The most recent report of the Commissioner-General of UNRWA to the UN, covering 2013, includes this head-scratcher of a line:
“The situation also affected the 1.9 million registered Palestine refugees in the State of Palestine.”
So on one hand the UN and UNRWA recognize the “State of Palestine.” On the other hand, they consider citizens of this state to be refugees from that same state!
A week ago, I had a brief Twitter discussion with Rex Brynen, an UNRWA apologist professor at McGill University, who claimed that UNHCR and UNRWA definitions for “refugees” were virtually identical. He said that all of todays’ UNRWA refugees would be considered “derivative refugees” under UNHCR rules, pointing out a tiny minority of third-generation refugees under UNHCR auspices in Afghanistan (I believe there are some in Somalia as well.)
When I asked why he considers those in the West Bank and Gaza to be refugees even though they live in “Palestine,” he replied that they were stateless.
So (at least according to Brynen) the reason that 1.9 million people in the “State of Palestine” are refugees is because they are stateless – at the very same time that UNRWA claims that they are citizens of a state called Palestine!
As far as I can tell, there is no official definition of “citizen” under PA law. Their Basic Law, article 7, just says “Palestinian citizenship shall be regulated by law” without defining what it is. A 1995 draft law for defining citizenship is noteworthy: someone is considered a citizen if he/she “(1) was a holder of Palestinian citizenship (other than Jews) before 15 May 1948; (2) was born to a Palestinian father; (3) was born in Palestine to a Palestinian mother even if the citizenship of the father is not known; (4) was born in Palestine to unknown parents; and (5) was born outside of Palestine to a Palestinian mother and to a father whose nationality was not known – provided that this person opts for Palestinian citizenship within one year after reaching maturity, that he notifies the minister of interior of his intention to become a Palestinian citizen, that he becomes habitually a resident of Palestine, and that the minister does not object to this applicant within one year from the time he receives the notice from the applicant.”
At any rate, it seems clear that the PA considers all residents to be citizens of a UN-recognized state. To say that 1.9 million of them are “refugees” is the height of absurdity.
And one that UNRWA is happy to say publicly.
(We’re not even talking about the 1.8 million or so with Jordanian citizenship, which even Brynen admits are clearly not refugees – so about 75% of the 5 million so-called UNRWA registered “refugees” have UN-recognized citizenship.)