February 12, 2012
The Poor PalestiniansBy Ted Belman
If you thought the title was referring to the Palestinians living in Gaza, or even Judea and Samaria, you were wrong. From my vantage point, these Palestinians have it pretty good, whether in relation to Palestinians living elsewhere, even in Jordan, or to Arabs generally, living in Egypt or Turkey.
"Palestinian" is a name given to Arabs after the '67 War, who lived or did live in the area known as Palestine during the Palestine Mandate and afterwards right up to the present, and includes their descendants, even if such descendants never set foot in the area known as Palestine.
Whereas United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) has resettled over 10 million refugees since WWII, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is a relief and human development agency, providing education, health care, social services and emergency aid to 5 million Palestine refugees living in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, as well as in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. UNRWA was specifically created to maintain the refugee status, not to end it.
Under UNRWA's operational definition, Palestine refugees are people whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict. It also includes their descendants.
The world is focused excessively on the "poor Palestinians" living in Gaza or Judea and Samaria and ignores the Palestinian refugees living in Lebanon, Syria or Jordan, where they number in excess of 400,000, 450,000 and about 2,000,000 respectively. To add to the picture UNRWA had listed in 2010 in excess of 775,000 refugees in the West Bank and 1.1 million in Gaza.
As of January 2010, UNRWA cites 1,396,368 registered refugees in camps and 3,370,302 registered refugees not in camps. And of course there are millions of Palestinians who are not refugees.
The Arab League has instructed its members to deny citizenship to Palestinian Arab refugees (or their descendants) "to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland."
According to a major report titled Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon by Sherifa Shafie:
Lebanon: Exiled and suffering: Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, published by Amnesty International in Oct 2007 was summarized by them as follows:
Palestinians are treated much better in Syria than in Lebanon or Jordan.
According to a study titled Palestinian Refugees in Syria by the same Sherifa Shafie:
Nevertheless, Shafie reports:
In August 2011, the Guardian reported "Syria assault on Latakia drives 5,000 Palestinians from refugee camp" as "gunships blasted waterfront districts on Sunday in Latakia, and his ground troops and security forces backed by tanks and armored vehicles stormed several neighborhoods.
In Jordan, less than 20% of the refugees live in camps. This is because when Jordan purported to annex the West Bank after the '48 War, it granted all the Palestinians living there and in Jordan proper, citizenship. After the '67 War in which Israel regained Judea and Samaria, many more Palestinians fled to Jordan and over the years since, many Palestinians from the West Bank emigrated there. It is estimated today that the number of Palestinians in Jordan total in excess of 5,000,000 of which only about 2 million are registered refugees. They constitute about ¾ of the total population of Jordan. Given this fact and the fact that the West Bank has approximately 1.5 million Palestinians, one might rightfully argue that Jordan is the Palestinian homeland.
According to Wikipedia:
Mudar Zahran, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin, has in the last year written a number of articles which describe the plight of the Palestinians in Jordan. In Jordan is Palestine, published by the Mid East Quarterly, he writes:
Wikipedia amplifies this
The Arab Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza have the right to form a government and govern themselves within the confines of the Oslo Accords. Their government known as the Palestinian Authority (PA) has full autonomy in all matters save for a limitation on matters of security affecting Israel. How they govern themselves is up to them. In effect the Palestinians elect Palestinians to govern them. Whereas in Jordan, the Palestinians are severely underrepresented in the Chamber of Deputies where the minority Bedouin hold sway. If that weren't bad enough, all executive power is vested in the King.
It can safely be said that the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are the authors of their own misfortune. In their past elections, they choose parties, whether Fatah or Hamas, that are wedded to the "resistance" which is a euphemism for terrorism. The result of this "resistance," whether in the form of thousands of rockets fired from Gaza into civilian areas in Israel or the deployment of suicide bombers by Fatah in Jerusalem and Israel generally, Israel has placed restrictions on them such as a legal blockade of Gaza and travel restrictions in the West Bank. These restrictions are for security purposes only and not intended as punishment. Nevertheless, in the last three years, Israel has been easing these restrictions, and as a result, the Palestinian economy in the West Bank is experiencing an astounding 7% growth rate.
The PA could at any time compromise their demands and have a state of their own but this they refuse to do. As Gov Romney recently said "It's the Palestinians who don't want a two-state solution; they want to eliminate the State of Israel[.]"
But the Palestinians living in Jordan who have citizenship have no say in their present condition or in their destiny. Their fate is dependent on what the PA chooses to do yet they have no vote in PA elections. Nor do they have a say equivalent to their numbers in Jordan due to the gerrymandering above noted. In cables released by Wikileaks, the U.S. Embassy was talking about a deal to integrate the Palestinians into the political system in Jordan in exchange for them abandoning their illusory right of return. Needless to say, the King went ballistic.
Thus, the Palestinians in Lebanon and Jordan are rightly to be considered the poor Palestinians.
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