On the Palestinian Refugee Issue, President Trump Is Magnificently Right
President Trump appears to have undertaken a revolution in Middle Eastern diplomacy. Reportedly, the United States will eliminate refugee status for the descendants of Palestinian refugees of 1948, the only group of people anywhere in the world to inherit refugee status. The U.S. also reportedly will eliminate funding for UNRWA, the only UN agency dedicated to a single group of refugees, namely the Palestinian Arabs.
The Times of Israel reports:
The “right of return” is one of the key core issues of dispute in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Palestinians claim that five million people — tens of thousands of original refugees from what is today’s Israel, and their millions of descendants — have a “right of return.” Israel rejects the demand, saying that it represents a bid by the Palestinians to destroy Israel by weight of numbers. It says there is no justification for UNRWA’s unique criteria, by which all subsequent generations of descendants of the original refugees are also designated as having refugee status, including those born elsewhere and/or holding citizenship elsewhere; such a designation does not apply to the world’s other refugee populations.
This is long overdue. The 1948 War led to one of the many exchanges of populations during the 20th century -- 1.5 million Greeks were expelled from Turkey and 1 million Turks expelled from Greece in 1923, for example. After World War II, 12 million Germans were expelled from the Czech Republic, Poland, and other parts of Eastern Europe, many of whom had lived there for centuries. Millions of Hindus and Muslims moved across the border when Pakistan separated from India upon independence in 1947. None of the transferred populations are treated as refugees, except for the Palestinians.
Roughly equal numbers of Arabs and Jews were displaced as Arab states expelled Jewish populations that in some cases, e.g. Iraq, had lived there for 2,500 years, long before the Arabs. The young Jewish state absorbed almost a million Jewish refugees from Muslim countries while the displaced Arabs were kept in permanent refugee status as a bargaining chip. "Right of return" simply meant Muslim refusal to accept the existence of a Jewish state. The so-called peace process in the Middle East always has failed due to the asymmetry of demands: as the Israeli cartoon Dry Bones put it, land for peace means the Arabs want land and the Jews want peace. As long as the Western nations humored the Arab delusion that the Jewish state could be eliminated, the Arab side had no incentive to negotiate. The Arab side refused to accept its defeat in 1948. It is the loser who decides when the war is over, and the message from Washington is, "You lost. Deal with it."