Trump to Defund UNWRA to Eliminate Palestinian Refugee Status, Right of Return
While many of us have been calling Trump’s “deal of the century” dead in the water, he has made an alarming effort to implement his approach in de facto fashion without any party (except Israel) having any input. In other words, without even putting forward a proposal, Trump can create “facts on the ground” which would (he believes) determine the outcome without the Palestinians even realizing it.
This has played out over the past few weeks concerning the fate of UNWRA and the issue of Palestinian refugees. A few weeks ago, the media reported on leaked e-mails from Jared Kushner which exposed not just his hostility toward the UN Palestinian refugee relief body, but his determination to undermine it to the fullest extent possible. This week, the Trump administration has gone one step further: it eliminated $200-million earmarked for Palestinian relief. It has even proposed ending all funding for UNWRA. Currently we donate $350-million which is one-quarter of the agency’s overall budget. It is already hobbled by suspensions of U.S. payments. The end of U.S. funding might put it out of business entirely.
Of course there are nations both in the west and Middle East who could step in and fill the gap the U.S. leaves. But it appears unlikely that they will. They either don’t wish to stand up to Trump, tacitly approve of defanging the Palestinian cause, or just don’t care enough to stop the disaster from happening.
From the Trump-Kushner point of view this is a clever move: it would either wound or kill one of the major thorns in Israel’s side. UNWRA is not only a vital provider of humanitarian relief to millions of Palestinians in five nations in the region, it validates the very notion of refugee status itself. If the UN no longer registers Palestinians as refugees and ceases to offer them assistance, then in effect they will have ceased to exist. They will become someone else’s problem: Syria’s, Lebanon’s, Jordan’s, etc. Israel has sought for decades to foist the refugee problem it created onto the Arab world. This is an adept maneuver that takes it a long way toward that goal.
Further, UN ambassador Nikki Haley has signaled the intention of rejecting the notion of Palestinian refugees and the Right of Return in a speech to the neocon, pro-Israel Foundation for the Defense of Democracies:
Asked whether the issue should be “off the table,” Haley replied: “I do agree with that, and I think we have to look at this in terms of what’s happening [with refugees] in Syria, what’s happening in Venezuela.”
What Venezuela has to do with Palestine is anyone’s guess. She’s likely referencing the stream of refugees fleeing the collapsing Maduro regime there. Why does a looming catastrophe in Latin America justify eliminating 5-million Palestinian refugees? Because the U.S. wants to shift its funding from UNWRA to Venezuela? Because the Palestinian refugees set a bad precedent for a potential decades-long Venezuela refugee crisis? Who knows?
Like Trump’s precipitous recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, pursuing this new approach would turn 75 years of U.S. policy on its head. Both the U.S. and UN have recognized that Israel created these refugees and has a responsibility to repatriate them under international law. Though both may have sought over time to minimize this right or claim, they never denied it. This is what Trump proposes.
Without UNWRA, the Palestinian claim to a Right of Return is also rendered null and void (in the eyes of Trump and Israel). ROR as a legal and human rights concept is a potentially fatal blow to the vision of a Jewish supremacist state advanced by the Nation State law (aka the Jews-Only law). If hundreds of thousands of Diaspora Palestinian refugees ever achieved the right to return it would likely transform Israel into a democracy with a Palestinian majority. Every Zionist intellectual and leader going back to Ben Gurion, if not earlier, has sought to avoid this outcome like the plague. To dash this potential catastrophe with a few strokes of a budget pen is quite adept. For this and many other reasons, UNWRA must die.
To be clear, even if any of this happens, it will not diminish Palestinian claims or rights. It will not deter Palestinians from asserting those rights. It probably won’t even diminish the power of Palestinian claims among the nations of the world. But it will add yet another stumbling block in the path of Palestinian efforts to realize their destiny as a people and nation. In the ongoing war of attrition that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict this is yet another blow by Israel and Trump that they believe will force the Palestinians back on their heels.
