Friday, September 25, 2009


With dozens of parties, shifting alliances, a confessional based allocation of power, and frequent outbursts of violence there aren't many issues that unite all of Lebanon's political leaders. One of the few areas of agreement was touched on by President Michel Slei­man on Friday in his address before the 64th General Assembly of the United Nations: Lebanon will not allow the permanent resettlement of Palestinian refugees on its territory. The President framed the issue as Lebanese leaders usually do, "in defense of the refugees’ right of return.” However, the leaders of the Mediterranean country, which hosts twelve camps and over 400,000 refugees seem more concerned about maintaining the country's fragile confessional based political system than supporting Palestinian rights.

One only has to look to conditions in the overcrowded refugee ghettos Palestinians are confined to. Israel is not the only country that disregards Palestinian's human rights. In Lebanon even those who were born in the camps are in a state of legal limbo; they can't own property, travel abroad, or hold certain jobs. When fighting broke out between Lebanese troops and militant radicals at the Nahr al-Bared Camp two years ago human rights groups documented instances of arbitrary detention and torture by the military. Opposition to naturalization has nothing to do with support for Palestinians. If the Lebanese supported the Palestinians they would do something substantive to ease their pain. Perhaps citizenship is too sensitive an issue, but is the Lebanese state so insecure it would also be threatened by an end to legalized discrimination?

I oppose Zionism. It is a racist, colonial ideology. If it were my choice all refugees, both Jewish and Palestinian, would receive full reparations and the choice of repatriation in their country of origin or full assimilation in their country of residence. But I am not in charge and I am not naive. This will never happen. Those who support the Palestinians must take a pragmatic approach. While some have devoted themselves to Utopian ideals the Israelis have devoted themselves to the creation of facts on the ground. Facts which make such Utopian solution appear both out of touch and unworkable.

For those who view the Palestinians as nothing more than a political issue, a crowd pleaser, this present approach is the correct one, but for those who care for the fate of the Palestinians and whose primary objective is the reduction of their suffering it is absurd.

It is cruel to leave hundreds of thousands of refugees in a state of limbo, filled with dreams that will never be realized. Those who remain devoted to the cause of al-Awda, in spite of its obstacles, deserve respect, respect for their devotion and their position. No one has the right to take that struggle from them. However, those who reluctantly conclude they will never be allowed to return to their ancestral homeland cannot be held hostage to the political expediency of the rulers of their host countries. These are human beings, not pawns in an ideological battle. Those who support the Palestinian people must support them wherever they are oppressed against whoever oppresses them. The Arab states refusing to assimilate Palestinians, those who discriminate against them, and those who ascend to their suffering are no less culpable than the Israeli government.

This is not a capitulation to Zionism. This is a capitulation to reality. The struggle for the human rights of Palestinians must continue. The resistance must continue. But it must be founded in realism, it cannot have goals it does not have a way to achieve. Fantasies are a luxury the oppressed cannot afford, they are a luxury the allies of the oppressed cannot cling to.


Bar Kochba said...

In 1948, close to a million Jews were expelled from Sephardic countries. Israel, a country of 600 000 people, doubled in size from the influx of the refugees. Despite hardships, it took these refugees in, even though Israel was an extremely poor country which had just been established.

It is incredible to think that the Arab countries, some of the richest in the world, cannot resettle the Palestinian refugees. As you said, they have been used as pawns by governments that don't care about them but only want them as a weapon against Israel. The Jews relinquished their rights to return to Morocco, Iraq, Egypt, Tunisia, etc. The Arabs have no right to return to Israel.

Young Activist said...

Save your tears. This tragedy is the product of Zionism. You who celebrate the displacement of a whole nation have no right to comment on the way others treated those who were displaced.

Israel did absorb Shepardic refugees, orginially they did not want to admit any, but they soon discovered they needed the Arab Jews to bolster their population and began encouraging, oftentimes against the will of those who came, them to emigrate.

Now, as I have said I fully support the right of all refugees, both Jewish and Arab to reutrn, but this is an individual right, not a collective one, the fact that some Jews also fled their homes does not compensate the sufering of Palestinian refugees at all, that is the moral responsiblity of Israel.

Bar Kochba said...

