No, hurting Palestinian refugees doesn’t help peace

Middle East
on 29 Comments

It’s not news to readers of this site that the spectrum of views on Middle East policy in US media is generally lacking. But when that bias takes the form of relying regularly on an organization with a troubling agenda for U.S. engagement in the region and that publication is a credible source for congressional news and analysis, it warrants additional examination. Politico’s “exposé” accusing Obama of letting Hezbollah “off the hook” was heavily reliant on the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD)’s David Asher, whose name appeared three dozen times in the article.

Then came the bipartisan “Where We Can Agree on Iran” piece, co-authored by FDD’s Mark Dubowitz, and appropriately mocked by Yousef Munayyer of USPCR for “presenting the views of two white dudes working for pro-Israel think tanks as some broad spectrum.” Then came the hit piece by Jonathan Schanzer and Richard Goldberg of (wait for it) FDD, targeting UNRWA, the UN agency providing assistance to Palestinian refugees, which they paint as both a waste of US taxpayers’ money and a promoter of hopelessness and violence. Because a misleading attack on a refugee assistance program is a step too far, it’s time to set the record straight, starting with basic context:

Israel’s creation came at the expense of 700,000+ Palestinians who were driven from their homes during the 1948 war. Israel’s blocking of these refugees’ right to return home, coupled with its destruction of hundreds of Palestinian towns and villages to make such return impossible, created the protracted Palestinian refugee crisis. After Palestinians made a historic compromise in recognizing Israel on nearly 80 percent of historic Palestine, the framework for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict shifted to the two-state solution, whereby Israel would withdraw from the remaining 22 percent of the land, as it is required to do under international law. A resolution to the Palestinian refugee crisis under a two-state solution is understood to entail compensation for the displaced families, and a combination of some refugees returning home to modern-day Israel, many being resettled in the emerging Palestinian state, and integration in host countries for those who choose it.

Instead of capitalizing on the Palestinian compromise, abiding by international law, and withdrawing from one-fifth of historic Palestine to allow the creation of a Palestinian state, Israel did the exact opposite: it accelerated its expansion of illegal settlements in areas allocated for the Palestinian state, to the condemnation of the entire international community. Eventually, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu even dropped the pretense of a just two-state solution, openly rejecting the return to the internationally-mandated pre-1967 borders, and declaring that there will never be a Palestinian state on his watch. President Obama was critical of Netanyahu’s behavior, and had enough of a conscience to not veto a 2016 UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement expansion, but he ultimately wasn’t willing to pay the domestic political cost of applying meaningful pressure on Israel to change its peace-obstructing behavior.

When Donald Trump became president, some hoped he could strike “the ultimate deal” between Israelis and Palestinians. But it was clear to any informed observer that a workable deal would require meaningful American pressure on Israel to end the occupation, and given the extremist pro-Israel crew Trump surrounded himself with (including Ambassador David Friedman, who once called Obama an anti-Semite over tepid criticism of Israel), there was every reason to be skeptical. Then Trump proved our skepticism by backing off long-standing US opposition to settlements, and even taking “Jerusalem off the table” and granting it to Israel, thereby instantly making any deal unacceptable to Palestinians.

And when Palestinians mustered the dignity to refuse negotiations under such demeaning and deplorable terms, Trump cut off more than half of the funding for UNRWA, and has threatened to cut off all aid to the Palestinians.

The idea of punishing Palestinian refugees to coerce Palestinians to submit to Trump and Netanyahu’s appalling vision of “peace” seems transparently reprehensible. However, Schanzer and Goldberg assure us that it only appears that way, but that “it’s not that simple,” because the US has given UNRWA billions over the past decades, and “it’s only fair to ask: What are we getting for our money?” The authors take issue with UNRWA counting refugees’ descendants in the camps they help, arguing that UNRWA creates a “culture of hopelessness and permanent dependency [that] breeds terrorism and violence.”

You’d think the “hopelessness” experienced by Palestinian refugees should be blamed on those who drove them from their homes and refuse any sensible political settlement that solves their problem. But no, apparently it’s the fault of the UN agency helping them survive this grave injustice.

