The Real Palestinian Refugee Problem

After World War II, the British left India, which was to be partitioned into two independent nations. One of them would have a Hindu majority, the other a Muslim majority. More than 7 million Muslims moved to the territory that became Pakistan. A similar number of Hindus and Sikhs moved to India. Today, not one remains a refugee.

After World War II, the British left Palestine, which was to be partitioned into two independent nations. One would have a Jewish majority, the other a Muslim majority. About 750,000 Muslims left the territories that became Israel. A similar number of Jews left Arab/Muslim lands. Today, not one of the Jews remains a refugee. But there are still Palestinian refugees — indeed, their number has mushroomed to almost 5 million. How is that possible? Through two mechanisms. First of all, a refugee, by definition, lives on foreign soil, but for Palestinians the definition has been changed, so that a displaced Palestinian on Palestinian soil also receives refugee status. Second, the international organization responsible for resettling refugees, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), was cut out from the start. A new organization was set up exclusively for Palestinians: the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

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