You are despicable. Israel is to blame for Arab governments forcing their Jewish populations to leave? In 1948, two sets of refugees were created. Arabs from Israel fled, some expelled and others at the behest of the invading Arab armies, while an equal number of Sephardic Jews were either forced to leave or fled to escape persecution. They lost billions of dollars in land and property, for which they have never been compensated. All wars create refugees- I repeat, if Israel could have accepted Jewish refugees, why can't the huge and wealthy Arab states settle Arab refugess? While Jewish refugees from Arab countries received no international assistance, Palestinians received millions of dollars through UNRWA. Jordan is the only Arab country that has accepted Palestinians as citizens.

Another massive population transfer resulted from the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. The eight million Hindus who fled Pakistan and the six million Muslims who left India were afraid of becoming a minority in their respective countries. Like the Palestinians, these people wanted to avoid being caught in the middle of the violence that engulfed their nations. In contrast to the Arab-Israeli conflict, however, the exchange of populations was considered the best solution to the problem of communal relations within the two states. Despite the enormous number of refugees and the relative poverty of the two nations involved, no special international relief organizations were established to aid them in resettlement.

Bar Kochba said...

Just curious, is the Tibetan nationalist movement, which desires to create a Tibetan state, with a Tibetan majority and Tibetan culture, free from Chinese domination, also a racist and colonial ideology?

Young Activist said...

Israel is indeed responsible for the creation of the Palestinian refugee crisis. If the refugees left voluntarily, I'm really not interested in refighting the 1948 War with you, the documentary record is clear enough and at a certain point we need to stop dwelling on what happened in the past and worrying about the present, then it is only natural that they should be allowed to return voluntarily.

The issue of Jewish refugees is more complex, though the Zionist movement does bare a considerable share of the blame, many Mizrahim, particularly those from Iraq and Yemen remain very bitter toward Zionist Movement. Israel's absorption of Jewish refugees has more to do with strategic considerations than any humanitarian concern. As I have said the Ashkenazi Zionist leaders initially did not want to contaminate their white fortress with non-White Jews, when they realized their would not be enough Ashkenazim to adequately populate their new state they reversed course, but this has nothing to do with humanitarian concern. This issue was mirrored later on with the reluctance of many in Israel to accept black Ethiopian Jews, who were almost not brought to Israel. Without those immigrants from Arab countries Israel's population would today be a tiny fraction of what it is, and Israel would not be a viable state. Why do you think their is so much resentment of Mizrahim for the Ashkenazim?

Compulsory population exchanges are always abhorrent. But Palestinians were not Greeks and Turks or Indians and Pakistanis, and the 1948 War was not a mutually agreed population exchange. The country that displaced the Palestinians, and not the countries they fled to bears responsibility for their displacement.

And the only connection Tibet has to Palestine is that in both cases a colonial movement attempting to "reclaim" its "historic territory" by expelling, decimating, and destroying the culture of the indigenous population

Paul said...

'And the only connection Tibet has to Palestine is that in both cases a colonial movement attempting to "reclaim" its "historic territory" by expelling, decimating, and destroying the culture of the indigenous population'

Truly shocking what awful people the Israelis are. I mean there's no counter to that argument right? I mean it would be awful and a true blow to your argument if say for instance a UN Mandate had established Israel? Yeah that can't have happened.

Furthermore what is still shocking is how the Jews expelled from the Arab countries are still there. And their population has grown like the Arab population in Israel that was mysteriously expelled in 1948? Oh you mean there aren't any Jews left in Iraq, Egypt etc? Yet Arabs make 20% at least of Israel's population. I'm confused I thought the nasty Zionist bullies expelled them.

Never mind what clears up the issue of 1948 is the undisputed evidence that Israel ethnically cleansed 'Palestine' of all Arabs. I mean it can't be like there's any evidence at all that the Arabs actually attacked the Jews right? Or shock horror that the Arab population was encouraged to leave by ARAB leaders like the pro Nazi Mufti Amin el Husseini.

Check out the primary and secondary sources on that one.

The Arab exodus, initially at least, was encouraged by many Arab leaders, such as Haj Amin el Husseini, the exiled pro-Nazi Mufti of Jerusalem, and by the Arab Higher Committee for Palestine. They viewed the first wave of Arab setbacks as merely transitory. Let the Palestine Arabs flee into neighbouring countries. It would serve to arouse the other Arab peoples to greater effort, and when the Arab invasion struck, the Palestinians could return to their homes and be compensated with the property of Jews driven into the sea.

