|The Other Refugees|
February 28, 2001 - The International Herald Tribune
In 1947, the entire Arab world rejected the UN partition plan creating separate Jewish and Arab states in British-ruled Palestine, and instead launched a war against the new State of Israel. The Arab onslaught of 1948 and its aftermath tragically produced two – not one – refugee populations, one Jewish and one Arab.
More than 700,000 Jews across the Arab world were forced to flee for their lives, their property ransacked in deadly riots, and their schools, hospitals, synagogues and cemeteries expropriated or destroyed.
Israel, European nations and the United States absorbed these dispossessed Jews from centuries-old communities.
Arab states, meanwhile, turned their backs on the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who crossed into Arab lands, even though many leaders had encouraged them to fight and then flee Israel with the expectation of a quick return.
Tragically, many Palestinians have remained quarantined in squalid camps sustained by UN aid in Arab countries for more than 53 years. Only one Arab country, Jordan, has extended citizenship to the Palestinians.
While professing concern for their suffering, Arab leaders instead cynically use the refugees as political pawns in the endless war against Israel.
Why the difference in treatment?
The answer now is clearer than ever in the wake of the Palestinian rejection of Israel’s outstretched hand of peace. Neither repeated war nor terrorism nor economic boycott has driven Jews from their ancestral homeland.
Thus, the Palestinian leadership, backed by many in the Arab world, seeks the destruction of Israel through the “return” of the refugees and their millions of descendants.
Unsettled issues for both refugee populations need to be resolved. But asking Israel to open its borders to millions of Palestinians is not a solution – unless what the world wants is Israel’s national suicide.