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Why don't Arabs welcome their Palestinian Arab brothers?
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למאמר בעברית
כדילתרגם לעברית
Posted on August 2, 2001

To accept compulsory population transfer in principle would set a dangerous precedent for international relations, and many nations would use such an excuse to cleanse themselves from "unwanted minorities". In other words, if it is accepted in principle that one can transfer and dispossess the Palestinian people so that Jews can have a "Jewish state," then

Why would it be unacceptable to "transfer" 10 million Mexican Americans to Mexico? or
To "transfer" a million Kosovan Albanians to Albania?, or
Even to "transfer" 6 million American Jews to the "Jewish state"?

Ironically, Serbia, under Milosevic's leadership in 1999, used a similar argument to cleanse itself from its "unwanted Albanian minority", (of course under the pretext that Kosovo was central to Serbia's ancient heritage and religious past).

Consequently, the act of compulsory population transfer (Ethnic Cleansing) has been accepted internationally as a war crime, and on that basis both Serbia and Iraq were subjected to international condemnations, and U.N. resolutions were enforced by military action to stop and reverse these war crimes.

For the moment, let's assume that the above argument are nonsense to the average Israeli or Zionist. Let us analyze why the integration of Palestinian refugees into neighboring host countries is not viable for the following economic and political reasons:

Economic reasons

  • It should be emphasized that 75% of the new Jewish immigrants to Israel, after the 1948 war, operated looted Palestinians houses, farms, cars, truck, banks, and the infrastructure resource such as water networks, the power grids, railroads, airports, wells, the telegraph network, and the schools, roads, and ports.

    In other words, Israel has had the looted Palestinian capital as collateral, German compensation money for war crimes committed during WW II, and over 120 billion dollars in American taxpayers' money to help settle the new Jewish immigrants. On the other hand, Palestinian refugees and their corresponding host countries had no such good fortune. If Palestinians are to be helped to settle someone else's country, they have to take somebody else's property, which is unfair and unjust to others. From an economical standpoint, the biggest economic boost the "Jewish State" had was the looted and stolen Palestinian properties.

  • For a second, let's assume that such repatriation is possible in the host countries, and calculate the cost of such repatriation. For example, let's assume that we need to provide a reasonable health care insurance (not government subsidized) for each Palestinian refugee in Jordan (which hosts close to 3 million Palestinian refugees), and let us also assume that such insurance costs a $100/month per refugee. So the total yearly cost of providing health care insurance to all refugees in Jordan is at least 3.6 billion dollars = $100 * 12 months * 3 million refugees. Note that we have not yet analyzed the costs of providing infrastructure services, i.e. roads, water networks, power grids, education, transportations, ports, airports, ...etc. While contemplating these staggering numbers, keep in mind that the annual budget for the Jordanian government is little over 6 billion dollars, compared to 53 billion dollar for Israel.

    While the average Jordanian citizen has some kind of collateral (such as land, real state, ... etc. ) to support his or her future well being, the average Palestinian refugee has nothing but his or her tent as collateral, and even the tent belongs to the United Nations. Consequently, the net worth (in economic terms) of the average Palestinian is almost nil, which negatively impacts tax revenues in the host countries. In fact, the huge number of refugees stifled economic growth in these host countries for several decades-since many essential services had to be diverted to help the refugees.

    Ironically, the absence of the Palestinian economic base has motivated the average Palestinian to invest in his or her intellectual capital. It's really amazing how many Palestinians live the lives of many Jews in the past. In general, Europeans used to restrict land purchases by their Jewish citizens, which in return motivated many Jews to invest in their intellectual capital.

  • For the moment assume that the above economic formula is nonsense to the average Israeli or Zionist, then let's ask the following questions:

    If it's easy for the host Arab countries to integrate Palestinian refugees into their economic and social structure, then why after three decades of Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, has Israel been unable to improve the lives of the Palestinian refugees under its direct control?

    If it's easy for the host countries to integrate the refugees (despite their limited resources), then surely it should be much easier for Israel to do so?

    Paradoxically, many Palestinian refugees' economic situation has actually worsened under Israeli occupation, and if it were not for United Nations' food rations, many refugees would have starved by now! In fact, malnutrition among Palestinian Children in the occupied West Bank and the occupied Gaza Strip has increased by 1600% since September of 2000.

  • It's unfair to claim that many Arab countries did not integrate Palestinian refugees into their economic, social, and even political structures. Out of the 5.9 million Palestinian refugees, there are 3.5 million refugees who still live in refugee camps (usually known as "registered refugees"). So despite all of the above obstacles, some 2 million Palestinian refugees (almost half the number of the Israeli Jews) are already integrated into the host countries' economic, political, and social structures.

