The major and perhaps only sticking point in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is that of the “return of the Palestinian refugees.” It sank the Camp David conference that President Clinton had arranged, even though Mr. Barak had made unprecedented concessions for the sake of peace. The new man, Mahmoud Abbas, who routinely refers to Israel as the “Zionist enemy,” also insists that the “right of return” is not negotiable, and that there can be no peace unless those “refugees” are allowed to “return” to Israel.
What are the facts?
650,000 “refugees” swell to 5 million. You have heard about those “Palestinian refugees,” who claim “right of return” to Israel. Of course, virtually none of them ever lived in Israel -- they are the children and mostly grandchildren of those who fled in 1948. The total number of those who fled in 1948 is estimated to have been about 650,000. Now the number who wish to return has swollen to almost five million!
How did this exodus come about? In 1948, on the day of the proclamation of the State of Israel, five Arab armies invaded the new country from all sides. In frightful radio broadcasts, they urged the Arabs living there to leave, so that the invading armies could operate without interference. They could return after the expected quick victory in that “holy war,” get their property back — and that of the Jews. Things turned out differently. The invading armies were defeated. Those who had left became refugees — people without a country. Those who stayed, and their children, are full-fledged citizens of the State of Israel.
These so-called “Palestinian refugees” have not been
allowed to settle in the “indivisible Arab nation.” They
have been supported in camps since 1948. So far, over $2.0 billion has
on their maintenance. No end is in sight. Who pays for that? You guessed
it: Through UNWRA Relief, the United States contributes more than 60%
of the total cost.
Another side of the “refugee” story. But there is another side to the “refugee” story. Little is heard of the 800,000 Jewish refugees from Arab countries, who fled those countries to settle in the newly formed Jewish State of Israel. Every one of these refugees was immediately accepted, resettled, taken care of, and given full citizenship by the fledgling, impoverished, and embattled Jewish State. There never has been, and there certainly is not now, a Jewish “refugee” camp in Israel or anywhere else.
The Arab “refugees” who fled Israel left little wealth and little history, since most of them had not come to “Palestine” until Jewish settlers opened economic opportunities in what had been a desolate country for centuries. But the Jews of Arab lands have a history going back thousands of years. When forced to flee, they left behind land, wealth, and a long history. They arrived in Israel, quite literally only “with their shirts on their backs.” They now make up almost 60% of the vibrant and productive population of Israel. What have the Arabs, the richest people in the world, done with their “refugees” in more than 50 years? They have kept them in misery, on the dole of the world, and have taught their hopeless youth the “skills” of suicide missions and of slaughtering defenseless and unarmed men, women, and children.
If the Arab nations truly decided to make peace with Israel and to put an end to the century-long strife, they could easily accomplish it by accepting the “Palestinian refugees” in their countries and, just as Israel did with Jewish refugees from Arab countries, integrating them into their societies and making useful citizens of them. In fact, acceptance in their countries might also be offered to the Israeli Arabs, who, despite enjoying a higher standard of living, education, and health than Arabs in any of the surrounding countries and despite having the same civil rights as Israeli Jews, are not happy to live in a Jewish state.
Population transfers are common, especially in the wake of wars. They have been practiced throughout history. In 1923, Greece and Turkey agreed to the resettlement of 2 million Greeks and 800,000 Turks; in 1945, the resettlement of 3 million Germans from Poland and Czechoslovakia was arranged. Following the collapse of its North African Empire, France accepted close to 1.5 million people. More than 12 million(!) Muslims and Hindus were exchanged between India and Pakistan. Israel has recognized this historical necessity. The “Arab Nation," with its enormous wealth and vast under-populated lands, has stubbornly refused to face facts.
It is clear that the “Palestinian refugee problem” is a red herring, kept alive by the Arab nations for their political purposes, and with cynical disregard for the great number of impoverished people who live in these camps. It is being kept alive and is being used as a “non-negotiable” bargaining chip, for the purpose of destroying the State of Israel — a feat that the Arabs have attempted several times by military means, but which has always ended in disastrous failure. Apart from the unsolvable social problems it would create, the introduction of, say, even one-half of the 5 million who claim to be “refugees” would, with one stroke, dramatically alter the demographic makeup of the country and would inevitably destroy the Jewish State. That is of course the whole idea behind the demand for the “return of the refugees”. If the Arab nations were willing to solve the “refugee problem,” the legitimacy of Israel could no longer be questioned. But that is not acceptable to the Arabs. They are firmly committed not to allow Israel or any “non-believers” to be in control of any part of the Middle East. It is that, and that alone, which is the real cause of the “Palestinian refugee problem.”
This ad has been published and paid for by
Gerardo Joffe, President