Acrid smoke filled the air Friday, shielding Palestinian demonstrators from the view of Israeli Defense Forces tasked with safeguarding the security fence separating the Gaza strip from southern Israel. It was the second Friday in as many weeks for the “Great March of Return” demonstrations. As tires burned, so did the passions of the people involved.
Although reports vary, more than a dozen senseless Palestinian deaths have been reported since March 30th, with nearly 1,500 reported injuries. How many more need to die?
Normally, any loss of life is a tragedy for those left behind, but these deaths are especially troubling because (1) they were the direct result of inducements offered by Hamas terrorists who seized control of Gaza in 2007, and (2) they are celebrated as heroism.
According to an official statement, Hamas Is offering a $200-$500 reward for each demonstrator who is injured by Israeli forces, based on the severity of the injury, and $3,000 to the family of a demonstrator who is killed.
Blood money…for what?
Hamas is sending civilians to die for media coverage, according to Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ Advisor on Islamic Affairs and Supreme Sharia Judge. Instead of aligning with Hamas, Al-Habbash claims the Palestinian people really side with the PLO.
Ironically, the PLO heralds terrorists who murder Israelis as heroes, according to Palestinian Media Watch.
“Reporting on an event honoring Palestinian mothers “of Martyrs, prisoners, and wounded,” the official Palestinian Authority daily mentioned in particular the mother of 5 terrorists, among them 2 murderers. Although the paper listed the number of life sentences each is serving, it failed to mention that they are imprisoned for murder of 8 people as well as numerous other terror attacks (see descriptions below):
“Um Yusuf is the mother of Martyr Abd Al-Mun’im, and the mother of four prisoners serving life sentences: Nasser, serving 7 life sentences and an additional 50 years; Nasr, serving 5 life sentences; Sharif, serving 4 life sentences; and Muhammad, serving 2 life sentences and an additional 30 years.”
[Official PA daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, March 23, 2018]
Meanwhile, Hamas admitted some of those killed during the demonstrations were actually part of their military wing, according to The Times of Israel. Their pictures are below.
The “Great March of Return” is not meant to be another peaceful protest. A message is being shaped.
According to many sources, including the UN, Israel is an illegal occupier of Palestinian territory, oppressing the Palestinians by keeping them from returning to their homeland. Due to their positions against Israel, the same sources refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to defend its citizens and borders when faced with threats of violence leveled against them by their Palestinian neighbors. Even in the aftermath of real violence, Israel is castigated for acting in self-defense.
When riots and insurrections happen, the reasonable response is defensive action, yet Israel is supposed to be the sole example of dignified restraint, even if it means placing their populace in peril.
The prevailing worldview is that Palestinians are simply acting out of frustration due to their plight as displaced refugees due to Israel’s aggression. After all, it’s their right to protest. That’s the ongoing excuse for their behavior since the 1948 war following Israel’s declaration of independence and in the aftermath of the 1967 six-day war. But, what caused those wars? Was Israel acting unilaterally, unprovoked?
More to the point of the current demonstrations, specifically as they pertain to claims of defiance against Israeli oppression, what is the definition of a Palestinian refugee, how many refugee camps are there, where are they located, why do they still exist, and what rights do the refugees possess?
UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) was formed December 8, 1949 as a result of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 and in response to the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict. In part, Resolution 194 states:
…Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours 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 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… (emphasis mine)
Therein lies part of the refugee conundrum. How many want to return and “live at peace” with their Jewish neighbors? It also leads back to the question of who initiated the conflicts in 1948 and 1967. Who is the responsible governing authority? If Israel was attacked in 1948, the resulting damage and displacement costs should be the responsibility – at least in part – of the true aggressors, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.
The UNRWA website defines Palestinian refugees, as follows:
Palestine refugees are defined as “persons 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.”
