Capitol Hill in Washington was rocked late last month when the Senate Appropriations Committee approved an amendment requiring the State Department, for the first time, to do a “count” of Palestinian refugees.
The amendment required the State Department to specify how many of the five million Palestinians who receive aid from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency are refugees who were personally displaced from their homes in 1948, and how many are descendants of those refugees.
Known as the Kirk Amendment, after its sponsor, Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), considered one of Israel’s strongest supporters in Washington, the bill conceals within its 150-plus words a fierce battle between Republican legislators and the State Department over the United States’ relationship with UN institutions.
Every year the United States allocates $250 million to UNRWA, which provides food as well as health, education and employment services to millions of Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. For years Congressional representatives have been trying to reduce U.S. contributions to the agency, on the grounds that UNRWA was born in sin and that its policies are anti-Israeli.