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Principle Positions: Solve the Palestinian Refugee Problem

Rabbi Benny Elon

Last week was a difficult time for the ingenious engineers of Oslo and the disengagement. They suffered many sleepless nights tossing and turning, their liberal consciences heavy. How could they sleep when Gaza was burning and the vision of an independent Palestinian state was being engulfed in the flames? The lack of sleep must have clouded their judgment – they saw it fit to ally with the “good gangsters”, Dahlan and Abbas who prefer to shoot their brothers in the knees as opposed to the “bad gangsters”, Hamas who shoot their brothers in the back.

The infighting among the Palestinians and the resulting deaths of countless of innocent men, women and children has reached new levels of intolerability. We must heed this violent wake up call to re-evaluate the issue at the core of the conflict- the Palestinian refugee situation. We have avoided resolving the refugee problem by hiding the refugees behind walls and like a ticking bomb waiting to explode; the refugee situation threatens to blow up in our faces. More than two-thirds of Gaza residents now live in filthy refugee camps and by allowing things to continue as they are we are allowing the perpetuation of a great injustice.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is mandated to negotiate with governments to rehabilitate refugees everywhere in the world except in the Middle East. Here, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) does not have the goal of rehabilitating refugees, its duties are reserved to providing services such as education, health, relief and social services.

Since it’s creation in 1949, UNRWA has been pressured by Arab countries to maintain the refugee camps. As a result, four generations of Palestinians have been used as pawns in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the State of Israel. Palestinian refugee camps are breeding grounds for the terrorist infrastructure.

The children of the UNRWA refugee camps are born into the slavery of hatred and oppression. They are living in a dreadful state of poverty where indoctrination breeds freely. The refugees have been indoctrinated with the false hope of reclaiming the land that their forefathers abandoned before the War of Independence. The situation is explained clearly in the PLO’s refugee files, “In order to keep the refugee issue alive and to prevent Israel from evading responsibility for their plight, Arab countries – with the notable exception of Jordan -have usually sought to preserve a Palestinian identity by maintaining the Palestinians’ status as refugees.”

Under UNRWA’s control the refugee population has grown from 670,000 to the current figures of 4.4 million registered Palestinian refugees in the Middle East. The situation in these camps is desperate and only a true humanitarian solution- one that will provide these interned peoples with basic freedoms will solve this ongoing problem.

Israel must demand the release of all Palestinian refugees interned in camps, the closure of these camps, and total dissolution of UNRWA. When surveyed, the majority of Palestinian refugees want a visa to another country and seed money to help begin a new life outside the walls of the refugee camps. The reallocation of UNRWA funds combined with a few billion dollars from Israel, the United States and Europe could provide each refugee family with $100,000- $200,000 and the opportunity to begin a new life.

Providing visas and money is the solution that the refugees prefer. Restoring the basic human rights of Palestinian refugees by fully rehabilitating them and assuring their absorption into the country most compatible for them is the most humane thing that the world can offer them and it will present the Palestinian refugees with the greatest opportunity that they ever been given, to live in freedom.

To deny the validity of this proposal is to subjugate the Palestinian refugees to fifty-nine more years of suffering with the illusion that they have the right to return to Jaffa, Haifa and Katamon in Jerusalem. Anyone willing to allow the refugee situation to further perpetuate lacks an understanding in sound politics and more importantly in basic huma