Setting the Palestinians free – from Arab oppression 0

It’s past time for a realistic solution to the Palestinians’ predicament to be found and implemented.

Dr Martin Sherman has a proposal well worth hearing.

He writes at Front Page Magazine:

The Palestinian refugee problem is, to a large degree, an artificial construct. The UN body under whose auspices all the refugees on the face of the globe fall — except for the Palestinians — is the UN Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). A separate institution exists for the Palestinians — the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. UNHCR and UNRWA have widely different definitions for the term “refugee” and widely divergent mandates for dealing with them.

According to the High Commission’s definition, the number of refuges decreases over time, while according to the UNRWA definition, the number increases. This “definition disparity” brings about an astonishing situation: If the High Commission criterion was applied to the Palestinians, the number of refugees would shrink dramatically to around 200,000 – i.e., less than 5 percent of the current number of almost 5 million according to the UNRWA definition.

Moreover, while the mandate of the UNHCR permits the body to seek permanent solutions for refugees under its auspices, UNRWA is permitted only to provide ongoing humanitarian aid for the ever-increasing population of Palestinians. Accordingly, while UNHCR operates to dissipate the problems of the refugees under its auspices, UNRWA activities serve only to prolong their refugee status and thus, their predicament. Indeed, rather than reduce the dimensions of the refugee problem, UNRWA has actually functioned to perpetuate the refugee status of the Palestinians from one generation to the next. It has create an enduring and expanding culture of dependency, while cultivating an unrealistic fantasy of returning to a home that no longer exists.

As long as the Palestinian refugee problem continues to be treated in what former Congressman Tom Lantos called “this privileged and prolonged manner” it will never be resolved. Accordingly, the first step toward the resolution of the Palestinian refugee problem must be the abolition of UNRWA

Of course the Arab leaders would oppose this move. Far from wanting to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians in their countries, Arab leaders insist on maintaining and even exacerbating it, in order to display it to the world – as a beggar will display his bleeding sores to elicit alms – and blame it on “the Jews”. The idea is to exploit the conscience of the West, thus proving that they themselves have no conscience whatsoever.

Throughout the Arab world, the Palestinians are subject to blatant discrimination with regard to employment opportunities, property ownership, freedom of movement, and acquisition of citizenship. For example, Saudi Arabia in 2004 announced it was introducing measures to ease the attainment of Saudi citizenship for all foreigners who were residing in the country except Palestinians, half a million of whom live in the kingdom.

Similar policies of discrimination are prevalent in other Arab states. A 2004 Los Angeles Times report painted a grim picture of the life Palestinians are forced to endure among the Arab “brethren.” According to the report, Palestinians in Egypt suffer restrictions on employment, education, and owning property, and when Egypt announced in 2003 that it would grant nationality to children of Egyptian mothers married to foreigners, Palestinians were excluded. In Lebanon, meanwhile, nearly 400,000 Palestinians live in 12 “refugee camps,” where crime is rife and clashes between rival Palestinian factions are common. Palestinians cannot own property or get state health care. According to Tayseer Nasrallah, head of the Palestinian Refugee Rights Committee in the West Bank, Lebanon bans refugees from 72 areas of employment, including medicine and engineering. Syria, with a population of 18 million, is a strong verbal supporter of the Palestinian cause, but refuses citizenship to its 410,000 Palestinian refugees. Even in Jordan, where Palestinians comprise nearly 70% of the population, Palestinians complain that they are discriminated against in terms of employment.

When approached on this issue of discrimination against the Palestinian residents in Arab countries, Hisham Youssef, spokesman for the 22-nation Arab League, openly acknowledged that Palestinians live “in very bad conditions,” but claimed the policy is meant “to preserve their Palestinian identity.” He went on to explain with perhaps unintended candor: “If every Palestinian who sought refuge in a certain country was integrated and accommodated into that country, there won’t be any reason for them to return to Palestine.”

As blatant an admission, Hisham Youssef’s, as any we have heard (and we have heard a few) that the Arab bloc uses the Palestinians as political tools.

But according to a survey conducted by the well-known Palestinian pollster, Dr. Khalil Shikaki, most Palestinians were less interested in being nationalist standard-bearers than in living fuller lives. This view resonates strongly with opinion samples gathered by the leading Arab television stations Al-Arabiya and Al Jazeera of Palestinians living in the various Arab states, the vast majority of whom very much want to become citizens in their respective countries of residence.

No surprise there.

This clearly seems to indicate that Palestinian national identity is something more jealously guarded by non-Palestinian Arabs rather than the Palestinians themselves.

