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Determining the intent of the presidential determination

By Frank Salvato
web posted February 23, 2009

There has been much debate surrounding the issue of whether or not President Obama's Presidential Determination No. 2009-15 of January 27, 2009, effectively provided funding for members of Hamas to immigrate to the United States. While the determination itself did not include specific verbiage to that effect, just like reading the Koran without using the Hadith as a guide, reading the Presidential Determination without understanding the intent of the Migration & Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 and the accomplishments of the charged State Department organization, the Bureau of Population, Refugees & Migration, would lead even the learned to a conclusion that denied a reality.

First, let's examine the actual text of Presidential Determination No. 2009-15:

Presidential Determination No. 2009-15 of January 27, 2009

Unexpected Urgent Refugee and Migration Needs Related To Gaza
Memorandum for the Secretary of State

By the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including section 2(c)(1) of the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 (the "Act''), as amended (22 U.S.C. 2601), I hereby determine, pursuant to section 2(c)(1) of the Act, that it is important to the national interest to furnish assistance under the Act in an amount not to exceed $20.3 million from the United States Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund for the purpose of meeting unexpected and urgent refugee and migration needs, including by contributions to international, governmental, and nongovernmental organizations and payment of administrative expenses of Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration of the Department of State, related to humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees and conflict victims in Gaza.

You are authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.

(Presidential Sig.)

THE WHITE HOUSE, Washington, January 27, 2009
[FR Doc. E9-2488 Filed 2-3-09; 8:45 am]
Billing code 4710-10-P

When an honest examination of this document is executed the only conclusion you can arrive at is that it is about as clear as any other bureaucratic document; it isn't. In fact, the only clearly discernable points are:

▪ President Obama felt it was justified, under Section 2(c)(1) of the Migration & Refugee Act of 1962, as amended, in allocating $20.3 million to "unexpected and urgent refugee and migration needs" as they relate to "humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees and conflict victims in Gaza."

▪ That this $20.3 million is to be derived from the United States Emergency Refugee & Migration Assistance Fund and allocated to the Bureau of Population, Refugees, & Migration of the Department of State.

22 USC 2601 - Sec. 2601: Refugees & Migration

US Code 2601, Title 22, Foreign Relations and Intercourse, establishes presidential authority to allocate financial provisions for:

"...the purpose of assisting in the movement of refugees and migrants."

This section of the code is relevant due to the fact that the Presidential Determination specifically cites 22 USC 2601:

"By the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, including section 2(c)(1) of the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 (the "Act''), as amended (22 U.S.C. 2601), I hereby determine..."

To be fair, 22 USC 2601 addresses additional provisions establishing authority for the movement of funds at behest of the president for issues pertaining to international refugees and organizations that provide for them, but that does not diminish the significance of the authority vested in the president to allocate funds for migrant and refugee movement. In fact, when coupled with the mission statement of the organization due to receive the funds allocated by President Obama's Presidential Determination, the refugee and migrant movement issue becomes more relevant.

United States Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund

According to the US State Department website:

"The State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) provides aid and sustainable solutions for refugees, victims of conflict and stateless people around the world, through repatriation, local integration, and resettlement in the United States. PRM is also advancing the United States' population and migration policies." (Emphasis mine)

According to the Migration & Refugee Assistance Emergency Refugee & Migration Assistance Fiscal Year 2009 Congressional Presentation Document:

"In FY 2007, the United States welcomed 48,281 refugees. The Administration had significant success in putting in place a system that supports both U.S. traditional humanitarian values and ensures that U.S. homeland security will not be compromised in executing the U.S. resettlement program. Provisions in the Immigration and Nationality Act (section 212(a)(3)(B)(iv)(VI) as amended) bar admission into the United States of refugees who had provided material support to certain organizations engaged in conflicts with repressive regimes or who were innocent victims compelled under duress to provide support to terrorist organizations. With the Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with each other and the Attorney General, exercising their separate authorities...to render the material support inadmissibility provision inapplicable, over 2,500 refugees who would have been forced otherwise to remain in refugee camps or survive under similar precarious circumstances have been approved to enter the United States and begin their lives anew." (Emphasis mine)

Through examinations of the US State Department's definition of the PRM and the PRM's actions we can conclude with relative certainty that the authorization used to achieve the goals set forth for the organization allows the PRM to "repatriate, locally integrate and/or resettle" refugees and migrants, including resettlement to the United States.

Taking this knowledge and applying it to President Obama's Presidential Determination 2009-15, we can accurately conclude that $20.3 million was allocated to an organization charged with, but not limited to, resettling refugees in the United States.

