Masterful piece by Ben Dror Yemini in Maariv ( the second in a series) setting the Palestinian refugees in context. Yemini ranges far and wide to prove his point: Bulgarian and Turkish Muslims, Greeks, Hindus from Pakistan and Muslims from India, ethnic Germans, Serbs and Croats - 38 million people - were displaced in the conflicts of the 20th century but only the Palestinians (and Muslims fleeing Armenia for Azerbaijan) still live in refugee camps. (Via Solomonia)
"The number of refugees in the above survey (which is only partial) totals approximately 38 million people. Of all the tens of millions of refugees generated by religious and ethnic strife, however, only the 700,000 Palestinians who fled their homes in Israel in 1948 - most of them at the urging of their leaders - remain a "problem" for the international community nearly sixty years later.
"All over the world, the same pattern pertains. Those who have been expelled or forced to flee from areas in which they were part of a religious or ethnic minority to areas or countries in which their religious or ethnic group is the majority have been absorbed by their co-religionists or those of the same ethnicity. That is what happened when Israel absorbed 600,000-800,000 Jews from Arab lands after the creation of the state. And it is what has happened everywhere else in the world. The two Germanys absorbed ethnic Germans after World War II; India took in Hindus fleeing Pakistan, and Pakistan received Moslems fleeing India.
"That too should be the fate of the Palestinians. They should be absorbed in an independent Arab state of Palestine to be established one day alongside Israel, not in place of Israel.
"Only the Palestinians (and Moslem refugees to Azerbaijan) depart from the general pattern of absorption by those who share their religion and ethnic identity. The Palestinians were never absorbed by their Arab co-religionists in the countries bordering Israel. They faced both de facto and de jure discrimination in many of those countries. Today hundreds of thousands of those who left Israel in 1948 and their descendants still languish in refugee camps nursing their bitter historical grievances and constituting a permanent attack force to be unleashed against Israel.
"The Arab states deliberately maintain the Palestinians in their pitiable state. The international community was also complicit in the process. Rather than helping the Palestinians out of their refugee status, UNRWA and international donors have frozen the Palestinians in that state. That is true not only those who fled Israel in 1948, but all their descendants in perpetuity.
"In place of medicine, the Palestinians' "benefactors" have only rubbed salt in their wounds - sometimes for their own purposes and sometimes from the best of motives. The day that the international community ceases applying a double standard to the Palestinians will be a day of rejoicing for them. On that day, they will stop being political pawns and be on the way to gaining their independence.
"Of the tens of millions of refugees created by World War II and the grant of independence to India and Pakistan in 1947, all lost their refugee status, as far as the international community is concerned, decades ago. And the possibility of those former refugees returning to the lands of their birth would strike the international community with horror, for an attempt to do so would only unleash old ethnic and religious conflicts. We might as well discuss the return of North America to its original native inhabitants.
"Only with respect to the Palestinians does the "right of return" continued to be discussed. Not just discussed, but to be the subject of thousands of books, articles, and documentaries. That "right" is never placed in the context of comparable cases of other refugees around the world.
"Sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians dwarfs that for other peoples who have suffered far worse fates, and who are far less complicit in their fate. The exodus of Palestinians from what is today Israel took place only because five Arab armies invaded Israel immediately after its declaration of statehood. And the Palestinians could long ago have had their own independent state. They have preferred instead to focus their energies on the destruction of Israel.
"The black farmers of the Darfur province of Sudan constitute just the most blatant current example of the disproportionate sympathy for the Palestinians. The U.N. places the number of those killed by Arab Moslem militias at 400,000, while another two to three million people have fled their homes, as a consequence of a concerted effort at ethnic cleansing.
"And yet it is the plight of the Palestinians that continues to be portrayed as the greatest injustice perpetrated by man against his fellow in the world today. International humanitarian aid to the Palestinians is an order of magnitude greater than that directed towards any other people. (That will be the subject of our third investigation.) Meanwhile the black farmers of Darfur are left to their fate.
"The international community has long acknowledged the rule that religious and ethnic homogeneity serves as a preventative to the most vicious of conflicts. For that reason, Turkish Moslems will not return to Greece nor Greeks to their former homes in Turkey. Sometimes history must be forgotten if peace is to be maintained. Judea and Samaria is the historical homeland of the Jewish people. Yet we do not advocate Jewish rule of that area today, for it is home to another people."