30,000 or 5 Million? The Real Number of Palestinian Refugees
On May 24th, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee approved a resolution virtually certain to create a controversy in Washington, D.C. The Kirk Amendment, named after its drafter, Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), authorizes the State Department to submit a report "detailing the number of people currently receiving United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) services.”
At issue is whether there are 30,000 Palestinian "refugees,” the actual number of living people "personally displaced” during Israel’s 1948 war of independence — or the nearly 5 million Palestinians who comprise their descendants. The distinction centers around two critical issues: Palestinian "right of return” demands and funding for UNRWA.
UNRWA was established in 1948 to assist the 750,000 Palestinians who either chose to leave or were forced out of Israel. UNRWA has essentially operated as a promoter of the Palestinian cause because it funds all 5 million "refugees.” That support amounts to $1.23 billion annually, $250 million of which is underwritten by the United States, UNRWA’s largest single donor. The larger number assuages progressive sensibilities among the United Nations, the U.S. State Department, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and Israeli politicians, all with a vested interest in maintaining what amounts to permanent victimhood status for Palestinians, as well as enabling constant criticism of Jewish settlements.
The first Palestinian census was completed 15 years ago. At the time, the head of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) admitted it was "a civil intifada,” aimed Jewish settlements. Last December, the Bureau attempted to reprise its demographic misrepresentation, claiming 2.6 million Palestinian Arabs inhabit Judea and Samaria, considered the biblical homeland of the Jewish people. More than 300,000 Israelis currently reside in the area. (...)