Long classified report on Palestinian refugees may finally be released

Congress is putting pressure on the Trump administration's state department to release a classified report that would severely damage the narrative on Palestinian refugees. Among other things said to be in the report is the revelation that there are far fewer Palestinian refugees than the UN and the Palestinian Authority have claimed.

Washington Free Beacon:

Key lawmakers in Congress are increasing pressure on the Trump administration to release a long classified government report on Palestinian refugees that insiders have described as a potential game changer in how the United States views the refugee issue and allocates millions in taxpayer funding for a major United Nations agency, according to conversations with senior congressional officials working on the matter.

The State Department has, since the Obama administration was in office, been hiding a key report believed to expose the number of Palestinian refugees as far smaller than the U.N. and other have claimed for decades. The public release of this information could alter how the United States provides funding for Palestinian refugees.

The Washington Free Beacon first disclosed the existence of the refugee report in January, when the Trump administration decided to significantly cut funding to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, an organization long accused of harboring anti-Israel bias and of aiding Hamas terrorists in the Palestinian territories.

Though the State Department is legally required to publish an unclassified version of the report, it has repeatedly ignored demands by Congress that the report be released.

The State Department, when asked by the Free Beacon, could not provide any information or timeframe on the report's possible release.

"The State Department is committed to taking all appropriate measures to provide information in response to requests from Congress," a State Department official said.

Congressional demands that the report be publicly released come at time of mounting criticism for UNRWA, which is facing a severe cash crunch following the Trump administration's decision to reduce U.S. funding. The tense situation with UNRWA has sparked protests in the Gaza Strip, where UNRWA mainly operates and employs hundreds.

In addition to regional protests over UNRWA's inability to pay salaries, Turkey was recently appointedat the U.N. to chair the agency's advisory committee for the next year. This has stoked concerns that UNRWA could take an even more anti-Israel position in the coming months.

UNRWA has been playing a confidence game with numbers of refugees for decades. The more refugees they claim in their reports, the more money they receive and can siphon off as pure graft. 

But putting an end to the game would mean offending some very powerful international players, not to mention forcing a cut in US payments to UNRWA. So the state department - always willing to go along to get along - has resisted exposing UNRWA's lies.

UNRWA is one of those UN agencies that we're supposed to support because they do such good work. You ever see a UNRWA-run refugee camp? The only thing that isn't missing is miserable, terrified, starving and diseased refugees. It's hard to see how the plight of many refugees who fall into UNRWA's hands could get much worse.

The money we give to refugees would be far better spent by private relief organizations who, at least, are honest. But the Palestinian refugee narrative has a life of its own and changing it will require some bold action by Congress and the White House.