The UN Relief & Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East

The United Nations Relief & Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East – or UNRWA – began its field operation in 1950, inheriting the assets of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees (UNRPR). This organization is mandated as a subsidiary organ of the United Nations tasked to coordinate relief efforts for the "Palestinian refugees."

The inclusion of the UNRWA in this situational examination is warranted because the UNRWA would be the chief receiving organization for any monetary stipend emanating from the $20.3 million allocated to the PRM under the authority of President Obama's Presidential Determination.

The UNRWA defines an eligible "Palestinian refugee" as:

"...any person whose ‘normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948 and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.' Palestine refugees eligible for UNRWA assistance, are mainly persons who fulfill the above definition and descendants of fathers fulfilling the definition...

"The 1948 registered refugees and their descendants now number over 4.6 million, and mainly reside in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon or Syria.

"It should be noted that UNRWA's definition of refugees is necessarily restricted to those eligible to receive its aid, as the definition explicitly states that the refugee must have lost both home and means of livelihood to be eligible for registration with UNRWA. Thus, for the purposes of repatriation or compensation, as envisaged in UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (III) of December 1948, the term "Palestine refugee" is used with a different, much less restrictive meaning as compared to UNRWA's need-based definition."

It should be noted that nowhere in the UNRWA's prerequisites for designation as a "Palestinian refugee" does it exact disqualification for members of Hamas, al Fatah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad or any other radical Islamist group. In fact, the only declared prerequisites for Palestinian refugee status are:

▪ Any person whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948

▪ That said person lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict

▪ Or that said person be a descendant of a father fulfilling the definition

By the UNRWAs definition, members of Hamas living in Gaza – in light of the fact that Hamas has unscrupulously transformed itself into a political organization even as it remains a terrorist entity – would be eligible for UNRWA aid.

Because Hamas has a political component to its organization – and because Palestinians living in Gaza voted Hamas into power – it becomes impossible to discern between Gazans who disavow Hamas ideology and those who support their efforts. In light of this, it becomes impossible to disqualify, with any certainty, any Gazans from receiving UNRWA or aid derived from the PRM.

The Corrupt UNRWA & The American Financial Pipeline

The aforementioned criteria for Palestinian refugee eligibility may be fundamentally flawed in its failure to vet terrorist operatives but that would be the least disturbing reality when examining the UNRWA. To put it succinctly, the UNRWA is not only corrupted, it is essentially pro-Hamas.

In a 2006 article in TCS Daily, Michael Krauss, professor of law at George Mason University and J. Peter Pham, director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University – both academic fellows of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies – exposed a stunning level of corruption at the UNRWA.

Among their findings:

▪ UNRWA's former commissioner-general, Peter Hansen, was egregiously pro-Hamas. In a statement to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in late 2004 he said, "I am sure there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll, and I don't see that as a crime."

▪ Hansen, in his official capacity as a UN program commissioner-general, perpetuated Hamas propaganda by falsely stating he had seen, "...with my own eyes [Israeli] helicopters strafing civilian residential areas...wholesale obliteration...and mass graves" during Israel's Defensive Shield operation of 2002. These allegations were subsequently debunked.

▪ The UNRWA has published educational texts for use in its UN operated schools that: defines Zionism as ""a racist ideology and political movement"; omits the nation of Israel from content and maps in history books; and provides curriculum including assignments that ask students to "research and write [an essay] about one of the Palestinian martyr leaders [suicide bombers]."

▪ UNRWA ambulance drivers have used their vehicles to transport weapons, ammunition, official orders to Hamas operative and the terrorist operatives themselves to missions that include the targeting of Israeli soldiers.

▪ As of 2006, all but eight (8) of the fifty-four (54) union officials in the Gaza local were directly tied to Hamas. These positions allowed Hamas to control new hires and dole out patronage.

When one takes these findings into account the "shock" and "outrage" over the recent hijackings of UNRWA aid to Gaza in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead becomes laughable as the hijackings were, in reality, anything but.

Mark Silverberg, a former member of the Canadian Justice Department, past Consultant to the Secretary General of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem during the first Palestinian intifada and a foreign policy analyst with the Ariel Center for Policy Research in Israel, says of the UNRWA in the context of President Obama's Presidential Determination:

"...the best President Obama can hope for is to degrade Hamas to the point where its power and credibility are severely damaged, and to establish an international body with accountability, transparency and unprecedented oversight responsibilities to insure that the billions of dollars set to flow into Gaza reconstruction contribute directly to Palestinian life, and not end up in the political coffers of the corrupt and vastly unpopular Palestinian Authority or Islamist Hamas which will use a national "reconciliation" government as a means to gain international recognition, reap the billions of dollars of international aid, and rebuild its offensive capabilities against Israel using the Fatah-led PA as a cover while subverting Fatah control on the ground." 

