Why are Palestinian Refugees Different?

(Media Monitors Network) Yossi Alpher - The Palestinian refugees who abandoned their homes in 1948 were casualties of a war started by the Arab world with the objective of preventing the creation of a Jewish state. The nascent State of Israel was fighting a war of existential survival. It owes no apologies for its behavior in 1948. UN General Assembly Resolution 194 was adopted in 1949 with the aim of ending the new refugee problem quickly by means of return and compensation. It reads: if refugees agree to "live at peace with their [Israeli] neighbors," then they "should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date." Hardline Palestinians argue that Israel must allow millions of refugees to inundate the country, thereby in effect compromising its status as a Jewish state and negating UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which explicitly created "Jewish and Arab states" in Mandatory Palestine. Not only has UN Resolution 194 been distorted beyond recognition in the Arab narrative, but Palestinian refugees have been awarded their own unique UN agency, UNRWA, while all the rest of the world's refugees make do with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Further, according to statutes promulgated by UNRWA, refugee status is passed on from generation to generation, to eternity. With a fifth generation of Palestinian refugees upon us, and factoring in intermarriage between refugee and non-refugee Palestinians, soon virtually all Palestinians will be able to claim refugee and "return" status. Nowhere else in the world has a refugee problem been treated, or mistreated, this way. One possible compromise could have Israel reiterate categorically that it rejects the right of return, but in the spirit of UNGAR 194, it would offer to repatriate those original refugees, i.e., Palestinians who themselves left the country in 1948, who wish to spend their last years in Israel and are prepared to do so in a spirit of peace. No extended families - only the original refugees themselves, all at least 56 years old, who would number between a few thousand and a few tens of thousands. Palestinians could interpret this as a humanitarian gesture that goes to the core of their grievance. Israelis could claim to be faithful to the original intent of UNGAR 194, without in any way validating the Palestinian narrative regarding 1948 or the Palestinian interpretation of UNGAR 194, both of which are antithetical to the spirit of a genuine two-state solution and to reconciliation between the two peoples.

2004-09-29 00:00:00

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