Ben White tries to refute fact that 99% of Palestinian “refugees” are NOT real refugees

In a Jan. 17th op-ed at the Independent, Ben White tried but failed to refute ‘claims’ by “Israeli officials and pro-Israel groups” that the overwhelming majority (over 99%) of the 5.3 million Palestinians registered as refugees by UNRWA are “fake” refugees.

Here’s the argument by White, an anti-Israel activist who, we should note, opposes the continued existence of a Jewish state within any borders:

Some Israelis…suggest a distinction between the elderly survivors of the Nakba, and their descendants – the latter, so the argument goes, are not “real” refugees.

This just does not stand up to scrutiny. Return is an individual refugee’s right. As, for example, the UN Declaration of Human Rights put it: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country”. A right of return is not contingent on the existence of UNRWA (whose mandate, anyway, comes from the UN General Assembly).

Netanyahu apparently believes that UNRWA funding should be redirected to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which he said has “clear criteria for supporting real refugees”. Unfortunately for the Israeli premier, this “criteria” does not include the passage of time.

In a 2016 document, UNHCR highlighted 32 protracted refugee situations worldwide, a third of whom have lasted for more than 30 years. UNHCR noted that “comprehensive solutions require collective commitment to addressing root causes of displacement”

UNHCR has described the Palestinians as representing “the world’s oldest and largest protracted refugee situation”. The Israeli premier will also be disappointed to learn that for UNHCR, repatriation – i.e. return – is “promoted as the preferred durable solution”.

Absolutely nothing in White’s argument even slightly undermines the argument that descendants of refugees are not real refugees, that Palestinians are the only people in the world given the right to bestow “refugee” status and benefits to their descendants (and their descendants, in perpetuity), and that that there are only 20,000 or so real refugees from 1948 remaining.

The one example he provides from a UNHCR report, noting that some Afghans have been refugees in Pakistan for 30 years, does not contradict the fact that these Afghan refugees can not pass on their refugee status to children who were born in the host country and never lived in their parent’s country of birth.

He’s right that the mere “passage of time” shouldn’t necessarily remove refugee status from a genuine refugee, but dying most certainly should. 

Remarkably, not only does UNRWA still legitimise and defend the “right of return” and resist resettlement of Palestinian “refugees”, but consider, as refugees, people of Palestinian descent who are citizens of new states (like Jordan or Lebanon), and even Palestinian citizens of Palestinian ruled territories in the West Bank and Gaza.

As we’ve argued previously, if UNRWA’s definition was applied to the 800,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands between 1945 and 1967, it would make millions of Israeli Jews (who are descendants of those 800,000 refugees) eligible for UNRWA-style refugee status and benefits.

There are good humanitarian-based arguments for maintaining current UNRWA funding until a long-term solution can be found, but there can be no serious argument to maintain the fiction that there are over 5 million actual Palestinian refugees and that these non-refugees of Palestinian descent should be “repatriated” to a place they never once stepped foot. 

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55 replies »

  1. So if White and his cronies want to be consistent, excuse me, bwahahaha!….Ahem, I should be eligible for refugee assistance since my grandparents had to flee Czarist Russia and the pogroms.

  2. This is interesting, however:

    “In a 2016 document, UNHCR highlighted 32 protracted refugee situations worldwide, a third of whom have lasted for more than 30 years. UNHCR noted that “comprehensive solutions require collective commitment to addressing root causes of displacement””

    But only one of those 32 refugee situations has the following characteristics:

    1) The descendants will be considered refugees in perpetuity
    2) There is a special UN organization specifically dedicated to providing aid in perpetuity to that group and none of the other 31 cases

    And of course Ben White would never agree to chant “We are all Case# 27s now” in the way he obsesses over the well-fed, pampered, whining Palestinians.

  3. There is no such ‘right of return’. The Islamofascist colonists left BEFORE Israel declared it’s independence. So they cannot return to a country that did not yet exist when they left. Too fucking bad.

    The Islamofascists can have Arabia, which is their homeland, which they also stole from us

  4. “There are good humanitarian-based arguments for maintaining current UNRWA funding…”?

    Adam – you’re drinking the anti-Israel Kool-Aid. There may be “arguments” but they are not “good”. By all means, if some of the remaining 20,000 elderly refugees need help (and Abbas the mass-embezzler from Safed is not among them) fold them into the UNHCR adding their per capita budget rate to its funding.

  5. : “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country” Perhaps for Ben they should have added the riders, “not with weapons in his hand or heart and the intention to kill inhabitants”.

    Ludicrous that this should be needed, “this right is not property and cannot be passed on to succeeding generations”

  6. In the document by the UNHCR, “The State of the World’s Refugees”, linked to in the article, in box 5.1 on page 112 is says this,
    “UNRWA defines a ‘Palestine refugee’
    as ‘any person whose normal place of
    residence was Palestine during the
    period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948
    and who lost both home and means of
    livelihood as a result of the 1948
    conflict.’ This is a working definition
    for the purpose of determining
    eligibility for UNRWA services. There
    are other groups of Palestinians who
    do not meet this definition but are
    refugees nonetheless, such as the
    thousands who were displaced by the
    1967 war”

    Interesting, and not the picture that Ben White is trying to paint.

  7. Ben White has some real problems. He could be doing something productive, like delivering pizzas, but rather than help innocent families get a delicious dinner, he’d rather spend his time organizing a pogrom.

  8. At international law, there simply is NO right of return doctrine – period. The Jewish people were granted a right to return to their ancestral homeland with a view toward establishing a state on lands the UK liberated from the Ottoman Turks in 1917. It was a series of binding international treaties and covenants, including but not limited to the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine in 1922, which created that right. If a “right of return” did exist as a free-standing doctrine, none of this would have been necessary.
    The UN Declaration Ben White relies on, in fact, does not address this issue at all. Instead, it was meant to prevent countries from either holding their citizens hostage inside their borders or preventing their return if they had been travelling abroad and sought to return home.
    Whatever else may be the case, “refugee” status is not and never was an inheritable status for reasons that should be obvious to all. In fact, under international conventions, many of which Arabs reject so as to preserve their willful desire to keep Palestinian Arabs as a weapon pointed at Israel (see Arab League resolution 1547 as an example), a host state has an obligation to integrate existing refugees and, where it can’t, the UNHCR functions to facilitate their integration in other states. UNWRA perpetuates rather than solves a problem. It is not a refugee organization. It is an international welfare association catering to a single group.

  9. Wish some country would hold White hostage for a while, and prevent his return to anywhere with an internet connection and a keyboard.

    • One of the problems with that idea is that no matter which country did it, White and his clique would blame Israel and some would believe them irrespective of any evidence or lack of evidence.
      Another problem is that it would give White a tremendous amount of media coverage and publicity, probably most of it creating sympathy for the little shit.

  10. Does Ben White even have a job besides being a professional anti-Semite, er, excuse me, anti-Israel activist?

  11. No one knows the true number but German people displaced by WW2 from outside core Germany is around 12 million. These were all taken in by Germany post 1945. Although there was for a long time a movement to keep claims alive, the German government never acted on this. Were we to use the same Palestinian logic there would be tens of millions of German refugee’s today and a civil war like situation across much of eastern Europe. German’s and European’s and every other nation on the planet resettle and assimilate people for good reasons.