BBC Perpetuates Narrative of Perpetual Palestinian Refugees

Palestinians pass by the gate of an UNRWA-run school in Nablus in the West Bank, Aug. 13, 2018. Photo: Reuters / Abed Omar Qusini.

On October 8, the BBC published a video segment by Paul Adams, titled “After 70 years, who are the Palestinian refugees?” The segment was filmed at the Burg Al-Barajneh “refugee” camp in Beirut, and focused on Palestinian fears that, under the new US peace plan, they’ll never be allowed to return “home.”

Here’s the six-minute segment:

Though the official UNRWA figure calculates more than five million Palestinian refugees, the overwhelming majority of these “refugees” — as we’ve noted repeatedly — are merely Palestinians descendants (kids, grandkids, great-grandkids, etc.) of the original 711,000 actual refugees from 1948 — who, unlike every other refugee population on the planet, are automatically granted refugee status, even those who have citizenship in other countries.

As Einat Wilf, co-author of the book The War of Return observed about the fiction that there are millions of Palestinian refugees:

almost all [Palestinian refugees] (upward of 80 per cent) are either citizens of a third country, such as Jordan, or they live in [Palestinian territories] where they were born and expect to have a future…

….The remaining 20 per cent of the descendantsare inhabitants of Syria and Lebanon who are by law denied the right to citizenship granted to all other Syrians and Lebanese.

The number of actual refugees from 1948 is believed to be closer to 20,000.

As you saw in the clip, a Palestinian professor in Lebanon was interviewed, and explained that Palestinian “refugees” in Lebanon — many of whom have lived in the country for generations — are truly second class citizens and are denied basic employment and property rights. Yet, note how Adams failed to draw the most intuitive conclusion from this fact: that the refugee issue — and the fact that so many Arabs of Palestinian descent identify as “refugees” — is perpetuated by Arab states (and UNRWA,) who refuse to encourage the full integration of Palestinians into their countries.  Nor, did Adams ask why such “refugee camps,” run by UNRWA in Lebanon, Jordan, and within the Palestinian Authority have never been converted to ordinary cities.

Adams’ other Palestinian interviewee — a young woman also several generations removed from the actual refugees of 1948 — insisted on her inalienable “right of return” to Israel. But BBC viewers were not reminded that such descendants of refugees don’t in fact have such a legal right to “return,” and that Israel would of course never engage in an act of national self-immolation by allowing millions of Palestinians to become citizens of the state.

Adams, in his final thoughts on the problem, opined that for such Palestinians living in camps in Lebanon and Jordan, their refugee status is the only thing they possess. Yet hope based on a right (of return) they don’t have, and on a future vision of life (in Israel) that will never be brought to fruition, is not a possession. It’s a handicap, and a cynical formula for perpetuating Palestinian victimhood that continues to be amplified and legitimized by media outlets like the BBC.

Adam Levick covers the British media for CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

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Author: Adam Levick


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