Why are only the Palestinians considered ‘refugees’?

Following Israeli urging, U.S. Congress asks the U.N. to clarify why Palestinians can transfer their “refugee” status to descendants  • The request could possibly change U.S. funding for UNRWA.

By Shlomo Cesana

 

 

The U.S. Congress has approached the U.N. looking for an explanation as to why only the Palestinians have been allowed to pass on the status of refugees from generation to generation.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon in a recent video campaign about U.N. policy toward Palestinian refugees. | Photo credit: Foreign Ministry

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon in a recent video campaign about U.N. policy toward Palestinian refugees. - Photo: Foreign Ministry

According to official U.N. treaties, a refugee is defined, in short, as someone who was forced to leave his or her home due to persecution. Refugee status, however, usually cannot be transferred from one generation to the next. However, under a special decree of the U.N., Palestinians have been allowed to continue regarding themselves as refugees for several generations. Palestinian refugees from the 1948 War of Independence and their descendants are not subject to the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, rather to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which has its own criteria for determining who is a refugee.

The way Palestinians are classified in terms of their refugee status holds both political and financial significance. Most of UNRWA’s budget comes from the U.S., and so a shift in the way the U.S. Congress considers Palestinians can affect UNRWA’s budget.

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Congress is now asking the U.N. for a report detailing how many refugees aided by UNRWA were actually displaced during the War of Independence, and how many have been granted refugee status through “inheritance.”

Congress’ request comes after significant lobbying by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (Yisrael Beytenu). Ayalon has also been promoting a new memorial day on the Jewish calendar – Jewish Refugee Day, during which students will learn about the 850,000 Jewish refugees who fled from their native Arab countries since the establishment of the state.

Ayalon has already submitted a request on the matter to Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov (Yisrael Beytenu), who heads the Knesset’s symbols and rituals committee. Ayalon suggested the new memorial day be set near Shavuot, on the day of the 1941 Farhud pogrom, during which 137 Iraqi Jews were murdered. Ayalon said introducing the new memorial day would correct a historical injustice by finally recognizing the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees and victims who were persecuted and forced to leave their homes in Arabs countries.

View original Israel Hayom publication at: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=4758

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