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Fact #9: Palestinians are treated differently than all other refugees

Palestinians who became refugees during the 1948 War were one group among many that were displaced during the 1940’s. Many millions of people, from many different places around the globe, became refugees during this time, including European Jews who had managed to survive the Holocaust, yet still faced continued persecution in their home countries, and up to one million Jews from ancient communities in the Middle East and North Africa, who were expelled, or forced to flee, from their homes as a result of the Arab response to the creation of Israel.

From the start, the Palestinians were dealt with differently than all other refugees. While all others came under the administration of a series of global organizations that eventually became the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Palestinians received their own relief organization: the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA). The entire set of criteria for qualifying as a Palestinian refugee was (and still is) significantly different than the criteria applicable to all others. While the UNHCR worked to provide durable solutions for refugees under its administration, Arab leaders intentionally kept the Palestinians in stateless limbo by refusing to accept any solution that did not involve than the complete destruction of the State of Israel.

In 1948, the UN passed Resolution 194, which recommended the repatriation of refugees to their original homes. The Arab states unanimously rejected the resolution, because it also required all parties “to live at peace with their neighbours”.

By 1960, the last remaining refugee camps from World War II had been successfully cleared. The hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Europe and Arab lands who chose to resettle in Israel had also been successfully accommodated – without assistance from the international community. The Palestinian refugees, however, were still being held hostage to the pan-Arab determination to destroy Israel.

The abuse of Palestinian refugees by their fellow Arabs for political ends continues to this day. In nearly every Arab country where Palestinian refugees have sought shelter, have been denied the most basic of human rights. The total number of Palestinian refugees, instead of declining, has been multiplied six times over, due largely to the fact that the Palestinians are among the only nations in the world whose descendants also qualify as refugees. In fact, no Palestinian has ever lost their refugee status.

The Palestinians have long since become the largest and longest-standing refugee population in the world. To support them, the UNRWA has also grown to become the largest of all UN agencies.


“The Arab States do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don’t give a damn whether the refugees live or die.”

- Alexander Galloway, director of UNRWA in Jordan, 1952