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In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a Palestinian refugee is a refugee from Palestine created by the Palestinian Exodus, which Palestinians call the Nakba (نكبة, meaning "disaster" or "catastrophe"). About 200,000 of these refugees survive today.Template:Fact

The UN definition of a "Palestinian refugee" includes all their descendants, now numbering slightly over 4 million people (see UNRWA).


[edit] History

File:Palestinian refugees in 1956.jpg
Palestinian refugees in Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem, 1956.

About two thirds of Palestinian Arabs fled or were expelled from the territories which came under Israeli control after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. This exodus continued during the war until after the armistice that ended it (see Palestinian Exodus.) These refugees, the great majority of whom had lived there for generations, were generally not permitted to return to their homes.

The number of refugees who fled or expelled is controversial. Estimates range from a low-end figure of around 400,000 claimed by the Israeli governemnt, to a UN estimate of 711,000 <ref>General Progress Report and Supplementary Report of the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine, Covering the Period from 11 December 1949 to 23 October 1950</ref>. By 1950, according to United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), the number of registered refugees was 914,000.<ref>UNRWA</ref>. The U.N. Conciliation Commission attributed this discrepancy to, among other things, "duplication of ration cards, addition of persons who have been displaced from area other than Israel-held areas and of persons who, although not displaced, are destitute", and the UNWRA additionally attributed it to the fact that "all births are eagerly announced, the deaths wherever possible are passed over in silence", as well as the fact that "the birthrate is high in any case, a net addition of 30,000 names a year" (the UNWRA figures included descendants of the Palestinian refugees born after the Palestinian exodus up to June, 1951). By June, 1951 the UNWRA had reduced the number or registered refugees to 876,000 after "many false and duplicate registrations weeded out." <ref>Report of the Director of the UNRWA, 28 September 1951</ref>.

However, this number is generally held to be exagerrated. Yehoshua Porath, a prominent Israeli scholar in the field of Palestinian history writes

"Most serious students of the history of Palestine would accept that the number of Arab refugees from Israel during and after 1948 claimed by Arab and UN sources—some 600,000 to 750,000—was exaggerated. It is very easy to refute that estimate and many have already done it." [1]

During the period mid-1948-53 between 30,000 and 90,000 refugees (according to Benny Morris) made their way from their countries of exile to resettle in their former villages or in other parts of Israel, despite Israeli legal and military efforts to stop them. At the Lausanne Conference of 1949, Israel offered to let in up to 75,000 more as part of a wider proposed deal with the surrounding Arab countries, but they rejected it, and Israel withdrew the proposal in 1950. Others emigrated to other countries, such as the US and Canada; most, however, remained in refugee camps in neighboring countries.

Current Palestinian refugee counts include:

<ref>CIA Factbook</ref><ref>UNRWA: countires and areas (PDF)</ref>

The Israeli government passed the Absentee Property Law, which cleared the way for the confiscation of the property of refugees. The government also demolished many of the refugees' villages, and resettled many Arab homes in urban communities with Jewish refugees and immigrants.

The situation of the Palestinian Arab refugees is one of the world's largest and most enduring refugee problems. Discussions to allow them to return to their former homes within Israel, to receive compensation or be resettled in new locations have yet to reach a definite conclusion.

[edit] Who is a Palestinian refugee?

Whereas most refugees are the concern of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), most Palestinian refugees - those in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan - come under the older body UNRWA. On 11 December 1948, UN Resolution 194 was passed in order to protect the rights of Palestinian Arab refugees. Resolution 302 (IV) of 8 December 1949, set up UNRWA specifically to deal with the Palestinian problem. Palestinian refugees outside of UNRWA's area of operations do fall under UNHCR's mandate, however.

