Palestinian Authority leaders are now saying that they will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state because that would mean that they would have to give up the "right of return" for millions of Palestinians to their original homes inside Israel.Yes, there are Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza--and the Arabs who live in those camps fare no better than the Arabs in any of the other refugee camps in the Middle East.
These leaders are actually continuing to deceive the refugees into believing that one day they will be permitted to move into Israel.
The Palestinian Authority, like the rest of the Arab governments, has been lying to the refugees for decades, telling them that one day their dream of returning to their villages and towns, many of which no longer exist, would be fulfilled.
Meanwhile, the refugees are continuing to live in harsh conditions in their UNRWA-administered camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
Sol Stern described one of these ghettos in the West Bank in his article Mr. Abbas, Tear Down This Wall!
A few years ago I briefly visited the Balata refugee camp with its 20,000 residents. The camp is inside the West Bank city of Nablus—that is, within the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority (PA). It is where many of the Arabs of Jaffa settled when they fled the armed conflict that flared up immediately after the November 1947 UN partition resolution dividing Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. Most of Balata's current residents are the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the original refugees. Thus, a new baby born in Balata today is still designated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) as a refugee dislocated by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and hence entitled to substantial material benefits for life, or at least until the conflict is settled. That infant will grow up and attend a segregated school run by UNRWA. In UN schools and cultural clubs financed by American tax dollars, Balata's children, like the children in similar camps in Gaza and neighboring Arab countries, are nurtured on the myth that someday soon they will return in triumph to their ancestors' homes by the Mediterranean Sea.Is it any wonder that Abbas cannot let go of the condition that Arabs be allowed to return to their homes in Israel? Considering how badly these descendants of the refugees are treated by the Palestinian Arabs themselves, without the promise of being able to leave the camps--who knows how these refugees would, and will, react.
While awaiting redemption, Balata's Palestinian residents are prohibited, by the Palestinian Authority, from building homes outside the camp's official boundaries. They do not vote on municipal issues and receive no PA funding for roads or sanitation. As part of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's "economic renaissance" and state-building project, a brand new Palestinian city named Rawabi is planned for the West Bank near Bethlehem. But there will be no room at the inn for the Balata refugees. Sixty years after the first Arab-Israeli war, Balata might accurately be defined as a UN-administered, quasi-apartheid, welfare ghetto.[emphasis added]
And let's not forget UNRWA, which instead of being a temporary agency has become an established institution. Toameh notes:
UNRWA is also not offering a solution to the refugees. Instead, the UN agency is perpetuating the problem by creating new generations of refugees. UNRWA is in fact encouraging the refugees to stay where they are. For UNRWA, refugees are a gigantic UN jobs program, providing over 30,000 of them, costing over $1 billion USD a-year, or, according to separate sources, a third of all other UN regugee services combined.Established institutions have agendas--and the primary one is self-perpetuation. With UNRWA in charge, the Arab refugee problem will never be resolved.
Toameh himself offers a possible solution to the problem, though one might think he is being overly optimistic:
The issue of the refugees can easily be solved if the entire international community, with the help of the Arab world, gets together to find a solution. Israel alone will never be able to solve the problem.Just think about that: if Obama would agree to the centrality of the Arab refugee problem to the Israel Arab conflict--and, by his own logic, to stability in the Middle East--wouldn't it make sense for the US to put its full support behind the long overdue resolution of the Arab refugee problem?
The refugees should be offered financial compensation or resettlement in Arab and other countries. Those who wish to move to a Palestinian state that is established alongside Israel in the future should not be denied that right. Arab countries should be urged to absorb Palestinian refugees.
Western countries should also participate by taking some of the refugees and offering them a new life. Why not establish an international fund that would offer financial compensation to those who lost their homes and lands? And let us not forget that there are also hundreds of thousands of Jewish "refugees" who lost their properties in Arab countries.
The only thing standing in the way is the one basic truth in the Middle East that controls the West's foreign policy there: it is easier to pressure Israel than the Arabs.
Technorati Tag: Palestinian Refugees.