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memri
August 27, 2009 No.
2483

Al-Arabiya TV Deputy Secretary-General Calls for Resettlement of Palestinian Refugees

Daoud Al-Shiryan, Al-Hayat columnist and deputy secretary-general of Al-Arabiya TV, recently published several articles criticizing how the Palestinian refugees have been treated by the Arab countries in which they live. He called on these countries to integrate the refugees into their societies and to resettle them before they are forced to do so by the international community.

Objecting to Refugee Resettlement Is Objecting to Peace

In the first of his articles, published July 15, 2009, Al-Shiryan wrote: "The issue of [refugee] resettlement has begun to preoccupy the Arab countries, which are keeping the Palestinians in depressing prison camps known as Palestinian refugee camps. Although so far no one in the Arab world has called for their resettlement, the refugee problem has now [gained prominence] in Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, both on the political arena and in the media. It has [even] become an issue in forming the next Lebanese government. This means that, in its next stage, the peace process is expected to encounter obstacles [on the part of] the Arabs.

"Objecting to [refugee] resettlement is no different than objecting to peace. It is nothing but an unrealistic slogan. The Arabs have agreed to peace, although they realize that there cannot be peace without [refugee] resettlement. But they disregard this fact, viewing the refugee issue as a point of controversy, when it is [actually] a central and key issue in the peace process. The fear [of being accused of renouncing the nationalist] slogans [calling for] struggle, resistance, and casting Israel into the sea - slogans which emerged at the outset of the peace process with Israel - and the link that has been established between the issue [of resettlement] and ethnic and political problems in some [Arab] countries - have [all] become an obstacle to a realistic and honest approach to the issue.

"Arabs who object to the [refugee] resettlement plan contend that they are motivated by their zealous devotion to the Right of Return. But they have not lifted a finger to keep this right alive in the consciousness of the Palestinian 'detainees' in the camps of abasement. As a result, this spurious devotion has evoked the opposite reaction: a Palestinian [refugee] now hopes to emigrate to America, Europe, Canada, or Australia in order to escape the hell of the Palestinian refugee camps, which have played a part in killing his will to live.

"It follows that [refugee] resettlement is [already] underway, despite [all the] slogans promoting the Right of Return that have become an [integral] part of the speeches of these countries' politicians.

"There is no doubt that our next campaign [should be aimed at] defending the [refugee] resettlement program and demanding that it be implemented… [The host countries] must open up the refugee camps, which are not fit for human [habitation]. [They must] prohibit the trading in the lives of these people, whether this trading was in the name of security and or in the name of terrorism, and they must make it possible for Palestinians to work, to send their children to [public] schools, and to make a living without conditions or limitations. Without real change in the conduct of the countries 'detaining' the Palestinian [refugees], the number of those demanding resettlement will [only] increase. Opposition to [refugee] resettlement is specious; it is tantamount to the slow murder of the Palestinians…" [1]

Stop Treating the Palestinians Like A Plague

In another article, published July 20, 2009, Al-Shiryan wrote: "[Refugee] resettlement will undoubtedly happen; let us hope that it happens soon. We are not asking the countries with the refugee camps to grant the Palestinians citizenship out of their own goodwill. But [even] before the refugees are resettled, these countries must tear down the refugee camps' fences, open their gates to let in light and fresh air, [allow] freedom of movement, protect the Palestinians from the humiliation of poverty, destitution and having to beg from UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency], and enable them to work.

"These countries must stop treating the Palestinians like a plague, using slogans which, as we all know, have become nothing but empty utterances in a loathsome struggle. We must break the isolation of the Palestinians in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. A Palestinian should be made to feel like a welcome and dear guest - before some external intervention comes along and grants him the right to live in dignity, to everyone's consternation.

"We must support the Palestinians like the West supported the Jews. We must reassess the whole idea of refugee camps, before they collapse on top of us. Be God-fearing [in handling the issue of] the refugee camp dwellers. Stop fighting at the expense of the Palestinian people's dignity." [2]

The Arabs Have Turned the Palestinians Into a People Defeated Both Morally and Materially

In the third article on the subject of refugee resettlement, Al-Shiryan related the stories of two Lebanese women, one Palestinian and the other Jewish. He wrote: "The [Jewish] Lebanese woman, Hannah [Efraim], invited the Palestinian woman, Umm Bilal, to come spend the weekend at her house… [saying], 'I want you to help me pack my things, since I have decided to emigrate to the U.S. As you can see, the political and social situation after the 1958 [Lebanese civil] war does not encourage one to stay [in Lebanon], and intensifies sectarianism here. I prefer my son to live far away from Lebanon.' [Shortly thereafter,] Hannah left [Lebanon] and lost touch with Umm Bilal.