In what reads like a bad joke, Schanzer and Goldberg propose placing Trump’s anti-Palestinian chief UN diplomat Nikki Haley, who openly gloated about booting a Palestinian out of a UN job for no reason other than being Palestinian, in charge of UNRWA to shape its mission. Schanzer and Goldberg also attempt to tie UNRWA to terrorism, citing dubious claims about UNRWA’s role during Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2014. Without getting into the details of what makes many of the allegations about the 2014 war misleading (you can watch a detailed breakdown here), it’s actually worth noting that Israel gets a lot more money from the US than UNRWA does, and Israel’s army stands accused of committing serious war crimes against thousands of civilians, dwarfing any of the allegations brought up against UNRWA. Shouldn’t accountability for far larger sums of money and far bigger atrocities come before nickel-and-diming a refugee assistance program?

Schanzer and Goldberg argue that “there must be a plan to move UNRWA’s 5 million dependents from international welfare to self-sufficiency,” and I couldn’t agree more. The way to move refugees to self-sufficiency is to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and create the conditions by which they can return to normal life. What this requires is pressure on the Israeli government to end its obstructionist policies, not Trump’s enablement of their hubris at the expense of Palestinian rights. And no matter how popular scapegoating the vulnerable becomes in the Trump era, denying the downtrodden the basic services they need to get by is no formula for solving any crisis.

 

About Omar Baddar

Omar Baddar is Deputy Director of the Arab American Institute. He is a political scientist and human rights activist.

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29 Responses

  1. Citizen
    February 3, 2018, 2:02 pm

    Agreed. Don’t expect USA’s 100 senators to disagree; they all work for AIPAC matrix.

  2. Annie Robbins
    February 3, 2018, 2:58 pm

    for anyone who doesn’t recall this richard goldberg character he was the aipac guy who ran mark kirk’s office and crafted his anti palestinian legislation. kirk was israel’s go to man in congress and when he had a stroke goldberg was in charge. too many of our articles to mention here, but as a reminder of just some of that legislation (which actually came from some knesset MP, ahmed moor covered that): http://princearthurherald.com/en/uncategorized/mark-kirk-and-the-invented-palestinian-refugees

    On May 5th, the US Senate unanimously approved an amendment proposed by Republican Illinois Senator Mark Kirk that could shrink the number of Palestinian refugees recognized by the State Department from 5 million to 30,000. The amendment asks the State Department to distinguish between those Palestinians who fled during the 1948 War, numbering about 30,000 still alive, and their millions of descendants who still live in refugee camps.

    goldberg has been on this mission for a long long time.

    • Citizen
      February 3, 2018, 7:03 pm

      Nice mission he has, treating the descendants of the native refugees as if they don’t exist. Zionism is totally divorced from Humanism. If I believed in fictitious creatures, he’d certainly be a big devil, not even remotely, a tiny angel.

      • Annie Robbins
        February 3, 2018, 7:42 pm

        funny you should say that citizen because i was thinking (and then wrote) ‘he is evil’– then erased it, because i generally try to not ascribe that term to people.

      • RoHa
        February 3, 2018, 9:02 pm

        Even when they obviously are?

  3. dimadok
    February 4, 2018, 11:03 am

    Dear Omar- can you clarify to me and readers here one issue , why is being a descendant of a refugee makes you refugee as well? And why it this designation is only applied to Palestinian Arabs and their families?
    Thank you.

    • zaid
      February 4, 2018, 3:32 pm

      Dear Dimadok- can you clarify to me and readers here one issue , why is being the 1000 descendant of someone who lived in Palestine (claim) gives you the right to return to that land after 2000 year?

      As for your question,Just like people inherent the nationality of their parents, the children of Palestinian refugees inherent the right of return (nationality of 48 Palestine) from their parents.

      I am not a specialist in international law but i doubt that international law doesnot grant the children of Syrians born in refugee camps in Turkey or Jordan the Syrian nationality and as a result the right of return to Syria.

      It is really common sense and basic justice.

