"Time Warp" in UNRWA Palestinian Refugee Camps

(Winnipeg Jewish Review-Canada) Rhonda Spivak - My recent visit to two Palestinian refugee camps run by the UN near Bethlehem left me with the impression that the Palestinians as a whole are far from giving up on the right of return to their 1948 homes and villages in Israel. I saw first hand how these Palestinians live in a "time warp," as these UNRWA camps perpetuate the illusion of them one day returning to former homes and villages in pre-'67 Israel. In 1989 when I co-founded the chapter of Peace Now in Winnipeg, it was because I believed that Palestinians would forego the right of return to 1948 Israel and would live in a future Palestinian state that would co-exist alongside Israel. But on my recent visit, I saw that in UNRWA camps people live in streets according to the villages they came from and children's sports teams are divided according to former villages. In Aida refugee camp, I saw several long blocks of huge murals of all the Palestinian villages to which the refugees talk about returning. One of the villages depicted Beersheba as a small village. Today it is a developed Israeli city of 200,000 people. Who in Palestinian society is coming forward to level with Palestinian refugees and their descendents to say that they aren't going back to their villages in Israel? Who in the PA leadership is telling the people in the UNRWA camps I saw near Bethlehem that it's time to start planning on the Bethlehem area as being their permanent residence, and to begin redirecting their energies towards rebuilding their lives and their future?

2011-04-01 00:00:00

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