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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Break down the 'refugee camp' walls

Sol Stern writes that if 'moderate' 'Palestinian' President Mahmoud Abbas Abu Mazen is really serious about peace (which he is not), he must break down the walls of the 'Palestinian' 'refugee camps,' including the ones located within the 'Palestinian Authority.'

A few years ago I briefly visited the Balata refugee camp with its 20,000 residents. The camp is inside the West Bank city of Nablus—that is, within the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority (PA). It is where many of the Arabs of Jaffa settled when they fled the armed conflict that flared up immediately after the November 1947 UN partition resolution dividing Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. Most of Balata's current residents are the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of the original refugees. Thus, a new baby born in Balata today is still designated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) as a refugee dislocated by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and hence entitled to substantial material benefits for life, or at least until the conflict is settled. That infant will grow up and attend a segregated school run by UNRWA. In UN schools and cultural clubs financed by American tax dollars, Balata's children, like the children in similar camps in Gaza and neighboring Arab countries, are nurtured on the myth that someday soon they will return in triumph to their ancestors' homes by the Mediterranean Sea.

While awaiting redemption, Balata's Palestinian residents are prohibited, by the Palestinian Authority, from building homes outside the camp's official boundaries. They do not vote on municipal issues and receive no PA funding for roads or sanitation. As part of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's "economic renaissance" and state-building project, a brand new Palestinian city named Rawabi is planned for the West Bank near Bethlehem. But there will be no room at the inn for the Balata refugees. Sixty years after the first Arab-Israeli war, Balata might accurately be defined as a UN-administered, quasi-apartheid, welfare ghetto.

This historical and political absurdity—unique in the experience of the world's tens of millions of refugees displaced by modern war and political conflict—helps explain why Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas walked away from the best deal his people have ever been offered. It happened in November 2008, when Ehud Olmert, then the prime minister of Israel, presented him with a detailed map of a future Palestinian state that, with land swaps, would constitute close to 100 percent of the territory of the West Bank and Gaza prior to the June 1967 war. Olmert also offered to divide Jerusalem, enabling the Palestinians to locate their capital in the eastern half of the city. The only thing he would not agree to was a right of return for Palestinian refugees—for the obvious reason that this would mean the end of the Jewish state.

As I have reported elsewhere, Abbas, promising to come back for further discussions, took the map to his Ramallah office for his aides to study. But he never returned with the map, and this was the last time the Israeli and Palestinian leaders met. The reason, I believe, is clear: if Olmert's offer had ever become the basis of serious negotiations, Abbas would have had to admit to the residents of Balata and the other refugee camps on the West Bank that their leaders had lied to them for 60 years and that they were not returning to Jaffa. Among those leaders was Abbas himself, who in his 2005 campaign for the PA presidency declared repeatedly that he would never bargain away the Palestinian refugees' right of return.

Today, two years later, face-to-face meetings, brokered by the Obama administration, are again being held between Abbas and an Israeli prime minister. But just like the Abbas-Olmert meetings, the current talks will go nowhere until Washington recognizes that the official Palestinian stance on the refugees presents a far more serious obstacle to Middle East peace than the issue of construction within Jewish West Bank settlements. The latter is no more than a complication, while Palestinian insistence on the right of return is a deal breaker.
Don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen.


At 7:34 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

It will never happen.

If any one thinks the Palestinians will give up their "right of return" its not going to begin with dismantling camps used as propaganda weapons against Israel.

In other words, don't look for peace to be established between Israel and the Palestinians in your lifetime or in mine.

At 4:16 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - a hat tip from me.

Remember the hullabaloo about Israel's supposed commitment to destroy Jewish outposts in Yesha. According to Moshe Dann, it turns out Sharon never signed the famous Dov Weinglass letter (albeit with conditions) nor was was never brought to the Israeli Cabinet for approval. So if the Israeli government claims destroying Jewish homes is upholding the "rule of law," it doesn't rest on legitimate legal grounds.

More here:

Let Jews Build Homes

Indeed. The Israeli government, which ignores its own conditions and the fact it never formally approved ANY policy to destroy Jewish outposts in Yesha, is acting not in accordance with the law it holds so dear but in deference to American dictates Jews must not be allowed to build anywhere in Yesha. Why is Israel's government enforcing on Jews an anti-Semitic and racist edict? Good question since when its asked forthrightly about it, it can't come up with a good defense for its policy.

Just read it all. Its shameful the Jewish State punishes Jews for doing what they are allowed to do any where else in the world on the basis of a policy it never formally ratified in a Cabinet vote.


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