View From a Height
Commentary from the Mile High City
Friday, April 02, 2004

The Times and Refugees 

In today's corrections:

An article on Saturday about Israel's promotion of its plan for a withdrawal from Gaza and part of the West Bank misstated the estimated number of Palestinians who fled their homes when Israel was established in 1948. It is about 700,000, not in the millions.

This has got to be one of the most-researched, most reported-on statistics in the entire Middle East. The Times has never, to the best of my knowledge, understated the number. Every time they get it wrong, they get it wrong to Israel's detriment.

But there are more subtle problems here, too. First, someone who is absorbed into another country, obtaining citizenship, is not, by definition, a refugee. It's also possible that many of those claiming to be refugees were local Arabs, looking for free handouts from the UN. While we'll never be sure of the actual total, 550,000 - 600,000 is probably a close estimate.

At the end of the 1948-49 war, the Israeli government set the number of Palestinian refugees at 550,000-600,000; the research department of the British Foreign Office leaned toward the higher end of this estimate. But within a year, as large masses of people sought to benefit from the unprecedented influx of international funds to the area, some 914,000 alleged refugees had been registered with the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
   Efraim Karsh, Commentary, May 2001

That last 300,000 have a sad story, to the extent that they remained "refugees." Rather than being able to take advantage of a system, they've instead been sucked into it, prisoners of camps that their fellow Arabs refuse to dismantle. If they had citizenship, if they gave that up for a few handouts from the Blue Helmets, that has to be one of the worst Faustian bargains of all time.

Still, don't count on the Times using the lower number any time soon.

Cross-Posted at Oh, That Liberal Media.

Blogarama - The Blog Directory
help Israel
axis of weevils
contact us
site sections