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May 30, 2012

Where’s the Coverage? Senate May Try to Find Out How Many Palestinian Refugees Are... Refugees

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On May 24, 2012, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee passed an amendment to the fiscal year 2013 State Department and foreign-operations appropriations bill.

The amendment, proposed by Mark Kirk (R, Illinois) requires the State Department to inform Congress about the use of taxpayer funds donated to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, or UNRWA. America donates nearly a quarter of a billion dollars annually to support the Palestinian refugees.

But are they all refugees? As Daniel Pipes writes:

Of the nearly 5 million official refugees served by UNRWA ... only about 1 percent are real refugees who fit the agency’s definition of "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." The other 99 percent are descendants of those refugees, or what I call fake refugees.

The Kirk amendment would require the State Department to report to Congress how many recipients are actual refugees and how many are descendants. It would not limit or eliminate the funding. It would only require an accounting. So, why is this important? Pipes answers:

Because, were the State Department compelled to differentiate real Palestine refugees from fake ones, the U.S. and other Western governments (who, together, cover over 80 percent of UNRWA’s budget) could eventually decide to cut out the fakes and thereby undermine their claim to a "right of return" to Israel.

Keep in mind that all other refugees from all other conflicts around the world are served by the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or UNHCR. None of them can pass their refugee status on to their descendants. This special privilege is reserved only for Palestinians. Acknowledging this fact and its ramifications could be the first step in solving one of the major issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The amendment was important enough to generate a reaction that Jennifer Rubin described in her "Right Turn" blog as:

...a hissy fit from the State Department, which, in a letter signed by deputy secretary of State Thomas Nides, declared that the Kirk language would be viewed in the world as a U.S. attempt to "prejudge and determine the outcome" of the "sensitive" issue of Palestinian refugees. (Forking over money and declaring generations of Palestinians who never lived in and never fled from Israel is apparently not "prejudging.") Then, to prove the point of the legislation, Nides goes on to declare that there are "5 million refugees" (well, if you call the great-grandkids of original refugees who now live in the West Bank "refugees"). Nides also decries any decrease in funding for UNRWA, which has nothing to do with Kirk’s call merely to gather accurate data. Thankfully, the Senate Appropriations Committee ignored the hysterical and grossly dishonest plea.

Yet, the Kirk Amendment got very little attention in major media outlets. The Wall Street Journal tacked it on to the end of an article headlined "U.S. Cuts Pakistan Aid." There were a few articles in the Jewish press, in Israel, in blogs and specialty publications but in a media search, CAMERA was able to turn up precious little in the mainstream press.

On a subject this potentially important, one has to ask, where’s the coverage?

To see an interesting video on the subject of refugees, click here.

Posted by SC at May 30, 2012 06:12 PM

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