NY Times Grossly Overstates Number of 1948 Refugees Served by UNRWA

Aug. 5 UPDATE:

Times Issues Stealth Correction

Following communication from CAMERA, Times editors amended the wording of the online article so it now more accurately refers to hundreds of thousands of original 1948 refugees UNRWA "has served." See below for a detailed update.

A New York Times article this week about reported mismanagement and misconduct at UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) grossly overstates the number of Palestinian refugees from 1948 who are receiving services from the UN body. Isabel Kershner reported ("U.N. Agency for Palestinian Refugees Faces Accusations of Misconduct," July 30):

The United Nations agency serves more than five million registered refugees, including hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes during hostilities surrounding the founding of Israel in 1948 and their descendants.

Palestinian Arab refugees 1948

Of the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled or were expelled in 1948, only tens of thousands of them at most are still living and thus able to receive services from UNRWA. 

A 2012 Associated Press report indicated that at the time there were just some 30,000 of the original 1948 refugees still left. Seven years on, that number has obviously decreased.

The Times' reference to "hundreds of thousands" cannot include the descendants along with the original 1948 refugees, because those descendants number in the millions, not hundreds of thousands.

CAMERA has contacted The Times to request a correction. Stay tuned for an update.

A screen shot of the original wording

Update Aug 5: Times Issues Stealth Corrects

After CAMERA contacted editors about the grossly overstated figure, the newspaper quietly changed the online text to more accurately refer to the hundreds of thousands of original 1948 Palestinian refugees UNRWA "has served," as opposed to currently "serves":

The United Nations agency has served more than five million registered refugees, including hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled or were expelled from their homes during hostilities surrounding the founding of Israel in 1948 and their descendants.

By failing to append a correction alerting readers to the change, editors display a lack of transparency. Moreover, editors have yet to publish a correction in the print edition, though the error had appeared there as well. CAMERA continues to call on The Times to correct in print.