    • Mooser
      February 4, 2018, 3:58 pm

      “can you clarify to me and readers here one issue , why is being a descendant of a refugee makes you refugee as well?”

      We usually defer that question to the Zionists. They have a very liberal interpretation of refugee status.

    • Talkback
      February 4, 2018, 4:00 pm

      dimadok: “… can you clarify to me and readers here one issue , why is being a descendant of a refugee makes you refugee as well?”

      Because even Nonjews have a right to family, especially in prolonged refugee problems.

      dimadok: “And why it this designation is only applied to Palestinian Arabs and their families?”

      The more interesting question is why Zionists keep repeating this lie?

      “Questions raised about the passing of refugee status through generations stem from a lack of understanding of the international protection regime. These questions serve only to distract from the need to address the real reasons for the protracted Palestinian refugee situation, namely the absence of negotiated solution to the underlying political issues.

      UNHCR‘s Handbook on Procedures and Criteria for determining Refugee Status provides in paragraph 184: “If the head of a family meets the criteria of the definition, [for refugee status] his dependants are normally granted refugee status according to the principle of family unity.”

      In effect, refugee families everywhere retain their status as refugees until they fall within the terms of a cessation clause or are able to avail themselves of one of three durable solutions already mentioned — voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement in a third country.

      Also, Chapter 5 of the UNHCR publication, Procedural Standards for Refugee Status Determination under UNHCR’s Mandate is very clear that in accordance with the refugee’s right to family unity, refugee status is transferred through the generations. According to Chapter 5.1.2 “the categories of persons who should be considered to be eligible for derivative status under the right to family unity include:” “all unmarried children of the Principal Applicant who are under 18 years.”

      Chapter 5.1.1 makes it clear that this status is retained after the age of 18. It states “individuals who obtain derivative refugee status enjoy the same rights and entitlements as other recognised refugees and should retain this status notwithstanding the subsequent dissolution of the family through separation, divorce, death, or the fact that the child reaches the age of majority.”

      In addition, UNHCR typically cites a Palestinian refugee population number in their State of the World‘s Refugees reports: see as an example this document. This makes clear that the practice of registering descendants of refugees is not disputed.”
      https://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/features/exploding-myths-unrwa-unhcr-and-palestine-refugees

      • oldgeezer
        February 4, 2018, 10:27 pm

        @Talkback

        I don’t think it will change the zionist position. Last week it was emet perpetuating that lie. This week it’s dimadok. Next week someone else.

        The falsity of their claim is easily determined. Obviously through the actual rules but also simple web searches will show quite a few refugee situations which have expanded into multiple generations. I think it’s 3rd generation for Nigeria (Kenya?) and the Somali refugees they host.

        zionism relies on both lies and crimes to exist.

      • Talkback
        February 5, 2018, 8:35 am

        oldgeezer: “I don’t think it will change the zionist position. Last week it was emet perpetuating that lie. This week it’s dimadok. Next week someone else.”

        My aim is not to change these hopeless causes but to expose them. I’m actually not even interested in debating them, cause this would imply that they actually have a rational argument based on facts which they rarely do.

    • Eva Smagacz
      February 4, 2018, 7:34 pm

      dimadok you said:

      can you clarify to me and readers here one issue , why is being a descendant of a refugee makes you refugee as well? And why it this designation is only applied to Palestinian Arabs and their families?

      Not sure if, based on current evidence, Zionists will ever win pissing contest with Palestinians when it comes to accusing opponent of undeservedly “feeling special and/or exceptional and/or chosen by G-d”, so not a clever argument, dimadok, wouldn’t use it, if I were you.

      On the more formal note these are other groups living in conditions of protracted refugee situations:

      During a meeting of its Standing Committee in March 2008, UNHCR informed that “at the end of 2006, over half of the 9.9 million refugees worldwide were living in exile in protracted situations.”

