Refugees and ‘Nabka’ Refugees


Some readers may have experienced a head-scratching moment or two, when reading a recent Toronto Star article on the “Nabka” commemoration, which claimed that five million Arab-Palestinian refugees fled the 1948 ~Israeli War of Independence, and/or another piece by the AFP, claiming that a fifty-three year old Arab-Palestinian woman is an actual refugee from the 1948 war! Sometimes the coverage can be unintentionally amusing for the rather obvious untruths featured within the articles, e.g. a few years back Haaretz featured an interview with an Arab-Palestinian activist claiming to have fled the 1948 war when in fact the so-called “Nakba” must have occurred seven years before he was born!

Some of these media outlets may have made some quite understandable assumptions about the nature of refugeedom, and actual number of “refugees” in question. Refugees universally understood to be those fleeing war and persecution. By contrast Arab-Palestinian “refugees”, due to their unique status at UNRWA, allows both the actual refugees and all their descendents qualify for refugee status. Indeed economic migrants of any race can also qualify since the definition of an Arab-Palestinian refugee refers to a two-year resident of the region between 1946 and 1948, who has lost home and livelihood as a result of the 1948 War of Independence.

Professor Nitza Nachamias, of Tel Aviv University, has also argued that the UNRWA’s action of awarding refugee status to any individual is unlawful because refugee status appears to only be applicable when awarded after an objective screening process by a sovereign nation-state.

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