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(((YousefMunayyer))) @YousefMunayyer
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THREAD: The Trump Administration is reportedly going to slash funding to UNRWA and force it to either disband or change the way it defines Palestinian refugees. This is will be a long thread that helps explain how we got here.
This represents a significant shift in US policy toward the Palestinian refugee issue. While it has always been more pro-Israel than pro-International Law or Human rights, the US position is now becoming the Israeli position.
From 1947-1949, the majority of the native inhabitants of Palestine were depopulated, forcibly expelled or fled during war and then forcibly denied return by the Israeli military.
That population of ~800K was some 2/3rds of Palestine’s Arab population. They sought refuge in neighboring states/territories and lived in very difficult conditions awaiting repatriation.
The refugee crisis was massive and before the end of the war the UNGA passed Resolution 194 which established a Conciliation Committee to settle issues between Israel and the Arab states, including refugee repatriation. The US supported this resolution.
Israel’s attitude toward the Palestinian refugees was that they were someone else’s problem and they refused to permit repatriation. This caused the first crisis in US-Israel relations. This was President Truman’s attitude toward Israel’s attitude:
In late May 1949, the US told Israel it expected it to accept the principle of “substantial repatriation and the immediate beginnings of repatriation” ...
but Israel continued to refuse even though the US threatened it would “regretfully be forced to the conclusion that a revision of its attitude toward Israel has become unavoidable”.
While all this was going on, more Palestinian refugees were being created and others were languishing in camps where a humanitarian crisis was exploding. Something had to be done to meet those very real needs until repatriation was possible
By December of that year the UNGA, with US support, passed resolution 302 recognizing the urgency of preventing “conditions of starvation and distress among” Palestinian refugees and setting up an agency to address this. That agency was UNRWA.
UNGA 302 made clear that the humanitarian assistance was a necessity due to need but not intended to prejudice the rights of refugees to repatriation.
In other words, UNRWA was created to address the immediate needs of a crisis that both the US and the international community recognized Israel had a major responsibility to solve but was refusing to.
From that point forward, things remained in a holding pattern. Israel refused repatriation responsibilities. The US and International Community failed to impose it on them and UNRWA continued to meet the refugees basic needs.
Over time, the stateless population of Palestinian refugees grew and the condition of statelessness was passed down to the next generation as Israel continued to refuse repatriation.
From 1949 through Arab-Palestinian-Israel negotiations over time, refugees became a final status issue to be resolved in a final agreement. In the meantime, the holding pattern held.
The US, which continued to support Israel despite its early dismay at its refusal to repatriate, became the single largest donor to UNRWA and continued to be.
Fast forward 65 years to 2012 when an Israeli Likud MK, in coordination with the Israeli Govt, worked w/ AIPAC & then US Senator Mark Kirk to pass legislation demanding the State Dept report to Congress how many UNRWA refugees were alive in 1948 vs how many were their descendants
This was aimed at advancing the Israeli “argument” that most Palestinian refugees are “fake” in the hopes of continuing to evade responsibility for a stateless population that exists today because of their longstanding refusal to repatriate.
It was also an attempt to take the single most important issue “off the table” by pretending it doesn’t really exist.
Obviously, anyone with a basic sense of math and biology concepts understands that the number of living survivors of ethnic cleansing 70 years ago has dwindled over time.
But this common sense idea has not prevented some right-wing Zionist groups from trying to sell it as a revealing expose of massive corruption at UNRWA.
Now fast forward to last summer when self-described “messianic Jew” Jay Sekulow, who runs a legal outfit called ACLJ founded by Pat Roberston to do lawfare for Evangelicals, became a key face of Trump’s legal defense team. We’ll return to him later.
It was right around this time that Israel began to bang the UNRWA drum more aggressively. The Israeli PM tweeted this:
A few months down the line, it became clear Trump would recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In December 2017 he did so and the world reacted with disgust and rejection both in the UN Security Council and General Assembly.
Angry at the global rejection, the Trump Admin began speaking more intensely in January 2018 about cutting aid that helps Palestinians, including money to UNRWA.
Then, also on Jan 2, Haley said this
Then a few days later, on Jan 7th, Netanyahu said this, note the language
@ForeignPolicy reported leaked emails recently showing that Jared Kushner wrote this to the WH Mideast team that includes Jason Greenblatt on Jan 11, four days after Netanyahu’s comments.
Jan 16th, the State Dept announced its first stage major cuts to UNRWA funding
Then, also from FP, an email from Greenblatt’s aide on the 18th says the White House was mulling dissolving UNRWA into UNHCR, i.e. Netanyahu’s proposal.
OK, here is where it gets more interesting. Remember that 2012 law for a State Department report on the numbers of refugees? Well, on Feb 5th 2018 a group decided to file a FOIA to get that report. Which group?
Sekulow’s group, the ACLJ
Meanwhile, then Secretary of State Tillerson, who was reportedly left out of the decision making here, seemed to be on a different page, arguing to keep up UNRWA support.
Tillerson made comments in a Amman press conference about the need to sustainably support UNRWA, sounding a different tone than Trump, Haley et al…
One month later, Tillerson was fired sitting on the toilet and replaced by Pompeo
Fast forward to July 2018 and ACLJ gets its FOIA back with the report which they claim exposes the U.N. agency’s fraudulent over-reporting on the number of Palestinian “refugees.”
Yesterday, at an FDD event, Nikki Haley says any future US support for UNRWA would be contingent on “if they actually change the number of refugees to an accurate account”
The Trump Admin is reported to be preparing an announcement to “take the right of return off the table” by stating some new policy toward Palestinian refugees.
Obviously, nothing Trump says or doesn’t say changes the rights Palestinians have. But this thread should give you an idea of how the US position has actually morphed into the Israeli position over time, why and who the key players were.
Players connected and influential in Right Wing Zionist and Evangelical circles and close to the WH may think they are delegitimizing Palestinian rights, but they only delegitimize themselves and the US in the process.

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