in the Southern Hemisphere, where you must be unless you wrote on Shabbos, is illegitimate to me as an American who is free to opine as I wish without the constraints and foppishness of old Europe.

  • Posted by Elder of Ziyon

    I wrote a similar analysis, but in a bit more detail, here: http://elderofziyon.blogspot.com/2012/06/for-world-refugee-day-abolish-unrwa.html

  • Posted by Shoshana

    So many people who object to Israel’s Law of Return, which facilitates Jewish return to their ancestral homeland, are completely ignorant of the fact that Jordan (which incidentally was formed on 3/4 of the land originally designated as the Mandate for Palestine, a JEWISH National Homeland) has it’s own Law of Return for non-Jewish Palestinians to Jordan. It is found in the Jordanian Nationality Law, Official Gazette, No. 1171, Article 3 (3) of Law No. 6, 1954, February 16, 1954, p. 105 (which can be found online in English translation at the Int’l Migration Organization’s Law Database here: http://tinyurl.com/7zxnjyq). That law reads:

    The following shall be deemed to be Jordanian nationals:

    (2)Any person who, not being Jewish, possessed Palestinian nationality before 15 May 1948 and was a regular resident in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan between 20 December 1949 and 16 February 1954;

    In my opinion, the debate on refugees should include the original 450K Muslim refugees from the Mandate (which includes the territory of Modern Israel and Jordan), AS WELL AS the 1.1 MILLION Jewish refugees who were expelled from Muslim lands (this figure includes the 220K Jews expelled from Iran).

  • Posted by Ira

    Based on the Palestinian’s definition of refugee I am a refugee. My father fled from his village in Lithuania to the USA. Everyone in his village was killed. I was born in Chicago. But since my father was a refugee that make me one too! In fact it make my 3 children born in Australia Lithuanian refugees as well.

    Where do I get my cheque?

  • Posted by michelle almadi

    Cara – the reason Ireland will give you citizenship is because there are certain countries in this world – (Japan and germany also) which have laws like that. They are national citizenship laws based on heritage. They can do that since they write their own citizenship laws pertaining to their OWN country.
    Contrarily, the UN cannot give one definition for “refugee status” and then magically create a new one when they are pushed to by the largest voting block in the UN (which is the council of Islamic cooperation btw, made up by the majority Muslim nation members of the UN). This is unfair, biased, and completely a slap in the face to every country on this planet who hosts refugees. Apparently assimilation shouldn’t exist in this one Palestinian case. Maybe that’s why they’re still “suffering”!!! Because they refuse to see themselves as anything other than refugees!!! For their own good, they should scrap this crap…but then again, they don’t care about their own good…they care about getting the world to label them refugees forever. Even though they KNOW they are not.

  • Posted by michelle almadi

    Also Clara – Israel is a modern country. The fact that you keep referring to it as eretz yisrael is a little staggering. Israel is a democracy with freedom of religion for all – as stated in their declaration of independence and the fact that Christianity is the fastest growing religion there tday…refugees from Sudan, Eritrea, and other African nations almost DIE as they struggle to go through Egypt INTO Israel, where they will be free!!! Israel hosts almost half a million African refugees today! In addition to, of course the 25% of the country which is Muslim – todays Arab Israelis! Nothing about this country is evil with regard to citizen equality. If Israel was so bad to their Arab citizens, wouldn’t the Arabs just leave??? They don’t leave though. They’re too busy serving in the Israeli army!!…

    On a sidenote – if you think that eretz yisrael is all religious and connectected to the biblical land….I suggest you go ask the charedim ultra hasidic people in Israel and around the world why they don’t accept the modern state of Israel! It’s because todays Israel is a modern country founded by NON religious people!!
    Why do you have such a hard tome accepting reality?? Israel is a full democracy hosting citizens of diverse backgrounds, including Arabs. You news to accept this. This is a fact. If you say otherwise, you are just showing your bias and hate.

  • Posted by Cara Cicatriz

    Eretz Yisrael refers to the impermeable Land of Israel, which some- like the Eretz Israel caucus in the Knesset- believe extends to the Jordan, and others to the Euphrates. The State of Israel is the extension of 19th century European politics into the Middle East. I believe the two must converge- that a pluralistic, pagan, ethnic nation-state will not survive in the Middle East, and that Zionism must adapt through its religious and messianic roots, rather than its dominant socialist, secular strain.

