Sunday, April 30, 2006

The "Naqba" no one talks about

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs expelled from their homes. Expulsions, summary executions of civilians by the brutal soldiers, horrendous torture, and mass detentions under the cover of war. None of them able to return to the homes they lived in all their lives.

This is not Israel in 1948, but Kuwait in 1992.

350,000 Palestinian Arabs were driven from their homes in Kuwait - and no one talks about it.

By almost any measure, Arabs have treated their Palestinian brethren worse than the Jews ever dreamed about. But this is not a story that you will hear Palestinian Arabs mention. They would prefer that the world pressue Jews, and not think about documented abuses from the first Gulf War (not to mention abuses of Palestinian Arabs in Libya, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon and elsewhere in the Arab world.)

Now, why are these "naqbas" ignored? Could it be that the point of Palestinian Arab victimhood is really about destroying Israel, and not at all about Arab "survivors" of 1948 and 1967?

I only found this article fully quoted in one place on the Internet, although bits and pieces of the story can be found in many places, including most on-line encyclopedias and histories fo the Gulf War.

Here is how the San Francisco Bay Guardian reported the situation of the Palestinian Arabs of Kuwait in the aftermath of the first Gulf War (September 9, 1992):
DEMOCRATS, REPUBLICANS, and pundits alike have described the "liberation of Kuwait" as an apex in U.S. foreign policy since the end of World War II. With great fanfare and pronouncements of new openness and democracy for the oil-rich kingdom, the emir returned to his palace, rebuilt complete with gold toilet seats courtesy of the U.S. Army.

But those promises of freedom lasted only as long as television news teams stayed in Kuwait City. Reports from human rights monitors detail an ongoing Kuwaiti campaign to punish and expel the 350,000 Palestinians living in Kuwait before the war. Today, all but 60,000 Palestinians have been driven out by a combination of summary executions, torture, detention, forced expulsions, and a variety of other pressures. And according to human rights workers, Kuwait is trying to squeeze those last few out quickly.

More than 50 percent of Kuwait's prewar population was Palestinian. Many had lived their whole lives in Kuwait, holding positions from banking and business to laborers. Many were members of the professional classes that helped build Kuwait into a relatively modern society.

Roughly half of Kuwait's Palestinians, some 180,000, left during Iraq's occupation. But the real horror began with liberation.

The Kuwaitis launched a brutal campaign of punishment and expulsion against the Palestinians for the PLO's opposition to the Gulf War, ostensibly for their "collaboration" with the Iraqi invaders, despite the fact that many Palestinians had fought and died with the Kuwaiti resistance.

In April 1991, Amnesty International reported that "scores of victims had been killed and hundreds more had been arbitrarily arrested, many brutally tortured by Kuwaiti armed forces and members of the resistance." The report found that "teams of torturers often appeared to work in relays, maintaining the torture for hours."

Amnesty International has documented that 40 Palestinians were summarily executed, and another 120 disappeared. Five thousand were detained, most of whom were beaten and/or tortured. Another 7,000 Palestinians were formally expelled.

Kuwaiti officials have admitted that some excesses happened, but claimed these occurred without their knowledge and were committed by citizens who had endured great hardships by Iraqi invaders and their alleged collaborators.

But the implicit Kuwaiti government approval for these atrocities is underscored by the fact that no one has been brought to justice for crimes committed against Palestinians. Aziz Abu-Hamad, a senior researcher at Middle East Watch, said the Kuwaiti government has not made any serious effort to locate the 120 vanished Palestinians. Mass graves have been discovered, but Kuwaiti authorities have made no attempt to exhume these graves and identify the bodies.

An agency was created, called State Security Intelligence Police, Abu-Hamad said, which made a practice of telling Palestinians that if they didn't leave, "we'll come after you."

And the government has made it all but financially impossible for Palestinians to remain in Kuwait. All foreigners who worked for the Kuwaiti government were fired immediately after the Iraqi invasion. After the war, most foreign workers were rehired, but no Palestinians. Private employers followed suit. The oil and banking industries were forbidden to rehire Palestinians.

Besides throwing all Palestinians out of work, the Kuwaiti rulers are refusing to give them back wages, severance pay (one month's salary for each year of service under Kuwaiti law), or pension funds they are owed until they have their passport stamped with an exit visa (which gives them one week to leave).

By June 1992, another 110,000 Palestinians had left Kuwait, and a deadline of Sept. 30 will soon be announced for the remaining 60,000 Palestinians, Abu-Hamad said.