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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Night reading: When Kuwait expelled 400,000 Palestinian Arabs

The Middle East Forum has a nice article by Steven J. Rosen about the seldom-remembered episode when Kuwait decided to ethnically cleanse hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs in 1991.

The largest forced displacement of Palestinians from an Arab state took place in 1991 when Kuwait expelled most of its Palestinian residents in retaliation for the Palestine Liberation Organization's (PLO) endorsement of Iraq's brutal occupation of the emirate (August 1990-February 1991). It mattered little that this population, most of which had resided in Kuwait for decades, was not supportive of the PLO's reckless move: From March to September 1991, about 200,000 Palestinians were expelled from the emirate in a systematic campaign of terror, violence, and economic pressure while another 200,000 who fled during the Iraqi occupation were denied return. By September 1991, Kuwait's Palestinian community had dwindled to some 20,000.

Yet while this expulsion was near the order of magnitude of the Palestinian 1948 flight (estimated by the Israeli government at 550,000-600,000 and by the Arab League at 700,000),[2] driving PLO chairman Yasser Arafat to declare that "what Kuwait did to the Palestinian people is worse than what has been done by Israel to Palestinians in the occupied territories,"[3] it was largely ignored by the international community with neither the U.N. Security Council nor the General Assembly doing anything to assist the newly displaced refugees and punish their ethnic cleanser.

...Many of the deportees were subjected to abuse or worse during the process of expulsion. In March 1991, the Associated Press quoted a grave digger at the Riqqa Cemetery in Kuwait, talking about mass graves: "They were all Palestinians … One man had a severed head." The agency later reported that even some members of Kuwait's ruling family were involved in the killings of Palestinians, and Kuwaiti pro-democracy activists claimed the royal family had formed private "death squads" to execute people suspected of collaborating with the Iraqis. The director of the Palestine Human Rights and Information Center reported interviews with four Palestinian men who escaped Kuwait after being imprisoned there, saying that they were beaten with metal rods, burned with cigarettes, and interrogated by Kuwaiti officials during their imprisonment in Kuwait City.[14]

Palestinian children were expelled from public schools while heavy financial burdens, such as new health fees, were placed on Palestinians who wished to remain. According to the Palestinian group Badil, "About 4,000 people were killed, and 16,000 tortured in Kuwaiti detention and interrogation centers. Most of these were Palestinians."

...Most of the world was silent in the face of this enormous expulsion, including Kuwait's fellow members of the Arab League. A Palestinian observer lamented that, "You can call it deportation ... But I call it the third catastrophe after 1948 and 1967. Imagine what would happen if Israel deported 300,000 people. The whole world would be up in arms. But when an Arab deports or kills his Arab brother, it's all right; nothing happens."

No resolutions were adopted by the U.N. Security Council or by the General Assembly. Not a word was heard from the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People, or the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied Since 1967. All remained silent on the situation in Kuwait.

The General Assembly-established Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People did record twenty-four statements on expulsions and deportations of Palestinians during 1990-91,[37] but not one of these statements was about the 400,000 Palestinians deported by Kuwait. Instead, all twenty-four statements were angry protestations objecting to Israel's deportation of four convicted Palestinian terrorists with blood on their hands.
It is worth reading the whole thing to get an appreciation of what hypocrites the Arabs are when they claim they care about their Palestinian brothers. Not to mention the UN.

(h/t Josh)