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.

A state condemned 3

“Condemn” is a very strong word in diplomat-speak. It’s the word most American presidents would apply only to the activities and policies of hostile and extremely delinquent states.

Obama is applying it to Israel.

What has Israel done that is very wrong? Let’s see.

Not long ago it reluctantly agreed under American pressure to suspend building new houses for Jewish occupants on the West Bank, but expressly excluded Jerusalem from the agreement, and the exclusion was accepted by Obama’s State Department.

So when it announced recently that planning permission has been given for some additional apartments in an area to the north of Israel’s capital city, Israel did not expect an objection to be suddenly raised. The development, begun a dozen years ago, does not and will not encroach on any Arab neighborhood. Nobody has objected to it before. The ground had not previously been in use for housing or anything else. Some 18,000 Jews live there now with families growing up. There are normal needs for expansion of accomodation.

But because the piece of wasteland was taken in a war waged against Israel in 1948, and held until 1967 by the British-created state of Jordan, Obama wants it to be rid of its Jewish residents and kept in reserve to be “returned” to Arab possession when there is a state of Palestine.

So the routine announcement that long-planned building in that part of Jerusalem will go ahead has been taken by Obama to be such an insult “to America” that Israel must be condemned for it. The result is a crisis of relations between the two countries.

We contend that the announcement was a handy excuse; that the crisis was engineered; that any pretext would have done.

But what is it Obama needs a pretext for?

Caroline Glick’s answer is this:

Why has President Barak Obama decided to foment a crisis in US relations with Israel? …

Obama’s new demands follow the months of American pressure that eventually coerced Netanyahu into announcing both his support for a Palestinian state and a 10-month ban on Jewish construction in Judea and Samaria. No previous Israeli government had ever been asked to make the latter concession.

Netanyahu was led to believe that in return for these concessions Obama would begin behaving like the credible mediator his predecessors were. But instead of acting like his predecessors, Obama has behaved like the Palestinians. Rather than reward Netanyahu for taking a risk for peace, Obama has, in the model of Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas, pocketed Netanyahu’s concessions and escalated his demands. This is not the behavior of a mediator. This is the behavior of an adversary. …

Obama’s assault on Israel is likely related to the failure of his Iran policy. Over the past week, senior administration officials including Gen. David Petraeus have made viciously defamatory attacks on Israel, insinuating that the construction of homes for Jews in Jerusalem is a primary cause for bad behavior on the part of Iran and its proxies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria and Gaza. By this line of thinking, if Israel simply returned to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines, Iran’s centrifuges would stop spinning, and Syria, al-Qaida, the Taliban, Hizbullah, Hamas and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards would all beat their swords into plowshares. …

Even more important than its usefulness as a tool to divert the public’s attention away from the failure of his Iran policy, Obama’s assault against Israel may well be aimed at maintaining that failed policy. Specifically, he may be attacking Israel in a bid to coerce Netanyahu into agreeing to give Obama veto power over any Israeli strike against Iran’s nuclear installations. That is, the anti-Israel campaign may be a means to force Israel to stand by as Obama allows Iran to build a nuclear arsenal. …

Obama … seeks to realign US foreign policy away from Israel. Obama’s constant attempts to cultivate relations with Iran’s unelected president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Ahmadinejad’s Arab lackey Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, and Turkey’s Islamist Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan make clear that he views developing US relations with these anti-American regimes as a primary foreign policy goal. …

[And] he  is using his manufactured crisis to justify adopting an overtly anti-Israel position vis-à-vis the Palestinians. …

Likewise, the crisis Obama has manufactured with Israel could pave the way for him to recognize a Palestinian state if the Palestinians follow through on their threat to unilaterally declare statehood next year regardless of the status of negotiations with Israel. Such a US move could in turn lead to the deployment of US forces in Judea and Samaria to “protect” the unilaterally declared Palestinian state from Israel.

General Petraeus has even suggested putting the “Palestinian territories” under his central command.

We don’t believe the Palestinians’ threat. If they declare a state they’ll need to declare its boundaries, and if the boundaries do not embrace the entire state of Israel plus Gaza plus Judaea and Samaria, they’ll  be acknowledging the right of Israel to exist. Borders have two sides. “This side  the State of Palestine; that side the State of Israel”. The pretence of their now being willing to settle for a “two-state solution”  – when they’ve been rejecting such a thing for more than six decades – would instantly be exposed as the lie it is.