Political Reasons

  • For the above economic reasons, Palestinian refugees were obliged to compete for all available resources in the host countries and continue to do so. The average Palestinian (ironically, like many Jews in the West) knows that he or she has to work twice as hard as the local worker just to keep his or her job. On average, Palestinians (for economic and political reasons) are not welcomed in the host countries, and that generates anti-Palestinian feeling. For instance, take the discriminatory practices of the Lebanese government where Palestinians are excluded from 73 job types, such engineering, health care, financing, ... etc.

    Although this behavior is deplorable, it is a natural reaction by any state to any external threat to its resources, and this is a common experience among Jews when they emigrate to the "Jewish state". It should be noted that it is still a tense situation between Ashkenazi, Sephardi, and African Israeli Jews, and the blood of the latter was not welcomed in Israeli blood banks for a very long time.

  • It should be noted that even if the Palestinian refugees are integrated into the host countries, that won't stop Palestinians from demanding their right to return to their homes in Israel. Palestinians are extremely proud of their national identity, and continuously assert their unique cultural and political differences at the earliest possible opportunity. This deep sense of nationalism is widely shared most Palestinians, especially among the affluent families, who are already integrated in Western and Arab societies, i.e. in the US, Europe, Canada, ... etc. Actually, many of them still marry from the same indigenous localities, and maintain their unique dresses, folklore, and accents.

    The major obstacle that many Israelis and Zionists have in their dealings with Palestinians is that they think that 8.5 million Palestinians have no national rights, such as the right of self determination. Paradoxically, they believe that 4.5 million Jews in Israel have the right of self determination! From the start, the struggle between Zionism and the Palestinian people was a struggle between two distinct and conflicting nationalistic movements.

  • Most, if not all, host countries are hesitant to grant political rights (such as the right to vote) to non-citizens, especially if the "newcomers" could overnight change the political landscape. This political problem was the case in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria soon after the 1948 war. For example, Jordan's citizens became (overnight) a minority in their own country. To ask the average Jordanian to accept this situation on a permanent basis, without anything in return, is to create a "political time bomb". Unfortunately, this "political time bomb" has already exploded in Jordan and Lebanon, and its after shocks are still felt today.
There is no question of the fact that some political movements have benefited politically and economically from not integrating the Palestinian refugees. We agree that all host countries used (and will continue to use) the refugees as a tool to collect international aid and bribes. We also concur that suppressing Palestinians makes political and economic sense to some regional leaders. On the other hand, it's not fair to point the finger of blame at the host countries for not solving a problem that Israel has created. By blocking the Palestinian refugees' return to their homes, farms, and businesses, Israel has made this problem persist and fester for many generations, and it has to put up the lion's share of the effort needed to solve it.

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Post Your Comment

Posted by clownflattery on September 11, 2014 #155147

If I was a Palestinian living on the Gaza strip and was being bombarded by Israeli missiles on a regular basis, a move to one of the many prosperous Arab countries would be a no brainer. My first priority would be to secure my life and the lives of my family members. I am not talking about the compulsory transfer of the entire Palestinian population to the Arab states but surely if there are Palestinians who voluntarily decide to move, should they not be welcomed with open arms? I personally think it's inhuman to turn away a people ravaged by war especially when they belong to the same religion. I mean, doesn't Islam advocate Universal Brotherhood among the Muslims regardless of tribe and ethnicity?
Posted by Bob on May 25, 2014 #154504

As an American whose opinion is turning against Israel, I found this article (among others here) interesting. However this subject is where I have issues with the Arabs about as much as Israel. Many people who came to the US did so as refugees from persecution (religious, political, etc.). These people ended up contributing to society, working in a variety of careers and becoming eligible for American citizenship. They were not kept in refugee camps out of fear that the regimes from which they fled would be encouraged to continue persecuting potential opponents and sending them our way.

As I see it, the lack of integration of Palestinians into Arab countries is causing unnecessary poverty and suffering for the sake of politics. Allowing Palestinians the opportunity to contribute to the societies they live in won't absolve Israel of its wrongdoing any more than the US taking in immigrants fleeing places like Cuba and the Soviet Union absolved Communist regimes of their abuses.

If the subject hasn't been posted on here already, I would like to see an article responding to the claim that "the Palestinians' refugee status was made unique (their descendants qualify for refugee status unlike other groups) for political means against Israel.
Posted by Brent on March 27, 2012 #142751

This is another very good article, it is almost universal that refugees tend to complicate the politics of the states they go into especially if they remain as refugees in said countries for decades.