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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

George Mitchell dooms any chance of peace

The US envoy to the Middle East just doomed any remote chance there might have ever been for a peaceful two-state solution.

Palestine Press Agency quotes Mitchell as having told his Lebanese hosts that the US "does not support the resettlement of the Palestinians" in Lebanon. The US Embassy website in Lebanon said "As the Special Envoy, Mitchell confirmed to Prime Minister Hariri in their meeting last evening the U.S. will not support the forced naturalization of Palestinians in Lebanon."

As we've mentioned numerous times before, the definition of "Palestinian refugee" is unique among all world refugees. The UNRWA created an entirely news class of refugees where the descendants of Palestinian Arab refugees are considered refugees themselves. Using this bizarre definition, the number of Palestinian Arab "refugees" is fated to grow, forever. It is simply impossible to imagine that they will all ever "return" to "Palestine." They are now at about 10,000,000 and counting.

As far back as the 1950s, the world realized that there was no solution for the (then) hundreds of thousands of refugees that did not include their eventual resettlement in Arab countries. Yet the Arab League, in an astonishing display of bigotry against their fellow Arabs that persists to this day, ruled that no Palestinian Arabs can become naturalized citizens of Arab countries - while all other Arabs can.

This is, in sum, the major reason why millions of Arabs are stateless today. Even if you want to blame Israel for expelling every one of the 600,000 Arabs in 1948 (which is clearly not true,) the only people responsible for their continued suffering over the past 61 years are the Arab leaders who pretend to support them while refusing to take in their "brethren" and give them full rights.

Even for the Palestinian Arabs who left the UNRWA camps and attempted to build their lives in the Gulf states, in many ways helping to build those very countries, their children and grandchildren remain stateless.

It is not as if Palestinian Arabs would refuse the offer to become citizens of other Arab countries because of their supposed nationalism. In the 1950s, Lebanon offered citizenship to many Christian Palestinians as well as Muslims who could prove Lebanese ancestry, and some 50,000 people jumped at the offer. A loophole that opened up in 1994 that offered citizenship was equally pounced upon and tens of thousands more became Lebanese citizens - many even falsifying papers - before that loophole was closed.

So today we have millions of people, falsely labeled as "refugees," who never stepped foot in British Mandate Palestine and who, if they were any other group of people, would have become citizens of the nations they were born in. The reason is purely because of Arab bigotry and intransigence.

There is no realistic solution to the "Palestinian" problem as long as this naked bigotry is allowed to continue. Millions of Palestinian Arabs are not going to stream into a nation of "Palestine." The only solution must include treating this population exactly the same way as other refugee populations are treated.

The US should be in the forefront of insisting that the "moderate" Arab nations and allies step up and take their share of responsibility for decades of Palestinian Arab suffering.

Instead, George Mitchell (who has Lebanese ancestry) has now officially stated that the US supports this institutionalized discrimination by Arab leaders. A golden opportunity to point out embedded Arab bigotry and to publicize and shame Arabs into taking responsibility for their treatment of Palestinian Arabs is now lost.

Lost with it is any chance for a reasonable peace plan. The Arab nations keep the fake "refugee" issue alive specifically in the hopes that there will be world pressure for Israel to take in millions of Palestinian Arabs and become another Arab state. Israel will never agree to this. The losers, as always, are the actual Arabs of Palestinian Arab ancestry who are kept in limbo by the very people who are claiming to care the most about them.

Shame on the US for blowing this one chance to help millions of people.