But Obama wants there to be a Palestinian state. And if it cannot, because it will not, be a second state in the region, will he then insist that it should be the only state?

We see no reason why there should be a 22nd Arab state.

We see no reason why the 21 existing Arab states shouldn’t assimilate the refugees of the Palestine region just as Israel assimilated the Jews who were expelled by the Arab states in 1948.

We see no reason why Jews shouldn’t live in Arab/Muslim countries just as Arabs/Muslims live in Israel, with full voting and property-owning rights, paying the same taxes, protected by the same laws equally.

We would be happy to see only one state in the region – the State of Israel, not Palestine.

But Obama, and the huge bloc of Islamic countries, and Europe, and Russia, have a vision of a 22-state Arab judenrein Middle East.

If America withdraws diplomatic support, as it is likely to do now; if Iran, bent on destroying Israel, is soon to be nuclear armed with Obama’s consent; and if, in addition, American forces are to be sent to the West Bank to aid Palestinian forces against their Israeli enemy as has been proposed, how good is Israel’s chance of surviving?

Democracy, that crazy Bush idea 0

Joshua Muravchik writes in the Wall Street Journal: 

The results of Kuwait’s elections last month — in which Islamists were rebuffed and four women were elected to parliament — will likely reinvigorate the movement for greater democracy in the region that has stalled since the hopeful “Arab spring” of 2005. It also puts pressure on the Obama administration to end its deafening silence on democracy promotion.

Although ruled by a hereditary monarch, Kuwait is the most democratic of the Arab countries. The press is relatively free, parliament has real power, and politicians are chosen in legitimate elections. However, Kuwait is a part of the Persian Gulf, where the subordination of women is traditionally most severe. Historically, Kuwait’s political process was for males only. But in 2005 parliament yielded to female activists and approved a bill giving women the right to vote and hold office.

In 2006 and 2008, several women ran for parliament, though none won. The women that captured four of the 50 seats last month weren’t aided by quotas; they won on their own merits. Their success will undoubtedly inspire a new wave of women’s activism in nearby countries.

Almost as significant as the women’s gains were the Islamist losses. The archconservative Salafist Movement’s campaign for a boycott of female candidates obviously fell flat, and the number of seats held by Sunni Islamists fell sharply.

Thus continues a string of defeats for Islamists over the last year and a half from west to east. In September 2007, Morocco’s Justice and Development Party, a moderate Islamist group, was widely forecast to be the winner. Its support proved chimerical: It came away with 14% of the seats, trailing secularists. Iraq’s provincial elections this January signaled a turn away from the sectarian religious parties that had dominated earlier pollings. This trend, capped by Kuwait’s elections, has important implications.

What sapped the vitality of the “Arab spring” was the triumph of Islamists — the Muslim Brotherhood’s strong showing in Egypt’s 2005 parliamentary election, Hamas’s victory in Gaza, and Hezbollah’s ascendance in Lebanon. In response to these election results, the Bush administration muffled its advocacy of democracy in the Middle East. Some democrats in the region even took a go-slow stance.

To put it bluntly, these outcomes renewed questions about whether the Arabs were ready for democracy. If elections produce victory for parties that are not themselves democratic in practice or philosophy, then democracy is at a dead end. But the Kuwait election, following those in Iraq and Morocco, suggests that such fears may have been overblown.

If this election is a harbinger of larger developments, its symbol is Rola Dashti, an American-educated economist who led the fight for women’s political rights in Kuwait and who lost narrowly in 2006 and 2008 before triumphing this year.

Her victory was remarkable for several reasons. Half-Lebanese by birth, Ms. Dashti speaks Arabic with a distinct Lebanese accent that stamps her as an outsider in a relatively insular country. She is also proudly secular. She wears no head covering and makes no effort to conceal the fact that she remains unmarried although she is in her forties.

This flies in the face of the custom that is the essence of women’s subordination in the culture of the Gulf. The system of “guardianship” requires that women be under the supervision of some male — father, uncle, husband, brother or even son — at all times. Ms. Dashti lives with her divorced mother in a household devoid of males. She has brothers, but they serve as campaign aides rather than as guardians.

The fact that Kuwaiti voters sent Ms. Dashti and three other women to parliament suggests that the Arab world may be ready for democracy after all. The Obama administration should take heed.

The most surprising thing to us in all this – that Muravchik thinks Obama gives a damn.    

Posted under Arab States, Commentary, Islam, News, United States by Jillian Becker on Tuesday, June 2, 2009

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