And Howard Linett, a member of the Suicide/Homicide Bomber Tactical Analysis Focus Group of the National Terrorism Preparedness Institute & the Technical Support Working Group of the US Department of Homeland Security, a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a Sergeant-Major and sniper instructor in the Israeli Police Civil Guard, in writing from his home in Jerusalem, Israel, said:

"During the weeks since Israel unilaterally declared a Cease-Fire in Operation Cast Lead and withdrew all its forces from the Gaza Strip the Hamas terrorists have become the anti-Robin Hoods, stealing from the poor to give to political supporters. Hamas's hijacking of food and other essential aid has been so blatant that the thievery has even been "outed" by the UN and other relief agencies. Stealing donated relief supplies at gunpoint – armed robbery – has become the terrorist thugs' manner of providing for their own and their "Chosen," at the expense of Gaza's distressed masses."

With Hamas in the rhetorical "driver's seat" at the UNRWA, the channeling of financial and physical aid stuffs to the UNRWA by PRM is essentially facilitating the well-being of Hamas terrorists and strengthening their hold over the Gazan people. Therein lays the motivation for Gazans to resettle to areas outside the Palestinian held territories. This also affords an opportunity for Hamas to utilize this resettlement portal to move terrorist operatives into position near targets in the West, including the United States.

It should be noted that in 2006, one-third of UNRWA's $350 million annual budget was furnished by American taxpayers.

The Critics & Naysayers

Regardless of all the evidence, reasoning and testimony to the contrary, some believe that there is no danger of extremists being resettled to the West and, in particular, the United States. Further, there are even more who believe that the continued funding of the UNRWA and the facilitation of financial aid to Gaza is the humanitarian thing to do. This line of thinking is stunning in the face of the reality of the situation.

During Operation Cast Lead the mainstream media's coverage of the conflict overwhelmingly favored the "plight" of the Gazans, this in spite of the fact that Israel had barred foreign journalists from access to Gaza during the military operation and in spite of the fact that Israel itself transferred aid to the people of Gaza, aid that was immediately hijacked by Hamas operatives. The mainstream media took accounts advanced by Hamas and Hamas-sympathetic UN and humanitarian agencies as truth without the necessary scrutiny required.

Skewed coverage is not reserved solely for Israeli military activity. During the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict of 2006, Reuters was delinquent in vetting photos of dead Lebanese children and wailing Lebanese women. These photographs proved to be supplied by Hezbollah operatives with many being staged for propaganda purposes. The situation in Gaza and the West bank is no different as is evidenced by video examinations of the circumstances surrounding two issues distorted by pro-Hamas Palestinian factions, Pallywood and Al-Dura: Making of an Icon.

But application of bias isn't unique to the mainstream media. The "new media" has its share of ideological conflict and disingenuousness as well.

A perfect example of new media discourse over the possibilities presented through the enactment of President Obama's Presidential Determination is the almost instantaneous condemnation by those sympathetic to Hamas of an article penned by Dr. Paul L. Williams (with contributions by Bos Smith and Michael Travis), titled, provocatively, President Obama Invites Hamas Terrorists to America. My publication, The New Media Journal, published Dr. Williams' article.

The "bureau chief" for a sensationalistic yet popular blog, WorldNetDaily, wrote to inform us:

"I was a bit surprised when someone e-mailed me your site's posted article, "Pres. Obama Invites Hamas Terrorists to America" by Paul Williams. I was surprised because I didn't know about it, and I am usually very up to date on this stuff.

"I looked into it and your article is wholly inaccurate. Obama is not inviting anyone to immigrate to the U.S., certainly not Gazan Palestinians. It's in the US's sick interests to maintain and fester the refugee crisis in Gaza.

"Obama offered aid to Gaza "victims" but that aid is certainly not to bring them to America. Williams is confused. Obama's aid package comes from a fund, the U.S. Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund, so maybe Williams thought the aid is to "migrate" Gazans to the US; it's not. It goes for Gaza reconstruction.

"Here is the breakdown of the aid use:

"The authorization includes $13.5 million for the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), $6 million to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and $800,000 to the U.N. Office for the "Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The emergency funding authorized by the President will enable these organizations to continue their humanitarian activities in Gaza, including distributing emergency food assistance, providing medical assistance and temporary shelter, creating temporary employment, and restoring access to electricity and portable water.

"Hope for the sake of your credibility you remove the article."