28 thoughts on “Trump to Defund UNWRA to Eliminate Palestinian Refugee Status, Right of Return – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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Is there some statute of limitations on refugee status? How does that apply to the Israeli “Law of Return” (which is a right of return to all Jews?)
Ironic that Israel endlessly claims UN bias againstit while at the same time using it for it’s own purpose.
It was the UN in the first instance that gave Israel it’s legitimacy. What resolutions, that have passed has Israel been made to comply with?And how many has it escaped via US veto?They have meant nothing.
The occupation ostensibly “for security reasons” has been an excuse for expansion for over 50 years. By the way, thus movements like B.D.S.
If I am not mistaken UNWRA has been taking on what would be Israel’s obligations towards the refugees of ’48 and ’67. all the while it occupies and illegally settles land captured in those wars. Has Israel been sent a bill?
Israel has been trying to delegitimize the Palestinian’s existence from the beginning. They should all move to Jordan.
With Trump the US has moved further away from order in the world, an order that we have agreed on so far, that we have tried to uphold. With Trump political expediency reigns.
The UN needs to hold the line on some basic international law that the international community has in the past paid a heavy price to arrive at, like the International Bill of Human Rights and associated agreements:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Bill_of_Human_Rights and this means that refugees have the right of return to their homeland. Palestinians may, in a agreement, exercise it differently, but they have that right.
There is no limitation in time concerning the Right of Return, it includes the original refugees and their descendants. In a 1974 UNGA resolution, it was specified as inalinable, some Palestinien président can’t just give up the Right of Return in “peace negociations”. The Israeli Law of Return has no link with the Right of Return which talk not about Palestinian but Palestine refugees, so if you’re Jewish and you were exiled in 1948, you or your descendents are also allowed by international law to return, it does not include some Askenazi Jew in France who wants to join the “land of his ancestors” …
Not only the UNGA resolution 3236 which was specific to the Palestinians. Jews are allowed to return to their “country of origin” by international law but not by international to their ancestral home which is what the “Law of Return” speaks to. The latter an Israeli law. The “Law of Return” applied universally would wreck havoc in the world. Jews are, with this law asking for an exception to be recognized by the world in principle. It’s their sovereign right to do so but on the surface it seems unjust that Jews be allowed to “return” and others not. I think we agree.
Yes, the 3236 resolution is specifically about the Palestinians, I was thinking of the resolution 194 which speaks about Palestine refugees, so a Jew exiled in 1948 from Hebron or Gush Etzion and his direct descendants have the right to return (even though he might have arrived from Germany 10 years before).
I am not sure about that at all. Country of origin, it seems to me, is Germany in that case. At most, if Hebron and Gush Etzion, were legally part of Israel, these people would be internally displaced, as Palestinians would be if the land from the Jordan to the Sea is legally Israel (not occupied). It is not. Those Jews would be like any refugees that had to go to Israel within Armistice lines after the war ( say those from the Arab countries) The “country of origin” for those German refugees would be Germany. I do not know for sure, but this is what it seems to me.
The 194 resolution does not speak about “country of origin” but about “Palestine refugees” and the right to go back to your homes.
If you look at the demograhics from UNSCOP incorporated in the Partition Plan it gives the number of 608.000 Jews in Mandate Palestine (of whom 10.000 in the socalled Arab State), only a minority of these people were born in Palestine, and still they count.
And just to make it clear: I of course do not think a recent German immigrant to Gush Etzion has the same Right of Return as a native Palestinian kicked out of Haifa or Akka.
I don’t use UNRes 194 for this which is about Palestinians. but rather the more general customary International law as explained here in various treaties and conventions:: I assume that UNRes 194 uses these as it’s basis.
The German immigrant has the ROR to Germany I believe but can use the “Law of Return”, the Israeli law, to gain Israeli citizenship. The German immigrant might even have received compensation for their losses from Germany.
Did you even read my posts ? No, the 194 does not speak about Palestinians but about Palestine refugees.
