Counting Palestinians (GateStone Institute) by Shoshana Bryen 05/25/12)
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"When we have a state accepted as a member of the United Nations,
this is not the end of the conflict." Abdullah Abdullah, Palestinian
Ambassador to Lebanon.
Senator Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) has offered an amendment to the FY 2013
funding bill for the State Department that would require the
Department to provide two numbers to Congress: 1) the number of
Palestinians physically displaced from their homes in what became
Israel in 1948, and 2) the number of their descendants administered
by the United Nations Relief Works Agency (UNRWA). 
Palestinians are the only people for whom refugee status passes along
through the generations (a condition adopted by the UN in 1965 over
the objection of the United States), so they are also the only
refugee population that grows exponentially over generations rather
than declining as the original refugees pass away and their
descendants become citizens of other places. Sen. Kirk seems to think
the numbers would provide insight into whether the billions of U.S.
tax dollars that have been provided to UNRWA over the years are
making the problem better – or worse.
The State Department, naturally, is appalled, believing getting a
handle on the numbers is prelude to cutting off the dollars. And
further, it appears to believe that how our money is spent is not our
business. Deputy Secretary Thomas Nides wrote to the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee, "This proposed amendment would be viewed around
the world as the United States acting to prejudge and determine the
outcome of this sensitive issue." As if the world´s view of the
problem is more important than transparency with the American people.
In any event, the U.S. would not be prejudging anything, but only be
determining how many people live off our dole.
The possible outcomes of the Palestinian refugee issue are three: to
allow them to go to Israel (the so-called "right of return"); to
formulate their resettlement (and compensation) in the new State of
Palestine; or formulate their resettlement (and compensation)
somewhere else. The first means the dissolution of the State of
Israel – which cannot possibly be among the State Department´s
acceptable outcomes. (Can it?) In either of the other two scenarios,
counting would be a prerequisite to resettlement.
The problem for the State Department is that the Palestinians have
rejected the second and third outcomes.
In a little noticed interview in the Lebanese newspaper, The Daily
Star, the Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon, Abdullah Abdullah, said
even if the UN established a Palestinian State, the refugees would
not become citizens of it. "They are Palestinians, that´s their
identity. But … they are not automatically citizens. Even Palestinian
refugees who are living in [refugee camps] inside the [then-
Palestinian] state, they are still refugees. They will not be
Why? Because to become a citizen of "Palestine" if Palestine is less
than the entire territory west of the Jordan River would obviate the
so-called "right of return," which postulates that Palestinians who
left the territory that became Israel – and their descendants – are
entitled to go to where they claim to have come from, namely pre-1967
Israel. That is to say, Abdullah Abdullah is choosing the first
option – the dissolution of Israel and explicitly rejecting the
Abdullah told the paper that U.N. statehood would not affect the
planned return of refugees to "Palestine." "How the issue of the
right of return will be solved I don´t know, it´s too early [to say],
but it is a sacred right that has to be dealt with and solved [with]
the acceptance of all." Statehood "will never affect the right of
return for Palestinian refugees… The refugees are from all over
Palestine. When we have a state accepted as a member of the United
Nations, this is not the end of the conflict. This is not a solution
to the conflict. This is only a new framework that will change the
rules of the game."
The creation of a Palestinian state in territories bordering Israel
then would only be a way-station to the establishment of "Palestine"
in place of Israel. Abdullah said the new Palestinian state
would "absolutely not" issue Palestinian passports to refugees, lest
they be understood to be citizens of Palestine.
UNRWA, he said, would continue to be responsible for the "refugees"
after the creation of the Palestinian state, at least until
the "right of return" is enacted.
Senator Kirk, a former prosecutor, has worked tirelessly for years to
force the State Department to quantify U.S. assistance to the
Palestinians through UNRWA. He has been thwarted at every turn. An
aide to the Senator said, "This amendment simply demands basic
transparency with regard to who receives U.S. taxpayer assistance."
The Palestinians have been entirely transparent about their goals; we
should expect nothing less from the Department of State.
Shoshana Bryen is Senior Director of The Jewish Policy Center. She
was previously Senior Director for Security Policy at JINSA and
author of JINSA Reports from 1995-2011.
 It would be interesting to compare the first number to the number
of Jews of the Middle East made refugees by Arab governments; they
would be similar. The second number could be compared to the number
of Jews who remain refugees today, which would be 0.
 The position of Palestinians in Jordan is also largely unremarked
upon. Jordan´s illegal annexation of the West Bank in 1949 made
Jordanian citizens of West Bankers. But in 1988, King Hussein
renounced Jordan´s claim to the West Bank territory and withdrew
Jordanian nationality/citizenship from the Palestinian residents
there. In later years, thousands of West Bank-origin Palestinians
residing in Jordan had their citizenship revoked as well. According
to Human Rights Watch, "Jordanian officials have defended the
practice, as a means to counter any future Israeli plans to transfer
the Palestinian population of the Israeli-occupied West Bank to
Jordan." And to limit as much as possible the percentage of
Palestinians who are citizens of the Hashemite Kingdom.
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