It is only the United Nations Relief and Works Agency that allows the Arab countries to continue to keep the Palestinians within their borders in their situation of suspended stateless animation. For while its mandate prevents finding a permanent solution for the Palestinian residents in these countries, it is the ongoing humanitarian aid that it provides for an ever-increasing client population that permits the host governments to sustain their discriminatory policy toward their Palestinian “guests,” to perpetuate their inferior status, and to allow their situation to languish and fester. …

Dr Sherman then comes to the nub of his solution. He suggests that every Palestinian family should be given “a sum of money equivalent to the life earning of an average citizen in countries that could serve as an appropriate alternative place of residence – probably, but dominantly Arab or Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa, or countries with significant Arab/Moslem communities in sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.” This, he hopes, would be an inducement to such countries to accept them as citizens.

The money should be given to the individuals, not channeled through their so-called leaders, none of whom has done them any good, and all of whom would certainly reject the scheme on the grounds that the cruel tactic of displaying their suffering must be continued.

After decades of disastrous failure, it should be clear that there is little chance of resolving the Palestinian issue if we continue to consider Palestinians as a cohesive entity with which contacts are conducted via some sort of “leadership.” Efforts should therefore be devoted exclusively towards individual Palestinians and towards allowing them, as individuals, free choice as to how to chart their future. …

How much should be offered?

The scale of the offer would be on the order of the average lifetime earnings in some relevant host country for each family head — i.e. the GDP per capita of such a country multiplied by at least say 40-50 years. (As a comparative yardstick, this would be equivalent to an immigrant bread-winner arriving in the US with 2-2.5 million dollars.)

How likely would they be to accept it?

A November 2004 survey [was] commissioned by the Jerusalem Summit and conducted by a reputable Palestinian polling center in conjunction with a well-know Israeli institute to gauge Palestinians’ willingness to emigrate permanently in exchange for material compensation. Significantly, the poll showed that only 15% of those polled would absolutely refuse to accept any such inducements, while over 70% stated that they would be willing to take the bargain.

Would they then find countries willing to take them in?

For the prospective host countries the proposal has considerable potential economic benefits. The Palestinians arriving at their gates will not be impoverished refugees, but relatively prosperous individuals with the equivalent of decades of local per capita GDP in their pockets. Indeed, for every hundred Palestinian families received, the host country could count on around fifteen to twenty million dollars going directly into the private sector. Absorbing 2,500 new Palestinian family units could mean the injection of up to half a billion into local economies often in dire need of such funds.

With that inducement it’s reasonable to suppose that some countries may be willing to take them in, but there’s no certainty.

How much should each family be offered?

If each family head were offered a relocation grant of between $150,000 to $200,000, this would be the equivalent of several decades, and in some cases centuries, of GNP per capita earnings in any one of a wide range of prospective host destinations (see table). Indeed, even in terms of the average overall world per capita GDP (about $7000 U.S.) – such grants would be the equivalent of up to a quarter of a century GNP per capita. (As mentioned previously, in comparative terms, this would be equivalent to a bread winner arriving in the US with 2-2.5 million dollars.)

How much would this amount to?

The aggregate cost of the proposal would be between $45 – 80 billion (depending on whether the relocation grant was $100,000 or $200,000). Extending the relocation to the entire Palestinian population [not just those on the West Bank and Gaza, but also those in the Arab states] would effectively entail doubling the required outlay to $90 –160 billion.

Where would the money come from?

If international donors such as the USA, the EU or OECD countries matched Israel’s input dollar-for-dollar (which would involve contributing only a miniscule portion of these countries’ GNP), the implementation could be sped up considerably, possible within 5 years, without undue burden on the world economy.

Israel to pay the most then? Here we have a disagreement with Dr Sherman, though we like his idea on the whole. Certainly there is reason for Israel to be a donor, but such a disproportionate contribution would make the offer seem like reparation, endorsing the false version of history  – which most of the world has swallowed whole – that the Israelis forced the Palestinians into refugeeship and consequently owe them compensation.

He points out that “the overall cost of [a] ‘two-state-solution’ would, in all likelihood, be far greater.” (And will not be accepted by the Arabs anyway. If ever they accept a “state of Palestine”, they will be accepting borders with Israel, which means they will be recognizing the state of Israel, and that they will not do. All the talk, or talk of talks, on the Arab side is purely to seem compliant with the nonsensical prescriptions of the UN, the EU, and Obama.)

If the world powers would consider Dr Sherman’s idea seriously, that would be a step forward. If they tried it and it worked, it would be a great accomplishment.

However, skeptics that we are, we suspect that the UN, the EU, and in particular Obama prefer, like the Arab leaders, to keep pursuing the fantasy of “the two-state solution” because behind it lurks the hope that if a state of Palestine comes into existence at all, eventually it will enlarge to become the only state between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean. Israel, alone among all the states in the world, has been incipiently de-legitimized, through the persistent work of Islam and the international Left.

Dr. Sherman’s scheme would mean the dispersal of the Palestinians and so their disappearance as a nation. A Palestinian nation would have no more existence than it did before 1948. Many individual Palestinians subjected to apartheid in the lands of their fellow Arabs might not mind too much if the sacrifice of distinctive nationality bought them a better life. But will their choice, their desires, their desperate needs suddenly matter to the champions of their Cause? We doubt it.