Yes I do. Do you read mine? I am talking about international law that UN resolutions are based on. This is for your German example as well as Palestinians..You gave the German example.
My understanding is that the UN General Assembly cannot make International Law.
@ Li Hing Lo: Whadaya know? A hasbarist purporting to be Chinese! Now I’ve seen everything.
You’ve completely misunderstood the comment you’re supposedly commenting on. UN resolutions are Security Council resolutions (not GA) as is 194. And 194 is totally in accord with international law. So you’ve wasted a comment and our time reading yours…
My most humble apology for not making myself more clearly understood.
Resolution 194 was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly — not the Security Council — and as such is non-binding. Furthermore, the Resolution wasn’t accepted by all of the parties to the conflict; the Arab States rejected Resolution 194.
However, United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which Israel and the Arab states have each signed onto, effectively supersedes UNGA Res. 194.
UNSC Res. 242 addresses the refugee question by calling for a “just settlement of the refugee problem,” yet does not mention the Palestinian refugees by name. There were Jewish refugees, subsequent to the 1948 war in Palestine.
Arabs have long interpreted the word “just” in Res. 242 to mean the arrangement that had been described in UNGA Res. 194, while Israelis have been averse to the word.
I hope this clears up any misunderstanding.
Maybe USA should suggest, that Israelis also loose their right (=possibility) of return. All Israeli citizens should loose their other passports (their right to return (=flee), when this all explodes). It is certain that even the most extreme Zionist settler would cry in fear and uncertainty shouting that that is not fair. Maybe taking away the backdoors for Israeli Jews would increase their will to make real compromises.
USA’s foreign policy planers must be totally insane, if they believe that Israel could secure its future existence as a Jewish state with a so unfair solution . Do US and Israeli leaders seriously believe, that Gulf Sunni royals could sell to their own people a friendship and alliance with Israel, not even the hate of Iran and fear of Israeli nukes can make that “friendship” a reality.
No right of return for Palestinian refugees creates a even more acute massive problem for the region. Who will take these millions as their citizens? It would change the fragile balance in Lebanon and Jordan. USA creates with this present pro-Israeli line even stronger the impression and reality, that USA is totally unable to deliver real diplomatic or military solutions.
Apparently the US has actually ended it’s support of UNWRA which had been dwindling little by little since 2009. Doesn’t this puts the burden of taking care of those occupied legally upon Israel? It does not end refugee status and ROR. Trump does not have international powers. Other countries, and NGO’s may step in to stave off this reckoning.
All refugees have Right of Return to their original country even after settling in a new country. It is called Voluntary Return, therefore, this doesn’t have any legal impact.
I found a previous post on this blog where you wrote “Some experts estimate that 400-600,000 would return” https://www.richardsilverstein.com/2018/01/21/case-palestinian-return/
If this is true, why keep all the rest for decades without rights at the countries where they live?
To sum up – legally, like all UNHCR refugees, they could potentially go back. The way Palestinian refugees are treated, not by their choice, meant to keep their suffering at high level. No other refugee crisis exist for decades (and multiply) b/c other refugees get an opportunity to rebuild their life only Palestinians are not allowed to. Israel might have created their nakba but for 70 years of suffering much of the responsibility is on those who didn’t allow them to start new.
@ Yoni: Of course it has legal impact. Why do you think Israel is so desperate to destroy refugee status? It is only because this right is guaranteed under international law.
As for ‘voluntary return,’ you neglect to mention that Israel prohibited all refugee/expellees from returning. It treated them as infiltrators by law (Israeli). So a refugees denied the right to return hasn’t had his rights addressed.
In referencing my previous post you of course omitted the context. All Palestinian refugees who are directly related to Nakba expellees have the right to return. Not all will exercise the right to return to Israel proper. Some may choose to return to Palestine (i.e. the West Bank). Others may choose to remain in the Diaspora and receive compensation for being ethnically cleansed. In other words, this is a complex process and has many possible avenues of resolving the claim. That’s what you missed.
