Tag Archives: Palestinian refugees

Dealing With Palestinian Refugee Issue

Israel and Palestinians argue over the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees who were uprooted from their homes during the Israel war of independence. An estimated 700,000 Palestinians fled the country and now they and their children constitute a population of over 4,000.000. There currently are an estimated 3.9 million Palestinians living in Israel controlled West Bank and Gaza and about 4.6 million Palestinians in other Arab nations. For decades these people have been stateless because Arab nations refuse to allow Palestinian refugees to be granted citizenship in their countries. A report recently described these people as, “marginalized, deprived of basic political and economic right, trapped in camps, bereft of realistic prospects, heavily armed and standing atop multiple fault lines.” In 2001, Lebanon stripped Palestinians of their right to own property or even pass on any property to their children and banned them from working in numerous occupations such ad doctors, lawyers, etc..

What is the reality of refugees. First, it is illogical to believe that 5,000,000 Palestinians will return to Israel and reclaim their lost property. It will never happen. Despite $10 billion in foreign aid, not a single refugee camp in the West Bank or Gaza has been replaced by modern housing. Palestinians were ejected from Kuwait when Palestine leaders backed Saddam Hussein and the situation in Lebanon is horrendous for refugees. Jordan is probably the only Arab nation that has integrated Palestinians into their society and, while Syria allows Palestinians to work, they are barred from citizenship.

What then is reality? It is time to end the fantasy of the right of return and focus on either creating areas of Palestine which could serve as homes for refugees or have Arab nations rethink their policies toward Palestinians. Israel has to consider the need to offer billions of dollars into a fund that would assist refugees. The problem is not merely that of Israel, but the entire Arab world.

Should Jews Return To Arab Lands?

Arab nations continually discuss the “right of return” for Arab people who fled Palestine when Israel was created, but few ever mention the 700,000 Jews who fled Arab nations after Israel became a nation and their governments engaged in anti-Jewish activities. A new magazine in Iraq’s Kurdistan’s region entitled: “Israel-Kurd” urges that Jews who fled Iraq should return to Kurdistan. They believe the 150,000 Kurdistan Jews living in Israel belong in their native land. Dawood Baghestani, who developed the magazine, argues “if the Jews had not been subject to an exodus, the Palestinians wouldn’t have been either.”

Many Muslims in Iraq are furious at the thrust of the magazine since Israel is not recognized by the Iraq government. Many Kurdish leaders like Baghestani have visited Israel and believe in the need for improved relations between Israel and Arab nations.

Mr. Baghestani has excellent motives, but it might be slightly exaggerating the reason for departure of Arabs from the new state of Israel. There is no question Israel armed forces forced some Arabs to leave just as Arab leaders urged people to leave in fear they would be killed by the Israelis. There is also no doubt hundreds of thousands of Jews left Arab nations and lost their money and property.

No Palestinian Refugees Will Return Says Israel

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert denied reports he had agreed to a compromise with the Palestinian Authority on the issue of return of refugees. The Israel newspaper, Haaretz, reported that under the compromise,20,000 Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return each year over a ten year period. Some would enter under provisions of reuniting families. Olmert’s office stated bluntly: “The prime minister never offered to absorb 20,000 refugees in israel. The prime minister reiterates that under any future agreement, there will not be any return of Palestinian refugees to Israel in any number.” Sources for the original claim there was an agreement said Olmert had agreed the absorption would be based on a humanitarian basis and according to a formula to be determined in advance. The Haaretz story said any such return would be conditioned on the Palestinian Authority giving up the general concept of a “right of return.”

The proposal makes sense and appears to be a fair and equitable compromise about a rather complex issue. Israel has repeatedly taken firm stands which may come across as a show of force, but, invariably make peace efforts more difficult to attain. Surely, absorbing 20,000 refugees a year is within the capability of Israel and it would indicate to Palestinians a willingness to compromise on a key issue. Until Israel grasps the importance of compromise its continued “firmness” only makes firm the inability to achieve peace.

Israel Independence Day And Palestinian Rights

Israel is celebrating the 60th anniversary of its establishment as an independent nation. There are parades, speeches and parties as Israeli citizens continue marvel the nation has remained intact despite wars and conflicts. On the same day an alternative “celebration” was being held by Palestinians who regard the birth of Israel as a sad event in their lives. One Palestinian march began just outside Nazareth, cose to the Israeli town of Tziponi, and a short walk from the site where the village of Safuriyya once lay. The annual march was organized by the Associaiton for the Defense of the Rights of Internally Displaced Persons in Israel(ADRID).

An article in the New Statesman describes events in 1948 when Arab villagers were “hit by aerial bombardment and artillery fire,” many fled and eventually returned only to be forced out by Israeli authorities who were concerned about their loyalty. There is no question many Arab villagers were displaced and their land used to build settlements for Jewish refugees. Unfortunately, in the New Statesman story, there is not a single word about the fact Israel was attacked by several Arab nations who had more troops, more tanks, more planes, and certainly more artillery. Does that massive attack excuse mistreatment of Arab citizens? No, but it helps explain behavior. The world of 2008 sees a powerful, well trained Israeli army, but forgets, in 1948, few believed Jews could survive Arab nations which attacked their land.

War produces inequity, it leads to horrible crimes committed against the innocent. It is rare for newspapers like the New Statesman to ever report about Arab horrors committed against Jews during the difficult days of 1948 when survival was paramount. Does one horror sanction a responsive horror? Of course not. There is no way to identify which side began to resort to brutal tactics. The New Statesman article presented one side in the conflict. Its story would have been more powerful and meaningful had it also examined the complexity of the time when refugees fled.

Isn’t an issue of 2008 the process by which rights of Palestinians can be recognized today? It might begin by having the West Bank evacuated and its housing offered to Palestinian refugees. It might also begin by Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Iraq offering compensation to Jews forced to flee from those nations. The refugee issue is a bit more complex than how the New Statesman presents it in 2008.