'After the war, the Palestine Arab leaders did try to help people -- including their own -- to forget that it was they who had called for the exodus in the early spring of 1948. They now blamed the leaders of the invading Arab states themselves. These had added their voices to the exodus call, though not until some weeks after the Palestine Arab Higher Committee had taken a stand.
- Kenneth O. Bilby, New Star in the Middle East, (Doubleday, 1950).'

'Sir Alan Cunningham, the last high commissioner for the British administration of Palestine, which was in the process of withdrawing from the country while the fighting raged, wrote to the Colonial Office in London on February 22, 1948, and again on April 28, 1948, that

British authorities in Haifa have formed the impression that total evacuation is being urged on the Haifa Arabs from higher Arab quarters and that the townsfolk themselves are against it.

The American consulate in Haifa had telegraphed Washington on April 25 that "local Mufti-dominated Arab leaders urge all Arabs (to) leave (the) city [Haifa] and large numbers are going." Three days later the consulate followed up this communication with another that said, "reportedly Arab Higher Committee ordering all Arabs (to) leave."

On April 23, Jamal Husseini, the Acting Chairman for the Arab Higher Committee for Palestine , admitted as much in a speech to the United Nations Security Council:

The Arabs did not want to submit to a truce. They rather preferred to abandon their homes, their belongings and everything they possessed in the world and leave the town. This is in fact what they did.'

Oh dear that leaves me terribly confused, what the Economist, British High Commission (no friend of the Zionists at the time) and Arab sources are saying in that piece.

Please check out the secondary sources listed.

Young Activist said...

I think the points you made regarding Islam will be best responded to in a post, hence the delay in my response, but I would like to comment here. I was somewhat disappointed to see the best you could do was copy and paste nonsense from radical right wing American websites. Nonetheless, I did look at your source, and the sources it cited. The article listed a bibliography, but none of the specific facts were cited, some of the links in its bibliography were dead and the rest were directed towards pro-Israel propaganda sites.

As I have said earlier the issue of Jewish refuges is somewhat more complicated than the issue of Palestinian refugees, but I do support their return if they would like to return, but this issue is entirely separate from the issue of Palestinian refugees. The right of return is an individual right, not a collective right.

And the U.N is not the sovereign of morality. It is a good concept and it is a useful forum for international dialog, but it is (a) highly dysfunctional and (b) vulnerable to abuse. When the U.N contributes to war crimes and crimes against humanity (such as it did with the Iraq sanctions) it is just as culpable as any other actor.

And I don't really want to refight the 1948 war. There is already an extensive documentary record available. It is fairly widely accepted by serious historians (both Zionist and anti-Zionist) that Palestine was ethnically cleansed to make way for a Jewish state. Even today many Israeli policy makers refer to Israel's Arab population as "the demographic threat" and are considering a variety of options, including a second ethnic cleansing.

As for Haj Amin el Husseini, he was a minor official, appointed by the British who thought he would be easy to control who pursued a strategic alliance with fascism in Germany (much as Churchill did in Spain), he was a monster just as Churchill was a monster, no doubt, but the activities of a minor British appointed colonial official 65 years ago hardly absolve Israel of human rights abuses today. Perhaps you will recall that the terrorist organization Irgun also pursued forming an alliance with Hitler, though the Palestinian case is strong enough without having to rely on a disgusting and petty propaganda ploy to distract attention from present issues.

Young Activist said...

As an afterthought, as you will recall from my article on Gaza where you asked for my sources I meticulously fact check authors making an argument I agree with (I don't have time to pursue the same standards with things everything else). If you do this also Paul could you provide some credible sources (i.e not merely propaganda websites and talk radio rants) backing up your facts? I would be really interested in reviewing the historical record here since it does conflict with everything (credible) I have previously read.

Paul said...

'And I don't really want to refight the 1948 war. There is already an extensive documentary record available. It is fairly widely accepted by serious historians (both Zionist and anti-Zionist) that Palestine was ethnically cleansed to make way for a Jewish state.'

No it is not. The matter is disputed and several Arab sources have stated that the Arabs left their homes at the behest of their leaders. As to credible sources you have read Martin Gilbert and Bernard Lewis. There are substantial and credible sources that back this argument. However I will concede that other sources can be used to maintain over arguments. The reason my tone was sarcastic is that the issue is not as cut and dried as you maintain. Even if the Arabs were ethnically cleansed. That would not necessarily support an argument in favour of their automatic return. Of course refugees should be supported. But the proposal (advanced solely on behalf the Palestinian Arabs and even then the case is flawed) that all refugees should return home even after several generations would create serious issues across the globe. For instance:

1. Should Germans return to Poland (what was once East Prussia).

2. Should protestant Britons 'return' to Ireland after the 1920's.

3. More relevantly should Serbs 'return' to Kosovo. They've been kicked out after NATO sided with the KLA in 1999.

Of course for all of the above arguments for and against can be found. The issue is not as cut and dried as you maintain. Or is it and do only 'Palestinians' have the privilege of returning to lands owned by their grand parents? Why not Germans, Britons or more recently Serbs?