Stop with the zio-nonsense. The only party maintaining the suffering of Palestinian refugees is Israel, which bears sole and total responsibility for resolving their misery.
Other hasbaroids have made the same argument here. It’s been soundly rebutted. Don’t rehash tired, old hasbara memes here. Just don’t.
@Yoni, Presumably with an agreement that includes an “end of conflict”, end of claims, the refugees would give up their ROR including by taking compensation. This would be after the agreed upon number are allowed to return ( if that is possible ).
As for not allowing refugees to start anew I think you are claiming that the countries that have received these refugees have not given them full citizenship and have helped keep them as refugees. The refugees have been able to make lives. Those who have wanted to have spread all over the world in diaspora.as well. They all have the right to return by international law. Those, especially in the camps, want to keep that right presumably until compensated or the issue is resolved. This is their strength. Yes, the refugee status is being held as an issue in a final agreement. Without that there is capitulation, surrender which is what Israel would like and what Israel has been aiming for now for decades making the refugees lives miserable within it’s occupied territories. The Israel government has been aiming to make them surrender and go away for decades now.
It’s war. But a peace agreement is possible.
Israel does not seem to believe peace is necessary.
At the same time refugees from the Arabs countries ( and Russia for that matter) have been absorbed within Israel. Are they “returning” to Israel (as Jews) or do they consider themselves having ROR to their Arab countries? How does that bear on their right to be compensated?
The US starving UNWRA is another tactic to force surrender but it does not remove the validity of international law, seems to me. If it does we are in big trouble. Hopefully the funds will be made up. and reinstated when we get rid of this plague here in the US.
Many have criticized Israel for its treatment of African refugees.
But if you look at the treatment Palestinians get in the Arab countries (and the fact they are all of the same ethnicity should smooth thing up), you see they are forced to remain refugees, not by choice.
In Lebanon, for example, they can’t get citizenship and are barred from owning property. (Wikipedia). The reason Israel wants them to settle has nothing to do with RoR. It is simply that people who are settled are more likely to be invested in their daily struggles and not some ideas and ideals.
For the very same reasons, other Arabs nations didn’t let the Palestinians move on, like the chance any other refugees get but keep them in refugee camps with very limited rights. It would be like Europe keeping Syrians in camps so they can return to Damascus.
Palestinian refugees are distinct and not the same as Jordanians or Lebanese or Syrians. They are by definition those displaced and dispossessed by ’48 and ’67 wars, including internally and then not allowed to return. The ethnicity issue if so, how you define that, is irrelevant. This is another argument to deny their rights, that they even exist. I don’t buy the reason that you give for why Israel wants them to settle. You have been sold a bill of goods i.e. that they are living with ideas and ideals that are fiction and unattainable. That says- there will be no Palestinians state. (Didn’t Zionists live with ideas and ideals ?) This (again) puts the lie to Israel’s peace talk and “a two state solution” . And that puts the lie to the reason for occupation being until there is a peace settlement. There will be no peace settlement. There will be one state. Israel wants Palestinians to forget and relinquish their rights, be rid of them. That fight will just begin after no agreement is possible anymore if we are not there already. And if what you say is so about allowing refugees to live a normal life then why not give Palestinian refugees in Israel the West Back and Gaza full citizenship in a Greater Israel and let’s be done with it.
Yoni, bud, since when did you become an expert on Palestinian refugees? Where did you earn your degree? What academic or other sources did you study? Ah, that’s right, you don’t know shit about the subject. You don’t know anything about the status of Palestinian refugees in Arab countries. You don’t know whether they’re forced to be refugees or not.
In fact, Arab states just like Israel and the U.S. (or at least some citizens in each country) hate refugees. So governments must tread carefully in how they treat them. If they are too welcoming, or offer too many benefits, then natives become angry and toss leaders out of office. If Palestinians are not welcomed in Arab countries, it has little to do with these countries wishing them to remain stateless refugees for political purposes.
Hey, why not stop worrying about Lebanon and start worrying about immigrants and refugees to your own country who can’t gain refugee status, or who are refused the opportunity to apply for citizenship (Black Hebrews) because of their race??