      It noted that “The 10 largest populations living in protracted situations were: 1. Over 1 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan, 2. Nearly 1 million Afghan refugees in the Islamic Republic of Iran, 3. 350,000 Burundians in the United Republic of Tanzania, 4. 215,000 Sudanese in Uganda, 5. 174,000 Somalis in Kenya, 6. 157,000 Eritreans in Sudan, 7. 132,000 Angolans in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 8. 132,000 refugees from Myanmar in Thailand, 9. 128,000 Congolese (DRC) in the United Republic of Tanzania, 10. 107,000 Bhutanese in Nepal.”85/96

  4. Mayhem
    February 4, 2018, 5:40 pm

    “After Palestinians made a historic compromise in recognizing Israel on nearly 80 percent of historic Palestine, the framework for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict shifted to the two-state solution, whereby Israel would withdraw from the remaining 22 percent of the land”

    Conveniently twisting of history by the author. It is the Jews who have had to make the big sacrifice.

    In July 1922, the League of Nations entrusted Great Britain with the Mandate for Palestine. Recognizing “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine,” Great Britain was called upon to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine-Eretz Israel (Land of Israel). Shortly afterwards, in September 1922, the League of Nations and Great Britain decided that the provisions for setting up a Jewish national home would not apply to the area east of the Jordan River, which constituted three-fourths of the territory included in the Mandate and which eventually became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

    And today the propped up Kingdom of Jordan is 80% Palestinian and there is barely a murmur about that from those who only focus on Israel and the Jews.

    • Eva Smagacz
      February 4, 2018, 7:48 pm

      Mayhem, you said

      Recognizing “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine,” Great Britain was called upon to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine-Eretz Israel (Land of Israel)”

      Great Britain was called upon recognising “the historical connection” and “to facilitate” by none other than very Jewish people themselves who had a wizard idea to colonise land that had other people (Palestinians) living there since “time immemorial”.

      Writing about it in passive voice does not make it moral.86/97

    • Talkback
      February 5, 2018, 9:04 am

      Mayhem: “Conveniently twisting of history by the author. It is the Jews who have had to make the big sacrifice.

      In July 1922, the League of Nations entrusted Great Britain with the Mandate for Palestine. Recognizing “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine,” Great Britain was called upon to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine-Eretz Israel (Land of Israel). Shortly afterwards, in September 1922, the League of Nations and Great Britain decided that the provisions for setting up a Jewish national home would not apply to the area east of the Jordan River, which constituted three-fourths of the territory included in the Mandate and which eventually became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.”

      Sure. Mayhem sees it as a Jewish sacrifice when Jewish foreign settlers could only immigrate into Palestine without the consent of its people not also into Transjordan the consent of its people of Transjordan and. There is no fun in violating only the right to self determination of one people.

      And the mandate didn’t come into effect on 24 July 1922. That was only the day the draft was confirmed. It was then suplemented with the Transjordan memorandum (and came into effect on 29 September 1923) It had been always intended by the League of Nations and the British Goverment to establish a seperate administration in Transjordan and to not to allow immigration and settlements of Jewish foreign colonials for a national home (which was never meant to be a state let alone a Jewish state).

      Mayhem: “And today the propped up Kingdom of Jordan is 80% Palestinian …”

      Well sure. After they were expelled by the Zionist terror hordes in 1948 (and a lot of them again in 1967) and kept expelled by the racist Jewish Apartheid Junta. I’m sure that you can spin this into a Jewish sacrifice, too.

    • Atlantaiconoclast
      February 5, 2018, 9:27 pm

      The only reason Jordan has so many Palestinians is because those Jordanian Palestinians are descendants of Palestinians who were expelled or forced to flee by Israel to Jordan. I am so tired of the vicious lies of Zionists. It needs to stop. Time to call you out for what you are. You are a liar and a supremacist.

    • Maghlawatan
      February 6, 2018, 10:48 pm

      For fuck’s sake.

      BTW attacking the refugees is like trashing Gaza . It is a blueprint for the days after the IDF surrenders . It is nice to be important but it is more important to be nice. If you tolerate this then your children will be next.

      • catalan
        February 7, 2018, 10:51 am

        ” It is a blueprint for the days after the IDF surrenders .”
        I thought that boycotting Sabra hummus and sodastreams alone would do it. Why the need for a war?

