Armed with convenient myths, pro-Israeli schemes have been advanced in order to get rid of the
"refugee problem" forever. These
schemes are based on the following assumptions. The Palestinians are not a people, they are a community of Arabs. They have no country
called Palestine (click
here to read our rebuttal). They immigrated to that place recently. They have no roots (mostly nomads); they do not have strong ties to the land (as
Jews do). They are backward and they did not fight well, so they do not deserve the country
anyway (click here
to read our rebuttal). Accordingly their "Transfer" to other
places does not constitute a human or material loss. The Jews, however, are a. people-being-reconstituted and they must be brought
from the far corners of the world to cement a new (or renewed) identity. They are
"civilized" and can develop the land more efficiently.
A natural corollary of this is that the dismemberment and the end of the Palestinian people is perfectly acceptable and their replacement by
Jewish immigrants to create a new people is a miraculous act of God and a victory for civilization. This zero sum equation is the root of all
evil in this conflict.
As Masalha (1992, 1997) clearly demonstrated, the origin of the idea of resettlement lies in the Zionist policy of "Transfer" (expulsion or ethnic cleansing). After 1948, Western schemes, for example by Thickness (1949), have been suggested to resettle refugees in Syria and Iraq (Lebanon was not suggested), possibly with UNRWA as an instrument. After 1967, pro- Israeli authors proposed a plethora of resettlement schemes. Peretz (1993), who writes frequently on the subject, endorses solutions which allow a limited return of the refugees to a toothless state, not to their homes. He also considers limited compensation for lost property to be offset against the unrelated and exaggerated claims of Jews who left Arab countries to settle on Palestinian land. Heller (1983) also proposes resettlement elsewhere and a limited return (for 1980, 750,000 out of eligible 2,700,000), again to a nominal state, not to their homes.
Zureik ( 1996) presented a comprehensive review of these resettlement plans and other refugee issues. He describes in particular the semi-official Israeli suggestion by Shlomo Gazit. Gazit insists on the finality of the solution, the renunciation of the Right of Return, dismantling of UNRWA and abolishing the special status of refugees. As a reward, Gazit wants Israel to issue a "moral-psychological acknowledgement" recognizing the suffering of the Palestinians in the last fifty years. To avoid the notion of Israel's responsibility, this acknowledgement would come as part of a UN resolution abolishing the Right of Return enshrined in Resolution 194, para 11.
More recently, there has been resurgence of proposals for the transfer and resettlement of refugees. Proposals have been circulated under the guise of intellectual seminars and packaged by pro-Israeli western institutes to conceal their real aim: to continue the expulsion of the Palestinians and replace them by fresh Jewish immigrants.
Arzt, in a much publicized report, suggests the permanent dispersal of the Palestinians by their resettlement wherever they are (with cosmetic adjustments), or anywhere they wish, except their homes.
Arzt's report suggests a "final solution" to the Palestinians. The report contains errors of fact and builds on them. In her permanent Transfer plan, Table 4.1, p.88, Arzt quotes US Bureau estimates for the year 2005, cited in Peretz, p.16, which exclude Palestinians in Europe and the Americas. Yet Arzt conveniently halves the figure of "other Mideast States" to include non-Mideast States. Arzt's table for 1995 is equally doctored. Furthermore, her tables for total Palestinians underestimate the figure by about one million (1995 estimate:
7 ,025,000 min- 7 ,590,000 max.). The substance of Arzt's plan is to resettle the refugees mostly wherever they are, with a new transfer for 1 ,800,000, half of them to Europe and the Americas and the other half to the West Bank. Most of the latter are "Displaced Persons" anyway. They would normally have returned had Israel not kept the West Bank under occupation against the will of the international community. Half of Gaza refugees will have to endure another transfer somewhere else while a negligible number will return to their homes in Israel if they satisfy strict rules already in operation since 1950. The new twist for this sour wine in the same cracked bottles is that the Palestinians will maintain their link as a people by holding some kind of Palestinian identity papers provided that they drop their claim to their land. Upon such event, Israel will retain their land legally. As an act of generosity, Israel will allow back, after rigorous vetting and within a limited period, a total of 75,000. Translated to 1948 figures, this means 8,000 original refugees, a fraction of the 300,000 figure proposed by Truman in 1949 as a price for admitting Israel into the UN. (Israel was finally admitted to the UN upon the promise made by Sharret to allow the return of 100,000, a promise he never fulfilled.)
Recently, a Palestinian writer and an ex-Mossad officer, in a joint proposal (Ha'aretz, "Inching up a treacherous slope", 9 September 1998) picked up the thread by suggesting a trade-off between paper acknowledgement of Israeli guilt and the admission by the Palestinians that the implementation of the Right of Return is "impossible". This lone view has no echo among the refugees. (See my rebuttal, 'The Mountain to Climb', Al-Ahram Weekly, No.402, 5-11 Nov 1998).
Needless to say, all the resettlement schemes have utterly failed, because they deny a people the most natural right, to return home. In spite of major wars, suffering and much disappointment, the last fifty years have shown that the Palestinians insist on returning home. Instead of harping on worn out ideas, it is time to face this reality and look afresh at new, natural and permanent solutions.