From a letter to the editor of JPost, 5 June 2011, by Trevor Davis:
Sir, ... the number “4.7 million” Palestinian refugees...is patently absurd and is a result of UNWRA having unilaterally defined the descendants of the original refugees as being refugees, too, and in perpetuity.
While there are many definitions of who is a refugee (the UN and various other organizations have as yet to come up with one final definition), only the Palestinians have enjoyed this unsanctioned and legally unrecognized privilege. The census taken in August 1948 by Count Folke Bernadotte, the UN mediator (and no friend of Israel), reported 330,000 Palestinian refugees who left for various reasons too numerous to mention here.
Through various manipulations and exaggerations, this number was raised to more than 700,000 by 1950. Since more than 60 years have passed since Bernadotte’s census, it is fair to say that at least half that number are now dead of old age. This means that those Palestinians who may be considered “refugees” by normal definitions cannot exceed 350,000 today (and that’s pushing it).
A “right of return” for these refugees has the same spurious value as that for the millions of Germans expelled from the Sudetenland and East Prussia after World War II, or the native Americans shoveled onto reservations in the 1800s, or the Armenians death-marched by the Turks almost 100 years ago.
While Germany and many other nations absorbed refugees of all nationalities, only the Palestinians have been forced into stateless squalor by other Arab nations. (Need we ask why?) So I respectfully request that when we write about Palestinian residents in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, etc., etc., we stop referring to them as refugees, especially when combined with that ridiculous figure of “4.7 million.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas himself doesn’t give a fig about any of them; if he did he would gripe to the UN about their treatment at the hands of his “brother” Arabs. It’s certainly not our problem, and we should stress that fact to anyone willing to listen.