UNRWA services are available to all those living in its area of operations who meet this definition, who are registered with the Agency and who need assistance. The descendants of Palestine refugee males, including adopted children, are also eligible for registration. When the Agency began operations in 1950, it was responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees. Today, some 5 million Palestine refugees are eligible for UNRWA services.
Nearly one-third of the registered Palestine refugees, more than 1.5 million individuals, live in 58 recognized Palestine refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Let that last paragraph sink in…
Besides those in Gaza and the West Bank, there are also Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. Here’s the breakdown, according to UNRWA:
- Gaza: 8 camps; 1.3 Million registered Palestinian refugees (out of 1.9 Million population)
- West Bank: 19 camps; 809,738 registered Palestinian refugees
- Lebanon: 12 camps; 449,957 register Palestinian refugees
- Jordan: 10 camps; 2,175,491 registered Palestinian refugees
- Syria: 9 camps 526,744 registered Palestinian refugees
According to these figures, there are more camps and more Palestinian refugees outside the Gaza Strip and West Bank than there are in those territories. That doesn’t account for the Palestinians who remained in Israel and have been accepted as equal members of society (not treated as refugees), complete with Israeli citizenship and all that entails, or those who fled to Egypt, Iraq, or other undisclosed locations.
After all these years, why haven’t these refugees been given the opportunity to fully integrate into society by their new host countries? Why are they still in refugee camps?
According to IRIN News, Jordan is the most generous toward the Palestinian refugees (besides Israel), offering all but 120,000 who originally hail from Gaza full citizenship. Why are the 120,000 refused the same privileges as the others?
Syria is next in line, offering the refugees all the rights of other Syrians, except citizenship. Lebanon is less generous, restricting the refugees’ job opportunities and property ownership.
Those in Egypt (est. 50,000) are not granted permanent resident rights and cannot register as refugees. Many of the refugees who fled to Iraq (est. 34,000 in 2006, now about 11,500) have either been killed by militant groups or fled to neighboring Syria and Jordan.
The refugees in the worst predicament are those in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, but considering the fair treatment offered to the Palestinians who integrated into Israeli society, the reasonable question is whether the plight of those in Gaza or the West Bank is more a result of their leadership (Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank) than direct mistreatment by Israel.
If the Palestinians truly wanted to integrate peacefully, Israel has already proven they could. Israel has a pluralistic society that does not discriminate between Jews, Christians or Muslims. In fact, Muslims and Christians have representatives in the Israeli government. The Palestinians simply don’t want to integrate. They want to dominate, as illustrated by Hamas’ “A Document of General Principles and Policies”.
24. The liberation of Palestine is the duty of the Palestinian people in particular and the duty of the Arab and Islamic Ummah in general. It is also a humanitarian obligation as necessitated by the dictates of truth and justice. The agencies working for Palestine, whether national, Arab, Islamic or humanitarian, complement each other and are harmonious and not in conflict with each other.
25. Resisting the occupation with all means and methods is a legitimate right guaranteed by divine laws and by international norms and laws. At the heart of these lies armed resistance, which is regarded as the strategic choice for protecting the principles and the rights of the Palestinian people.
26. Hamas rejects any attempt to undermine the resistance and its arms. It also affirms the right of our people to develop the means and mechanisms of resistance. Managing resistance, in terms of escalation or de-escalation, or in terms of diversifying the means and methods, is an integral part of the process of managing the conflict and should not be at the expense of the principle of resistance.
Whether it’s the desire of the individual Palestinian or just the leadership, the animus toward integration is clear at the top. There is no desire to live in cooperation with Israel. I discuss this topic and its sordid history at length in Israel in the Middle. Prior to 1948, the Palestinians were given the opportunity to establish a united Palestinian state, run by a 2/3 Palestinian majority, but they refused to integrate with the Jews.
So, let’s stop pretending the lack of peace in the Middle East and mistreatment of Palestinian refugees is an exclusively Israeli problem and finally recognize the true source, the lack of cooperation from the Palestinians themselves and their supposed Arab supporters.