Credibility indeed.

I have, in the name of civility, withheld the "bureau chief's" name having done so for several reasons, chief among them his obvious pro-Palestinian, ergo, pro-Hamas bent:

"...It's in the US's sick interests to maintain and fester the refugee crisis in Gaza." (Emphasis mine)

Additionally, it is shocking that someone living in Israel and openly declaring themselves to be a "bureau chief" would be so devoid of the knowledge surrounding the UNRWAs corruption, its infiltration by Hamas as verified by Professor Krauss, Mr. Pham, Mr. Silverberg and Mr. Linett and the actual mission statement and past achievements of the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees & Migration.

Lest it be thought that my assessment of the "bureau chief" is simply a jaded rebuttal, attorney, investigative reporter and occasional FOX News analyst, Debbie Schlussel, says of the "bureau chief":

"[He]...consistently and eagerly promotes and provides exposure to Islamic terrorists, the few we know he may actually have talked to. That isn't journalism. It's the fake yarmulke wing of the HAMAS PR division...he has no credibility as a journalist, considering the many backtracks he's had to offer..."

The "bureau chief's" conciliatory position towards the Palestinians and their "political organizations" – Hamas and Fatah – are not unique. Many pro-Palestinian activists were seen hurling anti-Semitic epithets during protests that took place right here in the United States as well as in cities throughout the world during Operation Cast Lead. They labor under the uneducated opinion that the total of the aid being sent to the various humanitarian organizations and agencies is actually being employed in a humanitarian way. As we have concluded through the examination of the realities on the ground in Gaza and the testimony of respected experts, this is hardly the case.

In Reality...

Are the ramifications of President Obama's Presidential Determination 2009-15 clear? No, nothing in the political arena, even in the United States...especially in the United States today, is ever clear. But an honest assessment of all the components related to the Presidential Determination, when considered in unison, present, not only the reality that there exists an opportunity for Hamas operatives to immigrate/re-settle to the West and United States, but the stark reality that the West – and the taxpayers of the United States in particular – are providing financial aid to an organization that supports the efforts of Hamas. To deny these realities and the possibilities that they conjure is to be perilously naïve.

To that end, Mr. Linett provides the following:

"A full court press is in effect by the outgoing Olmert government to secure the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from his Hamas captors. Little doubt exists that there will be a prisoner swap; the lone Israeli soldier in exchange for a large number of Hamas and some others convicted of committing terrorist acts, presently serving their sentences living the good life in Israeli jails. Various media sources have put the number of terrorists to be released at a minimum of 400 and a maximum of 1,000.

"Among those rumored to be on the "release list" are actual murders, what Israelis call terrorists with "blood on the hands." Those same media sources report that Israel is demanding that the terrorists to be exchanged for Gilad Shalit not be allowed to return to either the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. Nor does Israel want to release the terrorists into the custody of some country that will warmly embrace them, anoint them heroes and allow them to return to their terrorist ways.

"I cannot think of any country that would accept such a sustained burden and responsibility. But $20.3 million for ‘Urgent Refugee Relief and Migration Needs related to Gaza' thrown at the thorny problem might provide for a ‘temporary solution,' and allow a new American Administration to claim it is administering defibrillation to a moribund peace process. Just don't forget, the Gaza terrorists who deliberately, willfully and malevolently planted and detonated a roadside bomb as an American vehicle convoy passed, killing our American security personnel, remain alive and well in the Gaza Strip."

In light of everything presented here, one would be a fool to ignore the possibilities and the opportunities presented. It would be in our best interests to remember the words of Thomas Jefferson if we are to survive, if we are to advance our American heritage to the next generation: "The price of Freedom is eternal vigilance." ESR

Frank Salvato is the Executive Director and Director of Terrorism Research for BasicsProject.org a non-profit, non-partisan, 501(c)(3) research and education initiative. His writing has been recognized by the US House International Relations Committee and the Japan Center for Conflict Prevention. His organization, BasicsProject.org, partnered in producing the original national symposium series addressing the root causes of radical Islamist terrorism. He is a member of the International Analyst Network. He also serves as the managing editor for The New Media Journal. Mr. Salvato has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor on FOX News Channel and is a regular guest on talk radio including on The Right Balance with Greg Allen on the Accent Radio Network and on The Captain's America Radio Show catering to the US Armed Forces around the world. His opinion-editorials have been published by The American Enterprise Institute, The Washington Times & Human Events and are syndicated nationally. He is occasionally quoted in The Federalist. Mr. Salvato is available for public speaking engagements. He can be contacted at newmediajournal@comcast.net.


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