Demands State Department Release ‘Game Changer’ Report on the Myth of
By Adam Kredo
April 11, 2018
Congress is pressuring the State Department to release a
long classified report on Palestinian refugees that insiders say could change
the calculus on how the United States approaches the situation and allocates
millions in taxpayer funds to a key United Nations agency, according to sources
and a congressional letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
Dozens of members of Congress have already signed on to an
effort to force the release of this State Department publication, which sources
say was originally classified by the Obama administration in order to keep the
findings secret from the American public and lawmakers.
The Free Beacon first
reported on the existence of this report in January, when national
security insiders first began pressuring the Trump administration to uphold a
U.S. law mandating the report be released in public. The report is said to have
been marked classified in order to prevent public disclosure that the number of
Palestinian refugees is far smaller than the United Nations claims.
Now, months later, the report still remains classified,
prompting the large delegation of congressmen to order the State Department to
uphold the law and make the report public, according to a draft letter
circulating on Capitol Hill and viewed by the Free Beacon.
The report was described to the Free Beacon as a
potential tipping point in the debate over the United Nations Relief Works
Agency (UNRWA) and its mission, which has come under increased criticism in
Congress for what many claim is the agency's anti-Israel bias and routine
promotion of pro-terrorism doctrines. The United States decided recently to cut
taxpayer funding to UNRWA, the chief Palestinian refugee aid organization, as a
result of the group's longstanding anti-Israel bias.
Lawmakers are outraged the refugee report was classified in
the first place and are demanding the Trump administration release the
information as is required under U.S. law.
"The Obama State Department delivered the mandated
report to Congress in classified form despite no apparent national security
threat or known historical precedent for classifying such a report," the
delegation of lawmakers write. "We believe this classification was
inappropriate and a deliberate attempt to conceal information from American
taxpayers. The report should be declassified without further delay."
While UNRWA provides support to some 5.3 million
Palestinians they claim are refugees, the actual number could be closer to
20,000, according to sources familiar with the report. A disclosure of this
nature could shift the narrative with UNRWA and lead the United States to
consider cutting even more funding to the agency.
Rep. Doug Lamborn (R., Co.), one of the lawmakers leading
the declassification effort, told the Free Beacon that Congress must
have a complete picture of the Palestinian refugee situation in order to ensure
that U.S. taxpayer funds are not being wasted.
"It is critical that Congress investigates the United
Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which operates under the United Nations
(UN) using a different definition of a refugee for Palestinians than all other
UN refugees around the world," Lamborn said.
"Americans have sent UNRWA billions of dollars over
the years to help bring peace to the region, but instead the agency has
perpetuated a victimhood mentality for Palestinians," Lamborn said.
"Releasing this report to the American public is an important first step in
recognizing reality in this difficult situation and bringing about much needed
reform to UNRWA."
The United States has provided some one billion dollars to
UNRWA over the last four years. The total expenditure is nearly six billion
dollars since UNRWA was founded in 1950.
Lawmakers who signed the letter to force declassification
are concerned that U.S. taxpayer dollars continue to be wasted on an
organization that they believe is operating under a false mandate.
"We are concerned that hard-earned American taxpayer
dollars are not being used properly," the lawmakers write. "Your
withholding of funds from UNRWA in January on the condition that they reform was
a tremendous first step. American taxpayers deserve to know how their tax
dollars are spent on Palestinian refugees and their descendants."
The original refugee report was legally mandated in 2012
under a congressional spending bill. The original bill instructed the State
Department to report to Congress on the actual number of people who receive
UNRWA's refugee services, as well as what their place of residence was during
the early conflicts that led to the establishment of Israel in 1948.
In 2015, the Obama administration finally produced the
report, but marked it classified in what lawmakers and others believe was an
attempt to suppress information revealing the number of actual Palestinian
refugees is far lower than UNRWA claims to the public.
E.J Kimball, director of the Israel Victory Project for the
Middle East Forum, an organization that advises members of Congress on such
matters, told the Free Beacon that declassification of the report
could change the debate when it comes to UNRWA and its mandate.
"We, taxpayers, deserve to have our money spent
towards resolving conflicts, not perpetuating them," Kimball said.
"The declassification of this report can help bring the Palestinian-Israeli
conflict closer to conclusion. President Trump's leadership on Jerusalem has
started this process. Ending the UNRWA mythology of 5.3 million ‘refugees'
will continue moving towards that end."