You are so full of horseshit you can’t possibly have written that sentence with a straight face. If you did, then you need to consult your hasbara trainer, because that was one howler of an idiotic claim.
YOu are done in this thread. BTW, you’re only allowed one patently stupid, delusional hasbara comment in every thread. Once you spend it you’re done in that thread. Remember that.
Richard, here and elsewhere you have made moral, legal and factual arguments for the RoR, all which can be debated ad infinitum and I won’t repeat the old tired claims here.
But you neglect one thing– the power of “story” and the ability to enforce it, in the Yuval Harari sense.
I am really not being cynical. I do not deny the existence of justice and truth.
But I’m sure you don’t need history lessons. If the US had not defeated the Nazis and Japanese we all might be living under the Emperor or the Fuhrer. We won only because we had the power and will. The Japanese and Nazis were as sure of the rightness of their path as we were. That the US came into existence at all is because of the power of myth.
Zionist Israel is a fact and is not going away in the foreseeable future. It came into existence not because of “justice” but because of politics, power and faith, even as it was born in sin in the eyes of many. As you correctly pointed out, most of the world doesn’t care enough about the Palestinian refugee problem to do anything about it. If they did, it would have been resolved long ago. All of the shreying in the world by the Palestinians and the far left isn’t going to change that. You just hold it over our heads wagging your finger at us but this goes nowhere.
So why not try something else?
The Palestinians are the weaker party, that is a fact, one that also will not change in the foreseeable future. A fact that the Palestinians themselves have not really reconciled to because of their failed leadership which deludes them and leads them from one disaster to the next. .
You do not need to be cynical to accept this. Just realistic.
@ DrS: I have to congratulate you. You here offer a higher class of hasbara. One that is sorely lacking among the mounds of other stale hasbara comments offered here. That doesn’t mean your comments are right or correct. In fact, they’re even more dubious and objectionable than others. But you definitely came out of a higher class of hasbara training than the average hasbaroid here.
Sorry, but I don’t deal in hypotheticals here. If my aunt were a man she’d be my uncle. Big deal. She isn’t, so she’s not. Stick to history and what really happened.
What’s interesting about your POV is that you eschew morality and ethics. You don’t argue that Israel is behaving morally or properly. You shed all that useless jargon and strip things to the bare bones. The winner wins because he of naked strength. You’ve just channeled Hobbes perfectly. A perfect Israeli social Darwinist. Except that this isn’t the way the rest of the world works. We do have values and ethics. We do have law. The Allies won the war not only because of their naked strength, but because we were able to mobilize that strength due to the power of our democracies. Our ability to mobilize our entire population and industry to fight Nazism happened not just because of raw materials or raw numbers of people. It happened because a democratic nation mobilized all its strength to protect itself from the Axis powers, which were based on totalitarian, genocidal systems which were anathema to us. You can be a zio-materialist all you want. But the rest of us refuse to go along for the ride.
As I wrote, their cause was based on hate, racism, genocide, and tyranny. And ultimately they lost not just for sheer materialist reasons, but because our ideology of egalitarianism, rule of law, democracy, etc. triumphed over theirs.
Gee, now I thought that we came into existence due to the bravery of Founding Fathers who believed in creating a democracy and secured the aid of the French nation to secure our new nation. And I thought the power of the new nation was based on founding documents like the Declaration of Independence and the COnstitution, which lay out a system of governance which was revolutionary in its day, and offered a beacon of light to other nations seeking their freedom. I didn’t know that was all a myth. Thanks for the correction.
Nor was Nazi Germany going away…remember the 1,000 year Reich which lasted 12 years? Remember East Germany? The Soviet Union? THey were all not going away either. And guess what happened? THey did. Not to mention the scores of tribes which existed for centuries in the Middle East and exist no more. It’s a miracle that Jews have existed as long as they have. But they existed for centuries without an Israel. If necessary they can exist without it again. Very likely they will not have to. Perhaps there will not be a Jewish supremacist Israel. Rather there may be a democratic Israel-Palestine. That would be something most Jews in the world would celebrate. As for the rest of you–if you still need your Jewish supremacist state perhaps you can plant that blue & white flag on a settlement on the moon or another planet.
