Monday, October 25, 2010

25-Oct-10: Speaking truth to hatred and manipulation

Iconic image: Arabs fleeing their villages in the war
waged by the Arab states in 1948 to 'liberate' Palestine
So much of the discourse on terrorism and why jihadists are willing to die just so that their hated enemies suffer is based on a fiction: that their acts of terror emanate from a sense of desperation and of despair.

As we here in Israel who are truly desperate for peace try - repeatedly - to share what we have learned about the role of ideology and religion in the development of jihadism throughout the world, we are struck by how few sober and honest voices can be heard emanating from within Islamic society.

One of the most strikingly clear and cogent such voices belongs to a journalist who lives a few minutes' drive from our home in Jerusalem. Here below is an important plea that, if well understood by enough people, can help frame a constructive, practical approach to blunting the threat of the terrorists in our neighbourhood.

Khaled Abu Toameh's writings, quoted by us here numerous times, not only speak truth to the power of the jihadist world. Even more importantly, he establishes a paradigm for separating the agenda-driven from the objective, the truthful and authentic from the false and pernicious.

The Palestinian Refugees: Why Is Everyone Lying To Them?
Khaled Abu Toameh
Palestinian Authority leaders are now saying that they will never recognize Israel as a Jewish state because that would mean that they would have to give up the "right of return" for millions of Palestinians to their original homes inside Israel. These leaders are actually continuing to deceive the refugees into believing that one day they will be permitted to move into Israel.

The Palestinian Authority, like the rest of the Arab governments, has been lying to the refugees for decades, telling them that one day their dream of returning to their villages and towns, many of which no longer exist, would be fulfilled. Meanwhile, the refugees are continuing to live in harsh conditions in their UNRWA-administered camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.  No Arab or Palestinian leader has ever dared to confront the refugees with the truth, namely that they are not going to move into Israel. On the contrary, Palestinian and Arab leaders continue to tell these people that they will go back to their former villages and towns.

Arab and Palestinian governments are lying to the refugees because they want to avoid any responsibility toward their plight. The Arab governments hosting the refugees have done almost nothing to improve the living conditions of the refugees. On the contrary, Palestinian refugees living in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan have long been subjected the victims of racism and other repressive and unjust measures and laws that deprive them even of basic rights. Governments such as Jordan receive a payment for each refugee, turning the refugees into nothing more than property, like stocks on Wall Street.

Since its establishment in 1994, the Palestinian Authority has also done very little to help the refugees. In the West Bank, most of the international aid is being invested in major cities such as Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem and Jenin, as well as scores of villages.

UNRWA is also not offering a solution to the refugees. Instead, the UN agency is perpetuating the problem by creating new generations of refugees.  UNRWA is in fact encouraging the refugees to stay where they are. For UNRWA, refugees are a gigantic UN jobs program, providing over 30,000 of them, costing over $1 billion USD a-year, or, according to separate sources, a third of all other UN refugee services combined.

The case of the Palestinian refugees is one of the most important issues in the Israeli-Arab conflict. It needs to be solved for once and for all -- and immediately. The refugees have the legitimate and moral right to continue dreaming about their original villages and towns. But the Arab and Palestinian governments do not have the right to continue lying to these people. The issue of the refugees can easily be solved if the entire international community, with the help of the Arab world, gets together to find a  solution. Israel alone will never be able to solve the problem. The refugees should be offered financial compensation or resettlement in Arab and other countries. Those who wish to move to a Palestinian state that is established alongside Israel in the future should not be denied that right. Arab countries should be urged to absorb Palestinian refugees. Western countries should also participate by taking some of the refugees and offering them a new life. Why not establish an international fund that would offer financial compensation to those who lost their homes and lands? And let us not forget that there are also hundreds of thousands of Jewish "refugees" who lost their properties in Arab countries.

The world needs to tell the Palestinian refugees that while they are entitled to many rights, they must forget about returning to Jaffa, Haifa and other places inside Israel.

The issue of the Palestinian refugees can be solved only when a courageous Arab or Palestinian leader confronts them with the truth. As long as the refugees are being fed with false hopes, there can be no solution.
Khaled Abu Toameh has worked as a journalist and film-maker for nearly 30 years in the Palestinian areas. His career started at a PLO newspaper in Jerusalem. Today he is the West Bank and Gaza correspondent for U.S. News and World Report and the Jerusalem Post, and has been the Palestinian affairs producer for NBC News since 1988. 

He describes himself as an Arab Muslim, and also an Israeli citizen "not because I am a collaborator with Israel but because my father belongs to the Israeli-Arab community inside Israel.. And I also happen to be a Palestinian because my mother is a Palestinian from the West Bank. So if you're confused you can call me an Israeli-Arab-Muslim-Palestinian". 

We can also call him an astute observer with the ability to cut through ideological cant. This makes his an important and worthwhile voice on subjects that suffer greatly from agenda-driven polemics masquerading as journalism and objective analysis.

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