PHILADELPHIA – April 20, 2018 – Fifty-one members of Congress have signed a Forum-originated letter to President Trump.
The letter, sent by Rep. Doug Lamborn (Republican of Colorado) asks to declassify a State Department report on how many individuals currently considered “Palestine refugees” by the United Nations fit the U.S. government definition of refugee.
The United States has provided over $1 billion to these “refugees” via the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) over the past four years.
The Forum has long sought the end of U.S. recognition of fake Palestinian refugees who did not live in 1946-48 in what is today Israel.
The letter reads in part: “Just like your courageous action in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving our embassy there, it is time to end the fiction of the ‘right of return’ and bring the conflict one step closer to conclusion.”
The State Department report in question came in reply to the Kirk Amendment to the 2012 Appropriations bill which, inspired by the Forum, directed the State Department to figure out the number of real refugees. The 2014 and 2015 Appropriations bills reaffirmed this requirement. Finally, in 2015, the State Department delivered the report to Congress, but classified it, hoping thereby to conceal its contents from U.S. taxpayers.
The letter is a prelude to the soon-to-be introduced UNRWA Recipients Act, which will (i) re-define “Palestine refugee” to exclude descendants, those with passports, and those living in the West Bank and Gaza. This will reduce the number of refugees from the current 6 million and growing to about 20,000 and dwindling; and it will (ii) require Palestinians who do not fit the USG definition but who wish to receive U.S. assistance to acknowledge that they are not “Palestine refugees.”
The Middle East Forum promotes American interests in the Middle East. “We hope President Trump will agree that U.S. funds should help end the Arab-Israel conflict rather than perpetuate it,” said Middle East Forum director Gregg Roman.
In related matters, The Guardian, Al-Monitor, and NPR state that President Trump adopted MEF views when he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital; while the Washington Free Beacon says MEF’s E.J. Kimball “helped galvanize” passage of the Taylor Force Act, which halted some U.S. funding of the Palestinian Authority until the latter ceases payments to terrorists.
For more information, contact:
Gregg Roman, Director
April 18, 2018
The Honorable Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Trump:
We commend your leadership in guiding the U.S.-Israel relationship to its best years in recent history, and also for finally recognizing that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. As you know, many presidents have made this promise but you are the first to follow through with the American people’s and Congress’ conscience. The Jerusalem declaration is an important step in reaching a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. We have tremendous confidence that you will continue taking such steps to resolve the conflict, and encourage you to next address the so-called “Palestinian refugee” population.
America has provided $1 billion to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) over the last four fiscal years, and nearly $6 billion since UNRWA’s inception in 1950. We are concerned that hard-earned American taxpayer dollars are not being used properly. Your withholding of funds from UNRWA in January on the condition that they reform was a tremendous first step. American taxpayers deserve to know how their tax dollars are spent on Palestinian refugees and their descendants.
In order to investigate the matter, the Senate Report 112-172 to the Department of State, Foreign Operations, And Related Programs Appropriations bill in 2012 directed the Department of State to issue a report to Congress detailing “the approximate number of people who, in the past year, have received UNRWA services: (1) whose place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948 and who were displaced as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict; and (2) who are descendants of persons described in subparagraph (1).”
This mandate was reaffirmed by Congress in both the fiscal year 2014 and fiscal year 2015 consolidated appropriations bills. Finally, in 2015, the Obama State Department delivered the mandated report to Congress in classified form despite no apparent national security threat or known historical precedent for classifying such a report. We believe this classification was inappropriate and a deliberate attempt to conceal information from American taxpayers. The report should be declassified without further delay.
We respectfully request that you instruct the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration to declassify this report. The issue of the so-called Palestinian “right of return” of 5.3 million refugees to Israel as part of any “peace deal” is an unrealistic demand, and we do not believe it accurately reflects the number of actual Palestinian refugees. Just like your courageous action in recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving our embassy there, it is time to end the fiction of the “right of return” and bring the conflict one step closer to conclusion.
As we work towards a just resolution to this conflict, we thank you for your leadership in stating what everyone already knows: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. Your courage to say these words, and more importantly, to implement them with the May 14 relocation of our embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has ushered in a unique opportunity for peace.
Mr. President, we know you are tackling an innumerable amount of issues that require your focus, but believe that this issue is also deserving of your immediate attention. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this matter.
Members of Congress