Since 1948, the plight of those Arabs who fled during Israel’s War of Independence has been used as a diplomatic tool against the Jewish state. To make sure the problem does not go away, the UN—in contrast to its policy regarding every other refugee group—holds refugee status for this particular group to be heritable. Jerold Auerbach argues that it is time to end what has always been a “charade”:
The number of Arabs who abandoned Palestine has long been disputed and—the better to blame Israel—vastly inflated. The New York Times, for example, repeatedly revised the fictitious refugee number upward: 870,000 (1953), “nearly 906,000” (1955), 925,000 (1957), “nearly a million” (1967). But according to [the historian] Efraim Karsh’s meticulously documented research, the total number of Palestinian refugees in 1947–48 was between 583,121 and 609,071. A terrible tragedy to be sure, and one for which the Arab nations that waged war to annihilate the fledgling Jewish state must bear responsibility. But it was, as Karsh pointedly writes, “a self-inflicted tragedy.”
In 1949 the United Nations Relief and Works Administration (UNRWA) was established to support Arabs “whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period of June 1, 1946 to May 15, 1948.” A laudable endeavor at its inception, over time it has become a farce. As though refugees never die, thereby inevitably reducing the number of beneficiaries, UNRWA (by its own calculation) now provides assistance to more than 1.5 million “refugees” and their descendants. Last August the Trump administration had the good sense to halt UNRWA funding. By then there were as many UNRWA employees as living Palestinian refugees.
Israel certainly can—and arguably should—invite the return of some 30,000 genuine Palestinian refugees, a number guaranteed to decline over time. The only objections, ironically, are likely to come from UNRWA and its Arab minions. They desperately need Palestinian “refugees” to sustain their unyielding public-relations war against Israel and, perhaps more important, to protect UNRWA bank accounts that assure their own salaries. But it is long past time to close this fraudulent charade that lacerates Israel for crimes that it did not commit.