Photo Credit: Courtesy Aaron Klein
Aaron Klein

Pay For The Wall By Defunding UNRWA

A significant portion of the projected costs for President Donald Trump’s proposed border barrier with Mexico could be covered with the money the U.S. would save if it stopped funding the scandalous UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which ministers to so-called Palestinian refugees.


The U.S. is UNRWA’s single largest donor, providing about $300 million annually. Defunding UNRWA would save the U.S. upwards of $3 billion over the next 10 years.

Estimates for Trump’s barrier differ greatly, with Trump himself saying in 2015 the wall would cost $6 to $7 billion, and this past April stating, “I’ll do it for $10 billion or less.”

Regardless of the final costs, halting funding to UNRWA could go a long way to bolstering our national security if the U.S. instead channeled those funds to Trump’s wall.

There are many reasons the U.S. should immediately stop funding UNRWA, which perpetuates the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and instead take the approach recommended by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called for the dismantlement of the UN’s Palestinian “refugee” agency.

UNRWA defines a Palestinian “refugee” as any person whose “normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948 and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” So UNRWA counts as “refugees” any local Arab who lived in Palestine for as little as two years, knowing that scores of Arabs immigrated to the area during those years in search of employment amid talks of creating a future Jewish state.

Amazingly, UNRWA states that “Palestine refugees are persons who fulfill the above definition and descendants of fathers fulfilling the definition.” This means that even if original Palestinian “refugees” long ago immigrated to another country and became citizens of that country, they and their descendants are still considered “refugees” according to UNRWA.

The definition flies in the face of what a refugee is supposed to be. It is also in direct contrast to the Convention on Refugees, which dictates that a person who “has acquired a new nationality, and enjoys the protection of the country of his new nationality” is exempted from the status of refugee.

UNRWA’s definition of a “refugee” doesn’t mention UNHCR’s “well-founded fear of being persecuted.” Indeed, the Palestinians have no fear of being persecuted by Israel, and would not be considered a “refugee” under ordinary international criteria. In defining a refugee as it does, UNRWA has ensured that the Palestinian “refugee” problem has only grown throughout the years.

The actual number of Palestinian “refugees” is in question. The Jewish Virtual Library notes:

“Many Arabs claim that 800,000 to 1,000,000 Palestinians became refugees in 1947­49. The last census was taken in 1945. It found only 756,000 permanent Arab residents in Israel. On November 30, 1947, the date the UN voted for partition, the total was 809,100. A 1949 Government of Israel census counted 160,000 Arabs living in the country after the war. This meant no more than 650,000 Palestinian Arabs could have become refugees. A report by the UN Mediator on Palestine arrived at an even lower figure – 472,000.

There is evidence that scores of Arabs joined the local inhabitants and became “refugees” attended to by UNRWA when the agency began operations in May 1950 to help the Arabs impacted by the 1948 war. That year, UNRWA’s director admitted, “a large group of indigent people totaling over 100,000 … could not be called refugees, but … have lost their means of livelihood because of the war. … The Agency felt their need … even more acute than that of the refugees.”

UNRWA’s Annual Report of the Director from July 1951-June 1952 acknowledges it was difficult to separate “ordinary nomadic Bedouins and … unemployed or indigent local residents” from genuine refugees, and that “it cannot be doubted that in many cases individuals who could not qualify as being bona fide refugees are in fact on the relief rolls.”

Last week, Haaretz reported that Lebanon’s census data puts the Palestinian “refugee” population at about the third of the numbers reported by UNRWA. If accurate, it could mean UNRWA has been taking in funding for a wildly inflated number of so-called Palestinian refugees.

The Palestinian “refugee” issue is one of the most potent weapons utilized by the PA against Israel. The Palestinians use their “refugee” status to threaten Israel’s existence by demanding the so-called right of return, meaning flooding Israel with millions of Palestinian and foreign Arabs considered Palestinian “refugees,” thus threatening the very nature of the Jewish state. If the “refugee” problem is ever solved, the Palestinian Authority’s main trump card against Israel will be taken away, and they know it.