Since the beginning of the year, the outgoing secretary of state has been using his Twitter account to tout his department’s various accomplishments during his tenure. Among these, notes Jimmy Quinn, lay an important statement explaining the 2018 decision to cease funding the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA): “it’s estimated [that less than] 200,000 Arabs displaced in 1948 are still alive and most others are not refugees.” Quinn explains:
UNRWA serves Palestinian refugees exclusively—it says that there are 5.8 million of them in Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, and “Palestine”—and it’s the only organization within the UN system that focuses on a specific set of refugees. (All other refugee groups are handled by the UN high commissioner for refugees.) It’s a testament to the UN’s single-minded obsession with criticizing Israel.
The UN’s inflated statistic comes from the fact that it counts as a refugee anyone with a paternal ancestor who fled the territory of Mandatory Palestine in 1947 or 1948, whereas when dealing with any other conflict, neither the UN nor international law consider refugee status heritable. Quinn continues:
[Thus] the U.S. government’s estimate, as the outgoing secretary of state notes, is that the actual number of refugees is less than 200,000. . . . And despite what skeptics of the current administration’s foreign policy may think, this isn’t a Trump-era fabrication. In fact, the figure appears to come from a report completed during the Obama administration that has remained classified in the years since.
To a domestic audience, this figure will play a role in the future debate over U.S. support for UNRWA, which is facing a significant budget shortfall. Before the Trump administration cut off funding for the agency, the United States [contributed] about a quarter of its budget. With a new president set to take office, there could well be a return to the status quo. . . . The disclosure of the number of people that can truly be considered refugees should make anyone think twice.