Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Major Arab reporter calls for Palestinian Arab resettlement

In a stunning series of four articles in Al-Hayat (London), columnist Daoud Al-Shiryan looks at the reality of how Jordan, Lebanon and Syria keeps Palestinian Arabs in misery. MEMRI translates much of them, here are some highlights:
Objecting to [refugee] resettlement is no different than objecting to peace. It is nothing but an unrealistic slogan. The Arabs have agreed to peace, although they realize that there cannot be peace without [refugee] resettlement. But they disregard this fact, viewing the refugee issue as a point of controversy, when it is [actually] a central and key issue in the peace process. The fear [of being accused of renouncing the nationalist] slogans [calling for] struggle, resistance, and casting Israel into the sea - slogans which emerged at the outset of the peace process with Israel - and the link that has been established between the issue [of resettlement] and ethnic and political problems in some [Arab] countries - have [all] become an obstacle to a realistic and honest approach to the issue.

Arabs who object to the [refugee] resettlement plan contend that they are motivated by their zealous devotion to the Right of Return. But they have not lifted a finger to keep this right alive in the consciousness of the Palestinian 'detainees' in the camps of abasement. As a result, this spurious devotion has evoked the opposite reaction: a Palestinian [refugee] now hopes to emigrate to America, Europe, Canada, or Australia in order to escape the hell of the Palestinian refugee camps, which have played a part in killing his will to live.

It follows that [refugee] resettlement is [already] underway, despite [all the] slogans promoting the Right of Return that have become an [integral] part of the speeches of these countries' politicians.

There is no doubt that our next campaign [should be aimed at] defending the [refugee] resettlement program and demanding that it be implemented… [The host countries] must open up the refugee camps, which are not fit for human [habitation]. [They must] prohibit the trading in the lives of these people, whether this trading was in the name of security and or in the name of terrorism, and they must make it possible for Palestinians to work, to send their children to [public] schools, and to make a living without conditions or limitations. Without real change in the conduct of the countries 'detaining' the Palestinian [refugees], the number of those demanding resettlement will [only] increase. Opposition to [refugee] resettlement is specious; it is tantamount to the slow murder of the Palestinians…"

These countries must stop treating the Palestinians like a plague, using slogans which, as we all know, have become nothing but empty utterances in a loathsome struggle. We must break the isolation of the Palestinians in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. A Palestinian should be made to feel like a welcome and dear guest - before some external intervention comes along and grants him the right to live in dignity, to everyone's consternation. "We must support the Palestinians like the West supported the Jews. We must reassess the whole idea of refugee camps, before they collapse on top of us. Be God-fearing [in handling the issue of] the refugee camp dwellers. Stop fighting at the expense of the Palestinian people's dignity.
Then he tells an amazing story:
[A] [Jewish] Lebanese woman, Hannah [Efraim], invited a Palestinian woman, Umm Bilal, to come spend the weekend at her house… [saying], 'I want you to help me pack my things, since I have decided to emigrate to the U.S. As you can see, the political and social situation after the 1958 [Lebanese civil] war does not encourage one to stay [in Lebanon], and intensifies sectarianism here. I prefer my son to live far away from Lebanon.' [Shortly thereafter,] Hannah left [Lebanon] and lost touch with Umm Bilal.

Upon her arrival in New York, Hannah received assistance from Jewish organizations. A short time later, she received U.S. citizenship, enrolled her son in a private school, and started working in a bank, earning a good salary. [Her son] Avraham grew up, finished university, and advanced at his job, becoming director-general of a reputable bank. Ten years after completing his degree he married, had three children, and bought a fine house in a New Jersey suburb [for himself], and another for his mother.

In 1995, Hannah decided to visit Lebanon and spend her summer vacation there. She arrived in Beirut and moved into a luxurious hotel. The next day, she asked her driver to take her to the refugee camp where Umm Bilal lived. She entered the camp and inquired after her. By nightfall, she managed to find her - [living] in a dilapidated hut with fabric-covered windows, her body ravaged by tuberculosis.

Hannah asked Umm Bilal about [her husband], Abu Bilal; Umm Bilal replied that he had died in the civil war. 'And what about [your son] Bilal?' [Hannah asked]. [Umm Bilal] replied, 'He is working at a bicycle repair shop down the street. His salary is barely enough to cover my basic needs and those of his three sisters.' 'Is Bilal married?' Hannah asked. 'In this hole, where would we get the money to feed another mouth?' [answered Umm Bilal].

'Aisha [Umm Bilal] is just one example among the thousands of Palestinian mothers [like her], and Hannah is just one example among the Jewish mothers [like her]. The Arabs kept the Palestinians in refugee camps and made into a people defeated both morally and materially. In contrast, the West welcomed the Jews and made them a leading [force] in science, arts, literature, economics, and politics.

Are we capable of reassessing the idea of the refugee camps, [thereby] saving the next generation of Palestinians from a fate [similar to that of] Bilal and his contemporaries? There is still an opportunity to do so.

What a concept - noticing that Arab governments treat Palestinian Arabs like dirt, and asking them to give them basic human rights! Too bad the West cannot perceive these obvious facts and believes the Arab lies that Israel is responsible for PalArab misery today.