      • Mooser
        February 7, 2018, 12:16 pm

        ” Why the need for a war?”

        No need for war. If Israel’s leadership collapses, the IDF will be dis-armed, lest the weapons fall into the hands of neo-Zionist terror groups.

      • eljay
        February 7, 2018, 12:36 pm

        || catalan: … Why the need for a war? ||

        According to you:
        – every responsible leader should have a “vision for war”; and
        – “war is the normal state of human affairs”.

    • inbound39
      February 7, 2018, 3:35 am

      Weeeelllllll….ya see in 47 and after Zionists forced Palestinians over the border and drove them to the river bank by the coach load. Those trying to flee back to Palestine were shot hence large numbers of Palestinians in Jordan. Israel created it.

    • Mooser
      February 7, 2018, 12:18 pm

      . “It is the Jews who have had to make the big sacrifice.” “Mayhem”

      Told ya! “The big sacrifice”. Maybe Zionism had reached the limits of its power, and had to retrench? No, they made a “big sacrifice”

  5. Mayhem
    February 4, 2018, 5:55 pm

    Is the author here really concerned about helping peace?
    Are the current machinations of the PLO wanting to disengage from Israel helping peace?

    • Eva Smagacz
      February 4, 2018, 8:10 pm

      Mayhem, you asked:

      Are the current machinations of the PLO wanting to disengage from Israel helping peace?

      Anything that brings the cost of Occupation back to Israelis, where it belongs, will help Israel consider peace, rather than comfortable status quo.

      Ilan Goldenberg wrote in 2015 in Foreign Policy:
      “Thousands of Israel Defense Forces soldiers would likely be deployed in the event of a Palestinian security dissolution, and their long-term presence in former Palestinian Authority-controlled areas would likely cost billions of dollars to Israeli taxpayers. The Palestinian Authority’s 2014 budget was $4.2 billion, roughly half of which was funded by international donors that would not be willing to foot such a bill if the costs were borne by Israel.

      For an Israeli public that is increasingly decrying socioeconomic strain at home, the additional cost of a return to a full occupation of the West Bank would be an unwelcome burden to bear.For an Israeli public that is increasingly decrying socioeconomic strain at home, the additional cost of a return to a full occupation of the West Bank would be an unwelcome burden to bear. But much more unbearable would be the emotional cost of having young Israelis resume security responsibilities for the entire Palestinian territory. This would be a tragic development for Israelis and Palestinians alike.”87/98

  6. lonely rico
    February 6, 2018, 4:19 am

    > Eva Smagacz

    For an Israeli public that is increasingly decrying socioeconomic strain at home, the additional cost of a return to a full occupation of the West Bank would be an unwelcome burden to bear.

    No fear Eva. Israel’s friends in Congress will be only too happy to send along the money to help the added burden needed to protect the only (Jewish) democracy in the ME.

    But much more unbearable would be the emotional cost of having young Israelis resume security responsibilities for the entire Palestinian territory.

    Young (mis-educated) Israelis seem only too eager to join the IDF, to participate in the periodic “turkey shoots” in Gaza, and the daily arrogant criminality in the oPT.

    This would be a tragic development for Israelis and Palestinians alike.

    Not ‘would be’.
    Zionism HAS BEEN a tragic development for Jews and Palestinians alike, ongoing now for over a century.

    • RoHa
      February 6, 2018, 6:20 pm

      “Zionism HAS BEEN a tragic development for Jews ”

      Many -and I think most – Jews seem to think it is a good thing.

      • Talkback
        February 7, 2018, 8:46 am

        Which is the actual tragedy.

      • RoHa
        February 7, 2018, 6:10 pm

        They don’t seem to suffer from it. The Palestinians do.

  7. Maghlawatan
    February 6, 2018, 10:50 pm

    “When Donald Trump became president, some hoped he could strike “the ultimate deal” between Israelis and Palestinians. ”

    Einstein said there were only 2 things that were infinite- the universe and human stupidity- but that he wasn’t sure about the universe.

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