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The number of refugees worldwide is estimated at more than 80 million. More than half are under the age of 18. There are also millions of stateless people, without a nationality or access to basic rights such as education, health, employment and freedom of movement.
Of this staggering number of people currently counted, the Palestinians hog the limelight. How many of us can list other peoples who have suffered similar or worse fates?
The UN has just one agency dealing with the issue in general (UNHCR), but the Palestinians have an exclusive one (UNRWA). A community of supposedly 5 million people, that is 6% of those affected. Behind each refugee there was undoubtedly a human tragedy worthy of attention. But in Europe, after the fall of Germany in 1945, tens of millions of people were displaced from their homes and relocated.
Stalin imposed collective banishments on peoples accused of supporting the Nazi occupiers, and borders were changed across the continent. But all were integrated.
Between 1948 and 1953, Israel received some 850,000 Jews expelled from Arab countries, in addition to hundreds of thousands of other survivors of Nazism. Cases abound. According to the late Arab writer Edward Said: “There is no Israeli city from which one cannot see the remains of an abandoned Palestinian village.” Nothing could be further from historical reality. The facts cannot – or should not – be modified in this way to defend a cause. It is striking, however, the echo that his statements have achieved in left-wing currents.
In 1947, the UN voted for the partition of the British Mandate in Palestine (not all of its historical territory, since 75% was already occupied by the Kingdom of Jordan) into two states: one Jewish and the other Arab. Jerusalem would be internationalized. The Jews accepted such a resolution, which did not include their aspirations, and proclaimed independence; the Arab leaders rejected it and invaded the new Israel.
The appeal of the Muslim leaders – among them the Palestinian leader of the time, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who had collaborated with Hitler – invoked the “holy war” to “drive the infidels into the sea”. A war of extermination. The exhortations to the Arab population to abandon their homes and join the invading forces were permanent.
But the outcome of the war surprised the world, as the Jews triumphed and consolidated their state. The bulk of the territory awarded to the Arab state was occupied by Egypt (Gaza), Jordan (West Bank and East Jerusalem).
After the military defeat, the Arab governments imposed the Palestinians to stay in refugee camps. In other words, the 750,000 Palestinians who left their homes at that time were not integrated with the rest of the population of Jordan, Syria, Iraq or Egypt. And this despite the fact that they had the same language, culture and religion; and that there was no autonomous Palestinian national will from the Arab world at that time. It was a political decision to perpetuate the conflict.
From those Muslim camps, which the Arab dictatorships did not want to integrate despite the millions obtained from oil, emerged all the Palestinian terrorist organizations, fueled by an irrational hatred of “the infidels, Christians and Jews”.
More than 70 years later, no one can seriously believe that the lack of a solution for these refugees is due to a lack of means.
It was in fact Arab unwillingness that has kept them in their sad situation. Simply because they thus created a useful publicity weapon to oppose any peaceful settlement. We are talking about more than 20 Islamic countries, with millions of square kilometers of extension, which obviously had infinitely more resources than Israel to integrate them.
The difference is that the Jews, in less than 30 thousand km2, absorbed in the same period more than 6 million immigrants, while the Arab tyrants used the Palestinians as a permanent political weapon. A very sad choice, decided by the real culprits of the “nakba”. A people whose leaders have squandered generous offers of peace, and who live oppressed by Hamas terrorists in Gaza and Arafat’s heirs in the autonomous areas of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).
Only a change of mindset, which stops rewarding the families of civilian murderers with money – as Abu Mazen is doing in Ramallah – and promoting hatred without pause, can lead to true peace.