"Upon her arrival in New York, Hannah received assistance from Jewish organizations. A short time later, she received U.S. citizenship, enrolled her son in a private school, and started working in a bank, earning a good salary. [Her son] Avraham grew up, finished university, and advanced at his job, becoming director-general of a reputable bank. Ten years after completing his degree he married, had three children, and bought a fine house in a New Jersey suburb [for himself], and another for his mother.

"In 1995, Hannah decided to visit Lebanon and spend her summer vacation there. She arrived in Beirut and moved into a luxurious hotel. The next day, she asked her driver to take her to the refugee camp where Umm Bilal lived. She entered the camp and inquired after her. By nightfall, she managed to find her - [living] in a dilapidated hut with fabric-covered windows, her body ravaged by tuberculosis.

"Hannah asked Umm Bilal about [her husband], Abu Bilal; Umm Bilal replied that he had died in the civil war. 'And what about [your son] Bilal?' [Hannah asked]. [Umm Bilal] replied, 'He is working at a bicycle repair shop down the street. His salary is barely enough to cover my basic needs and those of his three sisters.' 'Is Bilal married?' Hannah asked. 'In this hole, where would we get the money to feed another mouth?' [answered Umm Bilal].

"'Aisha [Umm Bilal] is just one example among the thousands of Palestinian mothers [like her], and Hannah is just one example among the Jewish mothers [like her]. The Arabs kept the Palestinians in refugee camps and made into a people defeated both morally and materially. In contrast, the West welcomed the Jews and made them a leading [force] in science, arts, literature, economics, and politics.

"Are we capable of reassessing the idea of the refugee camps, [thereby] saving the next generation of Palestinians from a fate [similar to that of] Bilal and his contemporaries? There is still an opportunity to do so. The Palestinians do not want to be resettled. All they want is to be treated the same way the West treated the Jews. Then they will win and recover their rights." [3]

Clinging to the Right of Return Is Motivated by the Wish to Be Rid of the Palestinians

In his fourth article on the issue of the Palestinian refugees, Al-Shiryan addressed a claim advanced by Lebanese politician Wiam Wahhab on Lebanese television - that Shiryan's articles on refugee resettlement were part of the Zionists' proposals and the American plan. Al-Shiryan wrote: "[My] passion for [refugee] resettlement is not a rejection of the Right of Return, but rather of the inhuman treatment of the Palestinians in the 'countries of the refugee camps.' Foremost among these countries is Lebanon, which bars the Palestinians from 72 professions, so as to prevent them from living in dignity - despite the fact that you wouldn't find such a long list of professions even on Mars …

"Those who raise the banner of the Right of Return have doubtless given up on the diplomatic and military efforts to achieve this aim. Their insistence on refusing to resettle [the refugees] has become an [empty] slogan aimed at getting rid of the Palestinians altogether, regardless of the consequences. Moreover, [they] prevent Palestinian residents from exercising their human and social rights - as if encouraging them to cling to the right of return entails their continued detention and segregation in the camps of dejection and despair.

"The resettlement for which I call [means] that the 'rope' countries, [i.e. countries] that serve as a gallows for the Palestinians, will [allow them] to live as they live in Great Britain, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf states - [where] they [have] dreams and jobs, and where they raise their children in a way that will allow them to deal with the conflict in its new context…

"Do those who fight [for the Right of Return] in Lebanon, Jordan, or Syria know that the head of the largest Kuwaiti bank is a Palestinian, and that the information attaché at the Kuwaiti Embassy in the U.S., who now heads an American university, is [also] a Palestinian? Do they know that Palestinians in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, and Oman run large companies and live like honored guests? Has the humane treatment they receive [in those countries] affected the continued vitality of the Right of Return?

"Stop [repeating] slogans and stop showing off to us and to the Palestinians." [4]

Endnotes:

[1] Al-Hayat (London), July 15, 2009.

[2] Al-Hayat (London), July 20, 2009.

[3] Al-Hayat (London), July 21, 2009.

[4] Al-Hayat (London), July 22, 2009.