The term Palestinian refugee as used by UNRWA was never formally defined by the United Nations. The definition used in practice evolved independently of the UNHCR definition, which was established by the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. UNRWA definition of refugee is as a person "whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948 and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict", though it is applied only to those who took refuge in one of the countries where UNRWA provides relief. The UNRWA also registers as refugees descendants in the male line of Palestinian refugees, and persons in need of support who first became refugees as a result of the 1967 conflict. The UNRWA definition in practice is thus both more restrictive and more inclusive than the 1951 definition; for example it excludes persons taking refuge in countries other than Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, yet it includes descendants of refugees as well as the refugees themselves (though UNHCR also provides support for children of refugees in many cases). Persons receiving relief support from UNRWA are explicitly excluded from the 1951 Convention, depriving them of some of the benefits of that convention such as some legal protections. However, a 2002 decision of UNHCR made it clear that the 1951 Convention applies at least to Palestinian refugees who need support but fail to fit the UNRWA working definition. <ref>High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Note on the Applicability of Article 1D of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees to Palestinian refugees 10 October 2002</ref>

[edit] Right of return

The Palestinian refugees claim a right of return, based on Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ("Everyone has the right to leave any country including his own, and to return to his country") and United Nations General Assembly Resolution #194, paragraph 11, where the General Assembly:

Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for the loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the governments or authorities responsible...
Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation.

Many of them also argue that, by the UDHR, this right is an individual and not a collective one, and that it cannot therefore be restricted by any collective agreement between Palestinians and Israel.Template:Fact They also regard as a massive injustice the fact that Jews are allowed to emigrate to Israel under Israel's Law of Return, even if their ancestors have not lived in the area for 2000 years, while people who grew up in the area and whose immediate ancestors had lived there for many generations are forbidden from returning.

The Palestinian National Authority supports this right, although its extent has been a subject of negotiation at the various peace talks; Mahmoud Abbas promised in November 2004 to continue working towards it if elected president.

Critics of Resolution #194 begin by noting that General Assembly Resolutions are not binding, and asserting that they have no effect in International Law. They also note the resolution's provision regarding "refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours". Returning home is predicated on wishing to live at peace, and they argue that there is no evidence that Palestinian refugees wish to live at peace with Israelis. Additionaly, the point to the fact that all the Arab member states of the UN voted against resolution 194, precisely because they believed it did not create a right of return.<ref>[2]</ref>

Other objections to the return of the refugees, with their descendants, to Israel include:

  • Israel was founded as a Jewish state to provide refuge to Jews in light of the history of persecutions, regardless of their previous nationality. To allow all Palestinian Arabs and their descendants to return home, would mean that Israel would cease to exist as a Jewish state, given the majority of the population would be non-Jewish if all of the Arab refugees were to return. Those who regard Israel's founding as a Jewish state as illegitimate, by contrast, consider this possible consequence to be an advantage of the refugees' return.
  • Arabs commonly respond that both Palestinian and Jewish refugees should be allowed return to their native countries, citing other population transfers which were reversed with various degrees of successTemplate:Fact, such as most of Stalin's population transfers (including, for instance, the Ingush and Kalmyks) and the exile of the Navajos in 1863 (see Long Walk.) In response, Steven Plaut shows some historical perspective on human migrations and conquests.<ref>Who Stole the Holy Land? by Steven Plaut. FrontPageMagazine. December 9, 2004</ref> One state where Jews' property was confiscated, Libya, has unilaterally invited them to return and receive compensation for their original property, on condition that they leave their property in Israel to Palestinians.<ref>Libya Wants the Jews to Return "Home" April 14, 2004 (INN)</ref>. Libyan Jews' reaction to the offer of return has been negative; they view it as a stunt intended to improve Libya's standing in both the Western and Arab worlds, cite concerns about religious freedoms, and point out the lack of human rights and democracy in Libya that make such an offer highly unattractive. However, the compensation offer has attracted guarded interest.<ref>Libyan Jews claim £100m for seized wealth by Inigo Gilmore January 11, 2004 (The Telegraph)</ref>

[edit] Treatment in Arab countries

The Arab League issued instructions barring the Arab states from granting citizenship to Palestinian Arab refugees (or their descendants) "to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland".

