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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Khaled Abu Toameh asks why everyone is lying to PalArab 'refugees'

Khaled Abu Toameh continues his stellar series of articles in Hudson-NY, telling the truth that goes against all conventional wisdom of the Middle East:

The Palestinian Authority, like the rest of the Arab governments, has been lying to the refugees for decades, telling them that one day their dream of returning to their villages and towns, many of which no longer exist, would be fulfilled.

Meanwhile, the refugees are continuing to live in harsh conditions in their UNRWA-administered camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.

No Arab or Palestinian leader has ever dared to confront the refugees with the truth, namely that they are not going to move into Israel. On the contrary, Palestinian and Arab leaders continue to tell these people that they will go back to their former villages and towns.

Arab and Palestinian governments are lying to the refugees because they want to avoid any responsibility toward their plight. The Arab governments hosting the refugees have done almost nothing to improve the living conditions of the refugees.

On the contrary, Palestinian refugees living in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan have long been subjected the victims of racism and other repressive and unjust measures and laws that deprive them even of basic rights. Governments such as Jordan receive a payment for each refugee, turning the refugees into nothing more than property, like stocks on Wall Street.

Since its establishment in 1994, the Palestinian Authority has also done very little to help the refugees. In the West Bank, most of the international aid is being invested in major cities such as Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem and Jenin, as well as scores of villages.

UNRWA is also not offering a solution to the refugees. Instead, the UN agency is perpetuating the problem by creating new generations of refugees. UNRWA is in fact encouraging the refugees to stay where they are. For UNRWA, refugees are a gigantic UN jobs program, providing over 30,000 of them, costing over $1 billion USD a-year, or, according to separate sources, a third of all other UN regugee services combined.

The case of the Palestinian refugees is one of the most important issues in the Israeli-Arab conflict. It needs to be solved for once and for all -- and immediately. The refugees have the legitimate and moral right to continue dreaming about their original villages and towns. But the Arab and Palestinian governments do not have the right to continue lying to these people.

The issue of the refugees can easily be solved if the entire international community, with the help of the Arab world, gets together to find a solution. Israel alone will never be able to solve the problem.

The refugees should be offered financial compensation or resettlement in Arab and other countries. Those who wish to move to a Palestinian state that is established alongside Israel in the future should not be denied that right. Arab countries should be urged to absorb Palestinian refugees.

Western countries should also participate by taking some of the refugees and offering them a new life. Why not establish an international fund that would offer financial compensation to those who lost their homes and lands? And let us not forget that there are also hundreds of thousands of Jewish "refugees" who lost their properties in Arab countries.

The world needs to tell the Palestinian refugees that while they are entitled to many rights, they must forget about returning to Jaffa, Haifa and other places inside Israel.

The issue of the Palestinian refugees can be solved only when a courageous Arab or Palestinian leader confronts them with the truth. As long as the refugees are being fed with false hopes, there can be no solution.