Today on Blogcritics
Home » Culture and Society » Palestinian Refugees: Is a Solution Possible?

Palestinian Refugees: Is a Solution Possible?

Please Share...Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Share on LinkedIn0Pin on Pinterest0Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUpon0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

Notwithstanding a huge amount of literature on this subject, many misconceptions, emotions and political games obscure the picture of the Palestinian refugee issue. Palestinian advocates claim that without granting all registered refugees the right to return to Israel, peace in the region is impossible. Israel, therefore, has to let about 5,000,000 descendants of Arab refugees settle in its territory. This also means that peace depends entirely on Israel.

The phenomenon of Palestinian Arab refugees stands out in the history of refugees. As of 2013, it has already lasted 65 years and it seems there is no end in sight.The UN established a specific agency to deal solely with the problem of Palestine’s refugees: The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). It has about 30,000 employees, most of them recruited from Palestinian Arab refugees. It is funded by the UN, Western Europe and the US, and deals with education and other aspects of refugee life. Corruption and the wasting of money are rampant there, but who cares? The agency ostensibly deals with one of the most important issues of our time, and as such is deemed worth every penny.

To see the bigger picture, let’s step back and compare the Palestinian Arabs refugee problem with some other refugee problems of the last century, which took place at approximately the same time.

The problem of Arab refugees emerged in 1948, when an alliance of Arab countries started the war against Israel. Here are the numbers from different sources of refugees who fled the war zone:

Israel: ………………………………………………………………………..520,000
UN – progress report Oct. 1948: ……………………………………472,000
UNRWA (Agency designated to deal with Arab refugees).. 711,000
Arab countries (claim): ………………………………………………..850,000

For the sake of further discussion, I will take the number stated by the UNRWA: 711,000. At the same time, Arab countries expelled more than 600,000 Jews and expropriated their properties. How did the world react to these two events? In the UN, no issue of compensation, or right to return for Jews, was discussed. Western media and politicians did not see any moral, legal or political problem there. Be that as it may.

The international treatment of Arab refugees was quite different. The Arab League has instructed its members to deny citizenship to original Palestinian Arab refugees (or their descendants) ‘to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland’. The message was clear: to conserve the hatred and a state of war until total victory over Israel. The wellbeing of the refugees was not a consideration.

More than 150 UN resolutions on Arab Middle East refugees have been issued since then, but none mentioned Jewish refugees from Arab countries. One of the reasons for neglecting the Jewish refugees is that there are none now. All of them were absorbed into Israel and granted citizen status. In the political arena, there is no discussion of their property and their right to return. The situation with Arab refugees is quite different. At the time of writing, there are about 5 million of them, who grew from the original 711,000. Since the outset of the problem, tension and hatred in the Middle East has grown, together with the number of registered Palestinian refugees. According to the UNRWA, in January, 2010, the distribution of registered Palestinian refugees by country or territory was as follows:

Gaza Strip….. 1,106,195
West Bank…….. 778,993
Lebanon……….. 425,640
Syria…………….. 472,109
Jordan………… 1,983,733
Total:………….. 4,766,670

Table 1 indicates the rate of growth of Palestinian refugees and the population of countries where they are settled.

Table 1

_________:Lebanon__Syria_______Jordan____West Bank_Gaza_____Total
Pop.1948_:1,238,000_3,068,000___1,188,000__420,000___80,000**__5,994,000
Pop.2010_:4,903,000_23,331,000__6,686,000__2,520,000_1,600,000_39,040,000
Pop.Grwth:396% ____760%______563%._____600%_____2,000%___651%
Refg.1948:100,000___80,000*____100,000____280,000___197,000__757,000
Refg.2010:425,640___472,109____1,983,733__778,993___1,106,195_4,766,670

Ref.Grwth: 426%_____590%______1,984%____278%_____562%____630%

Comment * 70,000 to 100,000. **Estimate indigenous

About Alex Markman

  • Andreas Andersen

    Excellent Article! Thank you!