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Solving The Refugee Riddle
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ere's a puzzle: How do
Palestinian refugees differ
from the 20 century's 135
million other refugees?
Answer: In every other instance, the
pain of dispossession, statelessness and
poverty has diminished over time.
Refugees either resettled, returned home
or died. Their children — whether liv-
ing in South Korea, Vietnam, Pakistan,
Israel, Turkey, Germany or the United
States — then shed the refugee status
and joined the mainstream.
Not so the Palestinians. For them,
the refugee status continues from one
generation to the next, creating an
ever-larger pool of anguish and dis-
Several factors explain this anomaly,
but one key component — of all things
— is the United Nations' bureaucratic
structure. It contains two organizations
focused on refugee affairs, each with its
own definition of "refugee":
• The U.N. High Commission for
Refugees applies this term worldwide to
someone who, "owing to a well-found-
ed fear of being persecuted is outside
the country of his nationality." Being
outside the country of his nationality
implies that descendants of refugees are
Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle
East Forum. His e-mail address is
not refugees. Cubans who flee the
Castro regime are refugees, but not
their Florida-born children who lack
Cuban nationality. Afghans who flee
their homeland are refugees, but not
their Iranian-born children. And so on.
• The United Nations Relief and Works
Agency, an organization set up uniquely
for Palestinian refugees in 1949, defines
Palestinian refugees differently from all
other refugees. They are persons who
lived in Palestine "between June 1946
and May 1948, who lost both their
homes and means of livelihood as a
result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict."
Especially important is that UNRWA
extends the refugee status to "the
descendants of persons who became
refugees in 1948." It even considers the
children of just one Palestinian refugee
parent to be refugees.
The High Commission's definition
causes refugee populations to vanish
over time; UNRWA's causes them to
expand without limit. Let's apply each
definition to the Palestinian refugees of
1948; by the U.N.'s (inflated) statistics,
they numbered 726,000. (Scholarly
estimates of the number range between
420,000 to 539,000.)
The High Commission definition
would restrict the refugee status to
those of the 726,000 yet alive.
According to a demographer, about
200,000 of those 1948 refugees
remain living today.
UNRWA includes the
dwindling number of true
refugees' children, grandchildren
and great-grandchildren, as well
That will only happen if the
as Palestinians who left their
U.S. government recognizes
homes in 1967, all of whom
UNRWA's role in perpetuating
add up to 4.25 million refugees.
Palestinian misery. In a misguid-
The 200,000 refugees by the
ed spirit of "deep commitment
global definition make up less
to the welfare of Palestinian
than 5 percent of the 4.25 mil-
refugees," Washington currently
lion by the UNRWA definition.
provides 40 percent of
By international standards, those
UNRWA's $306 million annual
other 95 percent are not refugees
Co mmentary budget; it should be zeroed-out.
at all. By falsely attaching a
Fortunately, the U.S. Congress
refugee status to these
is waking up to this need. Chris
Palestinians who never fled anywhere,
Smith, a Republican on the House
UNRWA condemns a creative and entre-
International Relations Committee,
preneurial people to lives of exclusion,
recently called for expanding the General
self-pity, and nihilism.
Accounting Office's investigation into
U.S. funding for UNRWA.
Tom Lantos, the ranking
Help Desperately Needed
Democratic member on that same
The policies of Arab governments then committee, goes further. Criticizing
make things worse by keeping
the "privileged and prolonged man-
Palestinians locked in an amber-like
ner" of dealing with Palestinian
refugee status. In Lebanon, for
refugees, he calls for shuttering
instance, the 400,000 stateless
UNRWA and transferring its responsi-
Palestinians are not allowed to attend
bilities to the High Commission.
public school, own property or even
Other Western governments should
improve their housing stock.
join with Washington to solve the
It's high time to help these genera-
Palestinian refugee problem by with-
tions. of non-refugees escape the refugee holding authorization for UNRWA
status so they can become citizens,
when it next comes up for renewal in
assume self-responsibility and build for
June 2005. Now is the time to lay the
the future. Best for them would be for
groundwork to eliminate this malign
UNRWA to close its doors and the
institution, its mischievous definition
U.N. High Commission to absorb the
and its monstrous works.
We walked out and mounted our
bicycles. There we were at the start-
ing line with Lance. We posed for a
picture and we were off on our easy
An easy 25-mile ride for Lance
Armstrong isn't so easy for two over-
sized, middle-aged Jewish men.
Once we were out of the parking
lot, we were immediately the last
two in the pack. Truth be told, we
never really saw Lance again during
the ride. We huffed and we puffed,
trying to keep up. Even the bike
repair truck got tired of how slowly
Lance Armstrong, kneeling, with Steven,
we were riding. We got lost.
Julie and Noah Loewenstein.
I called my wife from the route to
say that the ride was going to go
right past our home in Glencoe. She
the club. The organizers of the event
should come out and watch. She saw
and a few riders cheered. They were
the 23 riders go past our home, with
worried about us. Lance had been
Lance in the lead. Some 20 minutes
looking for me. He'd asked about me
later, she waved as we rode past.
during the ride.
We were the last to arrive back at
"Where's the rabbi?" he inquired at
the halfway point. He was looking for
a blessing. We laughed about it when I
said I had tried my best to keep up,
but just couldn't.
We said our goodbyes and had begun
to pack up, when my wife, Julie, and
son Noah came down to the corner to
see all the excitement. Noah came rid-
ing in on his two-wheeler. Lance's SUV
was just pulling out of the parking lot
when I knocked on the limo window
and asked him for one more favor.
"Could you take one last picture
with my son?"
Without hesitation, he got out of
the car. He walked over to Noah and
bent down next to him.
"Hey, Noah," he said, "I also ride a
Trek bike. Do you like it'?"
Noah nodded with an unwitting smile.
Who was this guy? Lance squeezed
Noah's hand brake.
"Noah, your brakes need to be
adjusted!" he said.
And with that, he bent down and
started to fiddle with Noah's bike. The
men from the bike shop jumped out
of their van to lend a hand. Lance
asked for a screwdriver.
While the technicians watched,
Lance adjusted Noah's brake as Noah
sat on his bike grinning ear to ear. Not
many 6-year-olds get a roadside tune
up from Lance Armstrong. He paused
for some pictures, signed Noah's hel-
met and said goodbye.
Julie, Michael and I stood there in
amazement. Not only was this man an
international champion, an undaunted
advocate for cancer research, and a
moving role model for millions but
here, on a cold Noember morning,
he showed himself to be a world class
It just doesn't get any better than this.
By the way, next year we will be
ready ... Michael and I finally went
out and bought those funny shoes. 11]