For decades, Arab governments have justified their decision to maintain millions of stateless Palestinians as refugees in squalid camps as a means of applying pressure to Israel.
A report by the International Crisis Group in Lebanon noted that the refugee population is «marginalized, deprived of basic political and economic rights, trapped in the camps, bereft of realistic prospects, heavily armed and standing atop multiple fault lines».
The inclusion of the descendants of Palestinian refugees as refugees in UNRWA’s mandate has no parallel in international humanitarian law and is responsible for the growth of the official numbers of Palestinian refugees in foreign countries from 711,000 to 4.6 million during decades when the number of ageing refugees from the 1948 Israeli war of independence was in fact declining.
UNRWA grants refugee status to the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the original Palestinian refugees according to the principle of patrilineal descent, with no limit on the generations that can obtain refugee status.
Yet according to Article 34 of the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, «The Contracting States shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalization of refugees» and must «make every effort to expedite naturalization proceedings» .
This is the opposite of what happened to the Arab Palestinians in every Arab country in which they settled.
Judith Miller and David Samuels