Friday, December 09, 2011

The Truth About Refugees

Posted on December 9, 2011 at 9:27am by Sharona Schwartz

In a new YouTube video called “The Truth About the Refugees,” Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon takes a sharp look at the Palestinian refugee problem, and blasts the UN agency tasked with aiding them and their descendants. Ayalon asks:

    Why after more than 60 years are the Arab-Palestinian refugees still not welcomed and absorbed among their own brethren? And how could their numbers have grown from 500,000 to 4.7 million? The sad reality is that Palestinian refugees never had a chance. Attempts at resettlement were blocked by a variety of discriminatory laws enacted in Arab countries such as: a ban on receiving citizenship – with the exception of Jordan; blocking them from entering many professions; restrictions on owning land; restrictions on movement…

From Israel’s perspective, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, or UNRWA, with the encouragement of Arab states, has engaged in a highly political mission to perpetuate the refugee problem rather than finding a dignified solution for those living 63 years in substandard housing that is clearly no longer “temporary.” Ayalon quotes a former UNRWA director in Jordan Sir Alexander Galloway who said:

    …the Arab nations do not want to solve the Arab refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore…as a weapon against Israel.”

He also asks why the UN formed an entirely separate bureaucracy to aid Palestinian refugees, when all other refugees are handled by the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR):

    The answer is, because while the United Nations’ central refugee agency helps refugees resettle, the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency helps perpetuate their status by applying unique criteria…Refugees lose their status after receiving citizenship from a recognized country – Palestinians do not. Refugees cannot transmit their status from generation to generation. Palestinian refugees can.

Arab states are all too willing to obstruct any livable arrangement for these mostly impoverished Palestinians by withholding citizenship, preventing moves to more adequate dwellings, and feeding the dream of their future “return” to their purported homes in Israel. Homes, it should be added, that many never actually saw since they were born years after the 1948 and 1967 Arab-Israeli wars.

Now, even their grandchildren and great-grandchildren are granted refugee status by UNRWA and are daily fed the myth Israelis will eventually, after a violent struggle, vacate their homes leading to a so-called “return” of those who weren’t even born in 1948.

Instead of encouraging the refugees to move forward with their lives constructively, UNRWA – ceding to Arab state policies – has set up a massive bureaucracy predicated on handouts to the poor and perpetuating the problem, rather than acknowledging reality and allowing them to attempt financially-independent lives.

Ayalon explains in his video that there were more Jewish refugees – 850,000 – forced from Arab states than the estimated 500,000 Arabs who fled their homes in 1948. Also by contrast, the Jews were allowed to build free lives in Israel and were never granted refugee status. Ayalon is himself the son of a Jew who was forced to leave Algeria.

Ayalon’s first two videos on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the West Bank went viral. The Israeli Foreign Ministry hopes this one will also be widely viewed, offering the public a perspective not widely disseminated by the mainstream media, which like UNRWA tends to report on the issue without pointing to the basic logical complication – how can someone who was born decades after an armed conflict be considered a refugee?

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