(Reuters) – An assault by Syrian security forces on a Palestinian refugee camp in the coastal city of Latakia amounts to a crime against humanity, a senior official in the Palestine Liberation Organization said.
“The shelling is taking place using gunships and tanks on houses built from tin, on people who have no place to run to or even a shelter to hide in,” Yasser Abed Rabbo, the PLO secretary general, told Reuters. “This is a crime against humanity.”
Abed Rabbo should ask himself why these people are living in camps, in houses of tin, where erstwhile PLO ally Bashar al-Assad can shell them.
It’s not a secret that the Arab world has done its best to keep the descendents of the 1948 refugees unassimilated, as miserable as possible and as hostile to Israel as possible in order to use them as both diplomatic and military weapons against the Jewish state. And they are miserable indeed, in many cases lacking citizenship and basic rights to education, employment, etc. in their host countries.
No Israeli negotiator will agree to allow an influx of millions of hostile Arabs as part of a ‘peace’ agreement, because it would simply be the end of Israel (and probably the end of many of its Jewish inhabitants). In fact, the insistence on this is one of the reasons that I and others argue that the PA is not serious about negotiations today.
The existence of the refugees is a ‘fact on the ground’ that can’t be ignored. This, combined with ‘honor’ and the belief that if they struggle long enough they will ultimately win, has made the issue one that the Arabs will not compromise on.
Let’s look at just a couple of examples of Arab attitudes toward these Arab refugees.
The Arab League Peace Initiative (also called the ‘Saudi Initiative’ after a previous version proposed by the Saudi monarch) includes the following demands regarding the refugees and their descendents:
Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194. [sec. 2-II]
…the rejection of all forms of Palestinian patriation which conflict with the special circumstances of the Arab host countries. [sec. 4]
The Arab nations have always understood resolution 194 as calling for the ‘return’ of refugees to Israel, although most Western authorities think that it does not. Section 4 makes it clear that there is no other option for them: the host countries (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Hamas-run Gaza and the Palestinian Authority) would not be considered an acceptable permanent destination for the refugees.
Last October, after a vicious struggle in Lebanon between radicals in a Palestinian refugee camp and the Lebanese army, a UNRWA official dared to say the unsayable:
Speaking at a National Council for US-Arab Relations conference [in October 2010], [Andrew] Whitley, who heads United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said that Palestinian refugees needed to start “debating their own role in the societies where they are rather than being left in a state of limbo where they are helpless.”
The UN official added that the Palestinian refugees must not be allowed to preserve the cruel illusions that perhaps they will return one day to their homes.”
“We recognize, as I think most do, although it’s not a position that we publicly articulate, that the right of return is unlikely to be exercised to the territory of Israel to any significant or meaningful extent,” he said, adding that “It’s not a politically palatable issue, it’s not one that UNRWA publicly advocates, but nevertheless it’s a known contour to the issue.”
Whitley’s candor has cost him his job and, it would seem, his dignity too. Angrily criticized by everyone from Hamas to the Jordanian government, Whitley was compelled to recant in a letter to UNRWA’s spokesman, Christopher Gunness. His tone is so supine and humble that the reader is bound to wonder if these words are actually Whitley’s, or whether they were authored, in the manner of the KGB, by someone else. “I express my sincere regrets and apologies over any harm that my words may have done to the cause of the Palestine refugees and for any offence I may have caused,” the letter says. It ends thus: “The Agency is at liberty to use my statement in whatever ways it sees fit. There is no need for a reply.”
Little has changed since 1967, when Israel tried to build permanent housing for refugees after it got control of the territories. The program was aborted due to pressure from the UN and terrorism from the PLO:
What is perhaps surprising is that the United Nations also opposed the program, and passed harsh resolutions demanding that Israel remove the Palestinians from their new homes and return them to the squalid camps. For example, UN General Assembly Resolution 31/15 of Nov. 23, 1976:
Calls once more upon Israel:
(a) To take effective steps immediately for the return of the refugees concerned to the camps from which they were removed in the Gaza Strip and to provide adequate shelters for their accommodation;
(b) To desist from further removal of refuges and destruction of their shelters.
Similarly, UNGA Resolution 34/52 of November 23, 1979 declared that:
measures to resettle Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip away from their homes and property from which they were displaced constitute a violation of their inalienable right to return;
1. Calls once more upon Israel to desist from removal and resettlement of Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip and from destruction of their shelters;
Perhaps thanks to this support from the UN, the PLO began threatening to kill any refugee who would move out of the camps. After a few such attacks, the build-your-own-home program died, and that is why there are still Palestinians [in] refugee camps in Gaza. — CAMERA
Truly, Abed Rabbo is right. The condition of the refugees is a crime against humanity. And the Arabs are guilty of it.