Now this is what I mean by high-class hasbara. YOu’re a cut above the rest, I must say. You acknowledge Israel was born in sin, or at least born in sin in the eyes of everyone but yourself and the rest of the zio-apologists. But at least you acknowledge it. Now that’s skillful hasbara.
I don’t think I said that. And it’s certainly not true. The world cares, certainly major segments of the world care. But do governments and their leaders care? Does the UN care? I don’t know. But even if it doesn’t there were long periods when the world didn’t care much about apartheid South African blacks. Yet they won their freedom. The same will happen with Palestinians.
You’ve violated a major ruling of argument here: you don’t get to judge whether the Palestinian movement is succeeding or not. No one cares what you think on the subject. And certainly no one trusts your views on the subject. Indeed, the movement is going somewhere. It may be going there slowly, but it is moving. Every day it moves. Perhaps like a glacier or iceberg. But all things move, even the most immovable and seemingly permanent.
Weaker parties win regularly throughout history. The 13 colonies were far weaker than Britain, yet won their independence. The French and Polish were far weaker than the Nazis and temporarily lost their countries to invasion, but eventually they and their allies won WWII. South African Blacks were originally far weaker than the white apartheid regime, yet they eventually won their freedom. The Bolsheviks were initially far weaker than the Czar’s army and state. Material weakness does not inevitably lead to defeat, especially if you represent values that are superior to those of your adversary.
I’m about as interested in your view of Palestinian leadership as I am in your view of Einstein’s general theory of relativity: which is not at all. Do us all a favor, become a Palestinian. Then you can tell us about your views on the subject. Till then, just shut up.
As tempted as I am to hear your further gems of hasbara here, I’m going to desist and tell you you are done in this thread.
Actually, it was the totalitarian Soviets that defeated the Nazis. It was totalitarian Stalin that had his Red Army dig Hitler out of his Berlin bunker, not the Allies, who were hundreds of miles away at the time.
The Allie’s air-war over Germany deliberately targeted civilians and killed far more German civilians than the Luftwaffe killed Allied civilians.
America only defeated the Japanese by dropping two atomic weapons on Japanese cities.
And remember, it was the totalitarian Axis that came within a whisker of defeating the European democracies in 1940.
@ Li Hing Lo: Gee, you’re a historical revisionist as well. Without the Allies fighting together with the Soviets they would not have beaten the Nazis. Nor were the Allies “hundreds of miles away.” Nor does that even matter because each party was where they coordinated and said they would. The Soviets took Berlin because that was the plan all the Allies agreed to.
Actually, I don’t even understand the point of your comment. I remind you to read the comment rules carefully and ensure all your comments are closely and directly related to the post topic. Comments which don’t will be deleted and constitute a comment rule violation.
The Axis did not come within a whisker of defeating the Allies. Nor did the War end in 1940. Fortunately for the rest of us (apparently to make your point you have to wish it did) it lasted till 1945.
Since this comment is completely off topic, do not comment further in this thread.
Ilan Pappe on Twitter September 1 (three tweets, this is the first):
“The US support for UNRWA was not an act of generosity. The USA in 1950 was behind the establishment of the Agency, with a promise that its creation would lead to the implementation of resolution 194 (11 dec 1948)”
My rabbi says that the UN finances brainwashing of palestinians to incite severe hatred of Jews and israelis. Do you know anything about UNWRA assisting in this kind of “education” ? Historically, and nowadays, is the UN considered an anti-semetic organization? Thanks.
@ gershon wolf: Do you believe everything your rabbi tells you? If he told you to jump off a bridge, would you? Whoever he is, don’t believe him. Rabbis are no more arbiters of truth than other mortals. “Question authority.” Do your own research. Think for yourself.