Sunday, June 10, 2007

An Arab almost admits the truth about PalArabs

Asharq al-Awsat published an op-ed that is extremely rare in its honesty and criticism of the Arab world.

Ironically, the author succumbs himself to the same bigotry against Palestinian Arabs that he reveals:

Regarded by some as a temporary issue, the tragedy of the Palestinians is rarely presented to the Arab and international public opinion through the media or during political occasions. Even some Arabs and Palestinians intentionally turn a blind eye to the issue so as not to expose abuses. What is happening in Lebanon's Nahr al Bared camp today is just one such example where battles have raised an overwhelming number of questions: who are these people? How long have they lived in the camp and how? What are their rights? The answers can be found on the UNRWA's website. Tens of thousands of people crammed in undignified houses, where many of them were born and have lived for five decades.

Some Arab countries “hosting” refugees ban them from leaving [camps], from occupying a large number of positions and deny them any other legal rights. Some of them have to jump over walls and sneak out to complete their chores or to breathe and experience the outside world. One can imagine these randomly and poorly built houses during the winter chill and sweltering heat of the summer among the sewage and insufficient services. It is a shame. How can we talk about the liberation of Palestine, which we simply associate with stolen land, a desecrated mosque and a powerful enemy, while we do not allow Palestinians to settle down, earn a living or travel like all other human beings?

Our insistence to lock the Palestinians in camps and treat them like animals in the name of preserving the issue is far worse a crime than Israel stealing land and causing the displacement of people. The 60 year-old camps only signify our inhumanity and double standards. Israel can claim that it treats the Palestinians better than their Arab brothers do. It gives citizenship to the Palestinians of 1948 as well as the right to work and the right to lead a somewhat normal life, although they are treated as second-class citizens.

In Nahr al Bared and other camps, however, they are neither citizens nor humans based on weak pretexts. I cannot believe Lebanese allegations that state that they have been confining the Palestinians, being Sunnis, to camps so as not to disturb the demographic balance between the Shia and Christians. It is a ridiculous excuse that even Israel would not try to use. No one is asking for citizenship or permanent settlement for them—only permission to live like any other foreigner. Blame lies with the Arab League and Arab governments that took part in or kept silent about this moral scandal. Rather than seeking to help them or provide for their demands, they preoccupy Arab public opinion with conferences and hollow rhetoric on the issue and on refugees.

Finally, we have to be true to ourselves and ask whether the way of life of these one million people is fair.

While the article is scathing within its own context, the author still managed to soft pedal Arab abuses against Palestinian Arabs and inadvertently show how deep the Arab bigotry against Palestinian Arabs really is.

He pointedly ignores Jordan's killing over 7000 Palestinian Arab civilians in a single month - probably more civilians than Israel has killed in 40 years. He doesn't mention Syria or Egypt by name, only Lebanon. He says only that Israel can "claim" to treat PalArabs better than Arabs do - he cannot bring himself to actually admit it as a fact. And he mentions a million Palestinian Arabs in "refugee" camps - the number according to UNRWA is over 1.3 million.

Perhaps most egregiously, he himself accepts the idea that alone among all Arabs, Palestinian Arabs cannot become full citizens of most Arab countries. The idea of Palestinian Arabs becoming citizens is dismissed without discussion - of course it is absurd, of course they must remain stateless, of course we cannot treat them as true brothers.

Because, when all is said and done, even the most moderate and understanding Arab still hates Israel more than he loves his Palestinian brethren.