Paul said...

With regards to sources Re Islam. I quoted the Guardian, ICM and also Ed Hussein a British Muslim. Hardly right wing Americans.

Young Activist said...

Paul, your main source, the one you copy and pasted from was the American Thinker, do you really take that website seriously? I mean I don't think I've ever said that Z-Magazine, for example, is a reliable source. This isn't about differing opinions, it is about basic issues of reliability. And Bernard Lewis is more of a propagandist than serious intellectual. Did you know he has denied the Armenian Genocide? As for Martin Gilbert he is also a better propagandist than historian. This is a view share by Benny Morris, who in spite of being an ardent Zionist and a champion of ethnic cleansing, is an honest an outstanding historian.

Now, as I have said I support the right to return of the Palestinian not because they are Palestinians, but because they have been ethnically cleansed. That is applicable in all cases not just to the Palestinians. Search Diego Garcia or Jewish refugees on my blog and you will find I have always supported that right. Of course there are limitations, (i.e 2,000 years is a little too long), but for those who remain displaced I see no disinterested argument against their return.

Arab leaders suggested the population evacuate the areas where fighting was taking place, but only on a temporary basis, as even your source suggests. I think that is fairly standard and responsible for leaders to encourage the evacuation of civilians from fighting, and it hardly legitimizes ethnic cleansing and the denial of the right of return.

Paul said...

'Arab leaders suggested the population evacuate the areas where fighting was taking place, but only on a temporary basis, as even your source suggests.'

You finally admit it. The Arab intention was for these individuals to return once they had kicked the Jews out. To strangle the Jewish state at birth and ignore what was an equitable UN sponsored agreement.

On sources I take it we will never agree what makes a good source. However as primary sources I suggested Lewis and Gilbert. Secondary sources included the Arab league and UK High Commission but never mind. It strikes me as plainly absurd to suggest that the third generation descendents of one time refugees should be allowed home. Not least as this proposition is only applied to Palestinians. The onus should be on settling them where they are. This is in fact the standard solution to refugee problems in modern times.

Young Activist said...

That much, that Arab leaders wanted to evacuate civilians from fighting is not controversial, but that is standard in a war, it does not absolve Israel of ethnically cleansing Palestinians, which they certainly did, there is an extensive historical record among Israeli historians if you would care to review it.

There was no attempt to strangle a U.N agreement, there was no U.N agreement, only a U.N mandate for the Palestinians to forfeit a huge chunk of their historic homeland, the U.N has no more legitimacy here than it does to order any other people to leave their homes, and the Palestinians were no less justified in rejecting it than any other people would be.

The question of sources is an academic question, not a political one, I don't think you see this distinction. For example, you consider a man who has been actively involved in genocide denial a reliable historian, hardly a claim I would think you make if the genocide was the Holocaust, that is indicative of political bias, you consider a man branded a propagandist by historians sharing his political outlook a reliable source, you consider Daniel Pipes who, as I have demonstrated in this article, is more bigot than historian a reliable source, these are hardly sources you would accept if there conclusion differed from your preconceived conclusions, I doubt for example that you would accept Michael Moore or Sherman Skolcnick as reliable sources, though it would appear you would if their "research" favored your conclusions.

As for refugees, why Paul can Jews, from anywhere in the world immigrate to Israel on the basis of a generally dubious claim to being descended from refugees from 2,000 years ago, but Palestinians, some of whom were born in present-day Israel, and all of whom remain displaced because of racist Israeli policies cannot? It would seem their claim to the right of return is much stronger. And as I have previously said and will repeat, this not something applied only to Palestinians, once again please search my blog for Diego Garcia and Jewish refugees (which I believe I have addressed in the article you are responding to).
It seems the urge to resettle Palestinian refugees on the part of Zionists is more out of a desire to delegitimize their suffering than out of any genuine humanitarian concern, as made obvious by their complete disregard for abuses of Palestinian human rights by Israel and their complete silence on ongoing ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem.