A Major Root of the Problem
Supporters of Israel have failed to address one matter that won't go away by itself: the exiled Palestinians. It is not enough to declare they are no longer refugees, as if that would make them disappear. Nor will calling them Fakestinians evaporate them. Define them as you wish and call them what you want; there are millions of them who are stateless – and if no opportunity is made available to remedy their situation, they will remain radicalized.
It is easy to say that UNRWA should stop supporting them – and maybe UNRWA should stop – but that will not help the situation. The Arab states have shown an incredible ruthlessness is letting these people hang out to dry in order to embarrass Israel.
They will not disappear if UNRWA goes, nor if they are relabeled as non-refugees. If you ask a Lebanese what should be done with them, the Lebanese will shamelessly say, “Let them go back where they came from.” That is the problem. Redefining them will not eliminate them.
One might point out that it is not Israel's problem, but it is Israel's problem, as Israel's mere existence inflames Mid-Eastern bosoms with rage. It is a wonderful suggestion to tell the Arab states to absorb their brethren – and I would agree – but the Arabs do not see it that way. They are not going to budge.
We can discuss the motives for this intransigence. Many Arabs see Israel as an affront to Islam. Some Arabs consider the Jewish state an imperialist cancer in the Mideast. But the pro-Israel side never admits that there are many Arabs who see a Palestinian "right of return" as simple justice apart from Islam and anti-imperialism, rightly or wrongly.
We might give the Arabs legal reasons why they should absorb the Palestinians. The argument usually goes along the lines: Eastern and Sudeten Germans cannot return to Memel, Pomerania, of the Sudetenland. Get over it!
Surely this makes sense to the Western mind, but the Arabs will respond that if Jews did not get over a Roman dispersion two millennia ago, neither will the Palestinian get over a more recent setback. If one were to actually listen to the Arab apologists, this theme is reiterated continually. If Israel will not enfranchise the Arabs in Judea and Samaria, how dare they tell the Arab states to enfranchise anyone?
Much as we may support Israel, the Arab argument here is hard to deal with. One has to split legal hairs why a Jewish Right to (Law of) Return is legal and moral, and why a Palestinian "right of return" is not. It remains the very core of the issue. Despicable though Abbas is – and even more despicable though Hamas is – they will never surrender the "right of return." It is their raison d'être.
Israel demands that the PA acknowledge that Israel is a Jewish state, with the full, but not publicly stated, determination that such an unqualified acknowledgment would necessarily void the "right of return." The PA would be damned by their own people for accepting it, and damned by the West for refusing it. Were the PA to counter that they would accept Israel as a Jewish state predicated on Israel acknowledging the Palestinian "right of return," the legal gambit would be obvious. Israel would wisely reject it. I am amazed that the Palestinians have not tried the ploy already, but their statesmen are idiots.
Yes, Islam is a prime mover, a major and barbaric mover, but Islam is not the only issue here. The West is foolish to overlook that much of the Arab world sees those Palestinians as a cause célèbre.
The West says to the Arabs: if you care about the Palestinians, then naturalize them. The Arabs do not see it that way. They see the naturalization of the Palestinians as diluting the Palestinian claim to Palestine and insist on keeping the Palestinians stateless that they might be a thorn in Israel's side.
As much as the West supports Israel – and sadly, that support is diminishing – the Arabs support the Palestinian cause, and their support is not diminishing. It is merely the penury and corruption of the Arabs that prevents this support from being effective, but the support is there. Sadly, this view is taking root in the West. The problem will not go away by ignoring it.
Nor is it completely honest to claim that Palestinians are inordinately radical.
Under British rule, the Irish were quite radical. Under the repressive Hohenzollern monarchy, the German street could be quite violent. This carried over to the United States, where the culprits of the infamous Haymarket Riots in 1886 were primarily German. In time, as liberty shone, these groups became solidly conservative. The same can also be said of Jews. Under Tsarist tyranny, the Jews were disproportionately radicalized. This carried over to the United States for two generations. Only now are Jews filling conservative ranks in appreciable numbers.
Hopelessness and despair radicalizes even the finest of people. Should we be amazed that radical Islam has taken root among the stateless Palestinians?
It is frankly dishonest to chide the Palestinians that they have other Arab countries to choose from: Go there!, when it is blatantly obvious that no Arab country will naturalize any of them. They are regularly kicked out of Arab countries and have become the wandering Palestinians, often for no reason at all. No wonder they radicalized.
We can condemn the Arabs for not awarding birth citizenship to the Palestinians, but neither does Israel, as in the recent case of a Jerusalem-born Palestinian woman, Taman Zubaidi, having her credentials revoked while she was in Canada – leaving her stateless in Vancouver, unable to work, drive, or even leave Canada. Residency in one country is often contingent on having travel papers from the originating country. When Israel revoked her residency in Jerusalem, her residency in Canada was invalidated, too. Like Israel or not, Israel just fobbed off a small piece of the Palestinian problem on a completely innocent party, Canada.
Israel knows Canada will not deport her to Israel to make a scandal, but other countries are quite prepared to make a scandal. One Palestinian was stuck in an airport after Russia, Malaysia, Laos, and Turkey turned him down. Most Americans would have exploded over such treatment. The wonder was that he didn't.
One may support Israel in this matter, but if Canada does not accept the woman, where does she now go without papers? She cannot even board a plane. Israel can claim that it was all quite legal; but, legal or not, the woman is now Canada's problem. Is that right to Canada? She was born in Jerusalem, not Toronto. Where does Canada deport her? To an Israel which will not accept her?
And that is the problem. Everyone expects the other guy to take care of the problem. Like Freddie Prinze, all sides say: “Eez not my job!”
This insanity would become readily obvious if the Syrians, Lebanese, and Egyptians were to set up tent cities of Palestinians right on their border with Israel and say, “They are not ours. We are not keeping them anymore. They will not work. They will not move. You will take them, feed them, or they can die.” What will Israel do then? Let them starve? It may come to that yet. Hopefully not!
Find a place for the Palestinians, and you will still have Islam to deal with, but a major focus will have disappeared. So whose “job” is it, when the all side refuse the duty?
I support Israel, but something has to be done on this matter. Waiting for the Arabs to fix the problem will not work. Either Israel or the West will have to offer the Palestinians a way out or, no matter what happens to radical Islam, the Palestinians problem will fester – even if you call them Fakestinians, and deny them refugee status. They are not going anywhere soon.
Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who is not Jewish, Latin, or Arab. He runs a website, http://latinarabia.com, where he discusses the subculture of Arabs in Latin America. He wishes his Spanish were better.