CAMERA’s Israel office last week prompted correction of a significant error in a text accompanying a Voice of America video which grossly overstated the number of Palestinians living in the West Bank who had been displaced from their homes in 1948 (“Frustration Growing Among Young Palestinians in Refugee Camp“). The text erred:
Almost 900,000 Palestinians living in the West Bank are classified as refugees, meaning they were displaced from their homes in what became the State of Israel in 1948.
There are maybe 10,000 Palestinians living in the West Bank who were displaced from their homes in 1948, not 900,000. The figure that VOA cited is simply impossible.
While UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, serves 901,000 registered Palestinian refugees in the West Bank — only a tiny majority of them, well under 5 percent — were displaced from their homes in 1948.
Any Palestinian displaced from their home in 1948 must be at least 75 years old, and there aren’t 900,000 Palestinians in the West Bank of that age. According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, there were just 196,251 Palestinians of the age 60 or older living in the West Bank. Naturally, as the age increases, the population number declines, and therefore there are well under 196,251 Palestinians aged 75 and up living in the West Bank, and not all of them were displaced from their homes in 1948. (The West Bank’s population is extremely young, with 36 percent under the age of 16.)
The reason why UNRWA serves 901,000 Palestinians in the West Bank when only a miniscule fraction of them were actually displaced in 1948 is because, as UNRWA explains:
The descendants of Palestine refugee males, including adopted children, are also eligible for registration. When the Agency began operations in 1950, it was responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees. Today, some 5.9 million Palestine refugees are eligible for UNRWA services.
In other words, UNRWA enables the refugee status to be passed down from generation to generation in perpetuity.
The UN classifies more than 900,000 Palestinians living in the West Bank as refugees, meaning they or more often their parents or grandparents were displaced from their homes in what became the State of Israel in 1948.