Palestinian refugees: facts and figures
This month marks the 72nd anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba [Catastrophe], which saw the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in 1948. It also signifies the ongoing suffering of Palestinian refugees since then, who continue to live in camps inside Palestine and in the Diaspora. Throughout this time, there have been continuous attempts to eradicate their cause and nullify their individual and collective right to return to their original homes. These efforts have taken on a new intensity in light of the US-designed “Deal of the Century” which aims to eliminate the entire Palestinian cause, first and foremost the refugee right of return, which is considered the backbone of the Palestinian cause and the foundation of any just solution to the conflict.
The UN protected the right of return for Palestinian refugees to their original homes and villages immediately after their expulsion in UNGA Resolution 194. This resolution is reaffirmed annually in various UN sessions, granting it a solid position in binding customary international law.
The Palestinian refugee cause is considered one of the most complex international causes, something which prompted the UN to issue Resolution 302 on 8/12/1949 stipulating the establishment of UNRWA, an independent UN international agency with a mission to care for and rehabilitate Palestinian refugees in their five areas of refuge (the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon). The existence of an international UN agency that specializes in offering support to Palestinian refugees is extremely important given that it expresses the continuation of the international community’s responsibility towards these refugees and keeps their cause alive at the international level. It also distinguishes Palestine’s refugees from other refugees in the world who fall under the jurisdiction of UNHCR, thus preserving the exclusivity of their cause.
In this context, Israel and more recently, the United States, have sought to undermine the existence of UNRWA including cutting funding and inciting against it with the ultimate goal of dissolving the agency and ending international commitments to Palestinian refugees and their cause.
The struggle and resistance of the Palestinian people has contributed to turning the refugee cause into a political one, based on the right of the Palestinians to self-determination and liberation from Israeli settlement colonization, rather than being framed as a mere humanitarian and relief cause. This prompted the UN to adopt dozens of resolutions pertaining to the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
There is no doubt that the Nakba of the Palestinian people is ongoing due to Israel’s continuous colonialist and long-term policies based on a premise of expelling the people and settling the land. Since Israel expelled over 66% of the Palestinians in 1948, it has not stopped employing these same policies, which led up to the 1967 “Naksa” (or setback) which in turn displaced around a quarter of a million Palestinians. Israel’s forced expulsion of Palestinians has continued in several ways since then.
Following are Israel’s most employed forced expulsion policies: