We've read in the news this year about the Catholic priest who converted to Islam. We also heard from the Roman Catholic bishop who thinks we should all refer to G_d as Allah. Now we have a Vatican cardinal who is venturing his opinion on diplomacy in the Middle East.
A senior Vatican cardinal said on Wednesday that all Palestinian refugees had a right to return to their homeland.Probably an oversight on his part.
Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican department that formulates refugee policy, made the comment as U.S. President George W. Bush was set to revive long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at a White House summit.
"Palestinian refugees, like all other refugees, have a right to right to return to their homeland," Martino said in response to a question about the 44-nation conference in Annapolis on Tuesday.
Martino did not make clear whether he meant refugees had a right to return to homes in what is now Israel or to an eventual Palestinian state.
But I think Cardinal Martino onto something here when he says that all refugees should be given this option. So let's not stop with the Palestinian Arabs. There are other injustices to refugees to resolve as well. Some stand out in particular. Bernard Lewis mentions a few examples, since what happened to the Palestinian Arabs is not unique:
What happened was thus, in effect, an exchange of populations not unlike that which took place in the Indian subcontinent in the previous year, when British India was split into India and Pakistan. Millions of refugees fled or were driven both ways -- Hindus and others from Pakistan to India, Muslims from India to Pakistan. Another example was Eastern Europe at the end of World War II, when the Soviets annexed a large piece of eastern Poland and compensated the Poles with a slice of eastern Germany. This too led to a massive refugee movement -- Poles fled or were driven from the Soviet Union into Poland, Germans fled or were driven from Poland into Germany.
By all means, lets allow all of these people the option to return to their original homeland--it is after all their right. The difference of course is that contrary to Cardinal Martino's implication, not all refugees are the same. In fact, Lewis points out that Palestinian Arab refugees actually are different.
Palestinian Arabs alone have not resettled because their 'fellow' Arabs have consistently refused to allow them to resume normal lives. Instead they have exploited them--despite the availability of both money and land--in order to use their suffering as a club to hit Israel over the head with.
The Poles and the Germans, the Hindus and the Muslims, the Jewish refugees from Arab lands, all were resettled in their new homes and accorded the normal rights of citizenship. More remarkably, this was done without international aid.
The one exception was the Palestinian Arabs in neighboring Arab countries.
Enter Cardinal Martino to help them do just that.