One of the great misconceptions in the current dialogue is the term refugee.
What most don’t understand is that the term, for international legal definitions was explained in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees which dealt primarily with the displaced victims of WWII. This included the Jews, and others, in the camps, as well as other displaced civilians. The term civilian is critical because POW’s or others participating in acts of war – including the resistance fighters, were excepted in 1951 and in the follow up conventions.
Briefly, the 1951 Convention, which was drafted as a result of a recommendation by the newly established United Nations Commission on Human Rights, was a landmark in setting standards for the treatment of refugees.
The Convention, in its article 1, provides a general definition of the term “refugee”. The term applies to any person who “as a result of events occurring before 1January 1951 and owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable, or owing to such fear, is unwilling, to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it”.
I will not post the entire thing (it runs 56 pages) but what is significant about the 1951 convention and every update since then is that a refugee is defined as only that person displaced, not his or her progeny. There is one exception to this. What have come to be known as Palestinians. (I say this b/c anyone living in Palestine at the time of the original British mandate is a Palestinian, this includes Jewish and Arab Israelis, Druse, Bedouins, and some few Kurds). A Muslim Arab minority adopted the term as a successful PR campaign led by the Egyptian Yasser Arafat (yes, Arafat was born in Egypt and formed Al Fatah and the PLO, in 1964, while all of what is now incorrectly known as the occupied territories were occupied by Jordan – West Bank; and Egypt – Gaza).
What is important to read is the definition of refugees. What this tells you is that by international law most of what are known as Palestinians are Jordanian, or perhaps British refugees.
In addition, there are 8 separate United Nations agencies dealing exclusively with refugees around the world. The main one of course is the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights.
All of these agencies deal with ALL refugees throughout the world. There is one exception. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency which focuses SOLELY on Palestinians. In addition, it is staffed almost exclusively Palestinians.
Worse there have been literally dozens of instances in which it’s offices, ambulances, workers, etc have been caught as either homicide bombers or carrying weapons and explosives.
So, based on the exception made to the definition of a refugee, the number of Palestinians qualifying continues to grow. That is why, despite the questionable legality of the term in 1948 when there were approximately 300,000 ethnic Arabs who left (mostly voluntarily at the request of the invading Arab armies) the pr machine now claims over one million to three million depending on the day.
What is fascinating, and typical of the UN is that the 400-450,000 Jews who were driven by pogroms that erupted all over the Arab and Persian world at this time, no Jew was ever considered a refugee.
Not surprisingly, during this past summers war, the displaced Lebanese were classified as refugees, but the displaced Israelis were not. So, a native of Southern Lebanon who relocated to Beirut, was a refugee, but a native of Haifa who relocated to Tel Aviv was not.
Food for thought.