    When you say that Israel is a modern state, what you are saying is that it adheres to the pinnacle of contemporary life, which is European. Therein you prove my point- that Zionism as we know it has achieved its objective, and must adapt to an environment that doesn’t resemble the barren land the early Zionists replenished. The Arabs have prospered, indeed, and multiplied, concomitant with the Zionist expansion, as I noted.

    I do have a bias, yes, but there is no hate. It is wholly within the mainstream of Orthodox messianic logic, which sees Ottomans, British and Israelis alike as occupiers in the Land. Unlike many, however, my sincerest hope is that, in a time of crisis, the latter group can realize that two racial states can never coexist- that Miami Beach and Manhattan on the Mediterranean is a temporary indulgence, but that Brooklyn with its humility and religious pluralism can. I see the futility in proselytizing, and that is not my intent, only to articulate and communicate, albeit obliquely, with an ex-policymaker whom I respect, given the slim odds that he mines the depths of the comment stream, although we know that he does read and respond from time to time.

    G-d bless.

  • Posted by michelle almadi

    Cara – I know what eretz yisrael is and so do you. And my point is that you have NO validity in bringing up the biblical land of Israel in any argument you make. I don’t see the point. The modern state doesn’t resemble that land in Any way! It is a secular state on a small fraction of that land. Stop trying to connect a grand manifest destiny messianic vision to reality! You have to deal with reality!

    Also, you think that Israel being a modern state equals Israel being European?!?!?!? I think you’re out if your mind!! Is Peru not a modern country?? Panama?? Egypt?? Australia?? Mexico?? Just because you are a modern state doesn’t mean you have a European culture!!! HALF the Jews in Israel are like me! Ie from the ARAB world! Last time I checked my algerian heritage, it didn’t scream European! Haha
    With a million Jews from Muslim nations going to Israel in the 1950’s….you have some nerve calling our culture European. Israel is like the US – it is diverse!
    And zionism is not expansive!!! It is a tiny safe haven in the middle east for non Muslims AND Muslims alike. last time I checked, Israel GAVE LAND AWAY in 2005 when they unilaterally left Gaza to Palestinians to have FULL control.
    If you think the settlements make Israel expansionist than why does the Israeli govt policy send troops to pull settlers out of them!?
    Because again, Israel is a modern, free, democratic country! Some citizens may act in a way you don’t like and perhaps ate extreme – but it is cuz they live in a free country and have the right to be crazy! The same way the US has ranches in Texas and Utah with religious groups as well. They are the exception! Stop making them the rule, as you are doing!

  • Posted by michelle almadi

    I don’t think you have a general hate. But you definitely have shown a tendency to make these religious extremists and the most extreme views of Israel into your dominant view of Israel. The problem is that that’s not reality. You can’t judge a country based on its extremists. That’s what you’re doing. To when reference the eretz yisrael party in knesset is proof of you doing this.
    Please see Israel for its reality. It is a diverse pluralistic nation of people who do NOT abuse minority religious groups but rather SHELTER them!
    And back to your original point about Palestinian generations ALL perpetually being refugees as well and your Ireland comment….i, and almost all the Jews from Muslim countries cannot claim citizenship since it is illegal to be non-Muslim in many many nations.
    If you really believe in fighting injustice…perhaps you should look at israels neighbors and not at Israel. Just a suggestion.

  • Posted by Suliman Iskander

    These extrcts from an article by Ron Prosser in the Huffington Post provides some perspective.

