Why are only the Palestinians considered ´refugees´? (ISRAEL HAYOM) Shlomo Cesana 06/20/12)
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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.
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.
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.
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
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
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