IN OTHER WORDS...

By Oren Rawls

Published November 14, 2003, issue of November 14, 2003.
  • Print
  • Share Share

No Land’s Man: Upon his return from the unofficial Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that produced the Geneva Understandings, Israeli novelist Amos Oz announced that “the gruntwork of making peace has already been done.”

“The problem of the 1948 refugees, which is really the heart of our national security predicament, is resolved comprehensively, completely and absolutely outside the borders of the state of Israel and with broad international assistance,” the eminent scribe declares in the October 17 issue of The Guardian, a left-leaning British daily. “If this initiative is put into action, not a single Palestinian refugee camp, afflicted with despair, neglect, hatred and fanaticism, will remain in the Middle East.”

Within the framework of the unofficial peace plan, the Palestinians effectively concede implementation of the right of return to their pre-1948 homes in Israel. Some refugees will remain in the countries where they now live, others will be absorbed by the Palestinian Authority; a portion will be absorbed by third countries, and the rest will receive financial compensation.

Oz’s proclamation is, to be sure, cause for hope — and, one would hope, an inspiration for those Israeli and Palestinian leaders for whom the message of the Geneva Understandings was intended. Yet the nagging pessimism that the seemingly endless violence has engendered begs the question: Where are all the Palestinian refugees from 1948 going to live — and, more importantly, what country will let the Palestinians finally unpack their communal bags?

To judge by recent reports from Lebanon and Egypt, intransigence in Jerusalem and Ramallah may be the least of the peacemakers’ problems.

“The Lebanese government is once again grappling with the bogeyman of how to deal with Palestinian refugees on its soil — and, as has been the case for more than two generations now, Beirut continues to miss the point,” The Daily Star editorializes on November 11, broaching what to many in the Middle East is a taboo subject.

The point, as the Lebanese daily sees it, is the threat the disenfranchised refugee-camp population poses to the stability of a barely stable Lebanon. The world’s fourth-largest Palestinian community is denied government services such as health and social benefits, has severely limited access to state education and is excluded from many professions.

“Being treated like vermin is hardening the hearts of [the refugee camps’] inhabitants, and who can blame them?” The Daily Star asks.

Beirut’s policy on Palestinian refugees, like that of other countries in the region, is based on a 1959 Arab League decree against granting Palestinians citizenship in other Arab countries. The edict aims to preserve Palestinian identity, and after more than four decades remains on the books — even in Egypt, peace treaty with Israel notwithstanding.

The decree appears to have been reaffirmed by Cairo, which, according to the weekly online edition of the venerable Egyptian daily Al Ahram, indicated last month that it would not grant Palestinians citizenship under a proposed amendment to the nationality laws. Ironically enough, the amendment being considered would offer citizenship to non-Egyptian children of either an Egyptian father or mother, a departure from the current patrilineal law — a turn, if only slight, in the fight for women’s rights in the Arab world.

But with regard to the Palestinians — who according to Al Ahram account for nearly one-quarter of the roughly 6,000 applicants hoping to gain citizenship under the proposed amendment — tradition seems to be winning the day. Even official protestations by the Palestinian representative to the Arab League, Mohamed Sobeih, have gone unheeded in Cairo.

So while Oz and his fellow Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers may have listened to each other in Jordan last month, their neighbors to the north and south have turned a deaf ear to Palestinian refugees. To hear The Daily Star tell it, their plight — whether in Lebanon, Egypt or elsewhere in the Arab world — is the fault not just of Israel, but of the governments who have ensured their permanent refugee status.

“The limitations in question amount to far more than benign neglect and constitute instead an aggressive program that both prevents Palestinians from leading normal lives in Lebanon and throws up obstacles to their leaving for more accommodating shores,” the Beirut daily charges. “The basics of human development are denied to the vast majority of the refugees, as is any basis for hope that their children might know a better future.






Find us on Facebook!
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.