    “At the end of World War II, 850,000 Jews lived in Arab countries. Just 8,500 remain today. Their departure was no accident. After Arab leaders failed to annihilate Israel militarily in 1948, they launched a war of terror, incitement, and expulsion to decimate their own ancient Jewish communities.
    In Iraq Jewish businessman Shafiq Adas, then the country’s wealthiest citizen, was immediately arrested on trumped-up charges and publicly lynched. This was followed by bombings targeting Jewish institutions, arbitrary arrests of Jewish leaders, and massive government seizures of property. Within years virtually all of Iraq’s 2,500-year-old Jewish community had fled, emptying the country of many of its greatest artists, musicians, and businessmen.
    Similar scenes played out across the region, from Egypt to Syria to Libya to Yemen. State-sanctioned pogroms descended on Jewish neighborhoods, killing innocents and destroying ancient synagogues and Jewish cemeteries. New, draconian laws prevented Jews from public worship, forced them to carry Jewish identity cards, and seized billions of dollars in their property and assets. The total area of land confiscated from Jews in Arab countries amounts to nearly 40,000 square miles — about five times the size of Israel’s entire land mass.
    The vast majority of these Jewish refugees came to Israel, nearly doubling its population. Most entered the Land of Milk and Honey with no milk, no honey, and no money.
    The years have passed, but the injustice inflicted upon these Jewish refugees continues. Many around the world have remained silent and complicit as Arab governments have sought to erase all memory of their stories.
    While Arab leaders have found a refuge from reality at the U.N., they have been unable to outrun the consequences of religious and sectarian persecution, incitement, and violence at home. In the rubble of Aleppo’s former Jewish neighborhoods, Assad’s Allawite-led regime continues to brutally suppress Syria’s Sunni-led uprising. In Egypt mobs burn Coptic Christian churches in the same way that they attacked synagogues years ago. In Baghdad, where Jews once constituted a third of the population, Sunnis and Shiites remain pitted against each other after years of bloodshed.”

    The first steps toward true pluralism will come when Arab countries acknowledge the history of persecution and intolerance in their own lands. They should start by unearthing the 850,000 untold stories of Jews ripped from their ancient homes.
    The historic Jewish presence in the Arab World must be recognized.

  • Posted by Blind Bart

    I realize that this is an older blog, but after reading all of the comments over the past couple months I can’t help but ask a question. The original post asks whether or not those born to refugees should be counted as refugees themselves. Therefore, I think we should try to distinguish between Palestinian refugees and other refugees. Are there cases of other refugees and their descendants, who are still not allowed to go home, counted together as refugees and eligible for services by the UN? Take the Saharawi for example in the camps in Algeria. Are descendants not counted among this displaced people, and are descendants not considered eligible for services? Is seems that they are since education and child nutrition are part of the UN objectives in the Saharawi camps. The question is whether the UN has a double standard, or are the Palestinians simply unique in that they still can’t go home after 60+ years? Perhaps, but I’m not sure and frankly don’t have the time to investigate whether or not Palestinians are unique because it is a unique situation that is yet unresolved or if there are other similar situations where there are groups of refugees who have been refugees for over 50 years. Perhaps in other refugee situations, it doesn’t get to second generation status because the situation gets resolved and refugees can go home. So if the UN does not count the sons and daughters and grandchildren of original refugees who still can’t go home, and are still refugees, in another part of the world, then I’d agree that counting Palestinian descendants of refugees would be wrong. But the article is questioning the integrity of the counting method, so I’d say compare it to other situations where there are second generation “refugees” if and where they can be found and see if the UN has integrity or not. But you have to ask whether or not in those situations, the refugees were allowed to go home or not. If other refugees can’t go home, and if the UN doesn’t count their descendants, then counting Palestinian descendants would be wrong. Please show us a case of refugees who can’t go home after 20 years now and the UN doesn’t count their descendants, then I’ll agree.

  • Posted by Elliott Abrams

    Many thanks for your comment and question, but I would ask a different question. In other cases, what happened if repatriation was impossible? Was any group maintained permanently as refugees? I believe the answer is no; instead, they were resettled. That is the UNHCR practice, as we saw in Europe after WWII.

  • Posted by Blind Bart

    Good question. Are you referring to Jewish refugees being re-settled after WWII? Or are there other examples of refugees being resettled, but not in the lands where they previously lived? If the example is regarding the Jewish situation, that’s a double edged sword and that example will cut both ways. It could be argued therefore, that refugees who don’t get to go back to their original homes and towns before a war get another country somewhere in the world where there are ports, fresh water supplies, and great trade routes (and possibly displacing another people group in the process). That’s quite a reparation package (1947 UN partition plan for Israel and Palestine). In my opinion that’s water under the bridge, but it’s a hair raising example to bring back to the present situation. So I hope there is another specific example of people being resettled? I’d be curious to see how that was handled.

    In going back over the comments above, I think Rex Brynen makes some final comments on June 21 regarding the UN and it’s practices in determining refugee status that, in my opinion, show that the UN does have decent standards for determining refugee status, which is certainly part of the original posts concern.

  • Posted by mohamed

    we are not a problem just let us return back to where our families lived before the war 1948. my family from what is now ashkelon it’s just 18 km from where i live now.

  • Posted by myprotein discount

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