Jordan is the only Arab country which historically gave citizenship rights to Palestinian refugees.

[edit] Jordan

After the 1967 Six-Day War, during which Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan, Palestinian Arabs living there continued to have the right to apply for Jordanian passports and live in Jordan. Palestinian refugees actually living in Jordan were considered full Jordanian citizens as well. In July 1988, King Hussein of Jordan announced the severing of all legal and administrative ties with the West Bank. In practice, what this meant was that any Palestinian domiciled on Jordanian soil would remain to be considered Jordanian. However, any person domiciled in the West Bank would have no right to Jordanian citizenship.

Jordan still issues passports to Palestinians in the West Bank, but they are for travel purposes only and do not constitute an attestation of citizenship. Palestinians in the West Bank who had regular Jordanian passports were issued these temporary ones upon expiration of their old ones, and entry into Jordan by Palestinians is time-limited and considered for tourism purposes only. Any Jordanian citizen who is found carrying a Palestinian passport (of the sort issued by the Palestinian Authority and registered by Israel for validity) has his/her Jordanian citizenship revoked by Jordanian border agents.

More recently, Jordan has restricted entry of Palestinians from the West Bank into its territory, fearing that many Palestinians would try to take up temporary residence in Jordan during the Al-Aqsa Intifada. This has caused many hardships for Palestinians, especially since 2001 when Israel discontinued permission for Palestinians to travel through its Ben Gurion International Airport, and traveling to Jordan to fly out of Amman became the only outlet for West Bank Palestinians to travel.

Information from the Jordanian censuses which distinguishes between Palestinians and pre-1948 Arab-Israeli War Jordanians is not publicly available, and it is widely believed that Palestinians in Jordan (domiciled in Jordan and considered citizens) constitute the majority of the kingdom's population. However, in a 2002 television interview on a US network, King Abdullah II of Jordan claimed that "Jordanians of Palestinian Origin" are only 40-45% of the Jordanian population, and that an independent survey would be conducted to settle the matter.<ref>Transcript of interview with HM King Abdullah at the Charlie Rose Show. May 7, 2002</ref>

[edit] Saudi Arabia

An estimated 500,000 Palestinians are living in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia as of December 2004. They are not allowed to hold or even apply for Saudi citizenship, as the new law passed by Saudi Arabia's Council of Ministers in October 2004 ( which entitles expatriates of all nationalities who have resided in the kingdom for ten years to apply for citizenship, with priority being given to holders of degrees in various scientific fields ) has one glaring exception: Palestinians will not be allowed to benefit from the new law because of Arab League instructions barring the Arab states from granting them citizenship in order "to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland".

[edit] Discrimination in Lebanon

Lebanon barred Palestinian Arabs from 73 job categories including professions such as medicine, law and engineering. They are not allowed to own property. Unlike other foreigners in Lebanon, they are denied access to the Lebanese healthcare system. The Lebanese government refused to grant them work permits or permission to own land. The number of restrictions have been mounting since 1990.<ref>Poverty trap for Palestinian refugees By Alaa Shahine. 29 March 2004 (aljazeera)</ref> In June 2005, however, the government of Lebanon removed work restrictions from all Lebanese-born Palestinians, enabling them to apply for work permits and work in the private sector. <ref>Lebanon permits Palestinians to work June 29, 2005 (Arabicnews)</ref>

[edit] Kuwait

After the Gulf War of 1990-1991, Kuwait and other Gulf Arab monarchies expelled more than 400,000 Palestinian refugees<ref>Mahmoud Abbas has apologized for the Palestinians' support of Saddam Hussein during the 1990 invasion of Kuwait 12 December, 2004 (BBC</ref>) after the PLO allied itself with Iraq's invasion of Kuwait).

[edit] References


[edit] See also

[edit] External links

he:בעיית הפליטים הפלסטינים

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