Dan Ehrlich

Jordan’s Example: Arab Citizens, Not Refugees

There are more than 14 million Palestinian Arabs living as refugees in various Middle East nations, more than two million in the Gaza Strip. So protests against genocide there by Israel is one of the many absurdities of the poorly educated world in which we live.

But, more to the point, there shouldn’t be 14 million Palestinian refugees. And there wouldn’t be if the UN had done its job properly and the Arab nations where most live, had fulfilled their moral and legal obligations.

These 14.3 million are descendents of the 1948 exodus of about 800,000 Arabs from the new state of Israel. An exodus that didn’t have to happen with the Jews of Israel even then seeking a fruitful and peaceful relationship with the existing Arab population.

As stated clearly in Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Statehood:

“WE APPEAL – in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months – to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.

WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land.

The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.”

The second and third generation Arab citizens of Israel, numbering 2.5 million today, heeded that plea and are living better lives than many other Arab populations. Most Palestinians didn’t take the offer and have been living in permanent refugee camps since 1948.

A major part of talk about an eventual Palestinian state centers around the fate of the world’s most unique refugee population. That’s because they shouldn’t be refugees any more.

By the UN’s own stats, there are few of the original 1948 refugees still alive. Virtually all the 14.3 million Palestinians were born in Arab countries, nations that where they should have automatic citizenship.

Yet, by official Arab League Law, these people have been denied citizenship in most of the host Arab nations in which they were born. This is a unique situation, where people of the same ethnic and religious group as the Palestinians keep descendents of Palestinians refugees stateless. The original and long held rationale being they would return to what is now Israel.

Oddly, even the Mizrahi Jews living in Arab nations pre 1948 had more rights than today’s Palestinian Arabs.

To make matters worse the UNRWA has gone along with this situation, treating second and third generation Palestinians as refugees, not citizens of Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, etc. One exception, Jordan, by the sheer numbers of Palestinians in camps there, was forced to confer citizenship on those people.

Before any Palestinian state can be discussed, all nations harboring refugee descendents must offered citizenship in those nations.

The plight of these people as worn-out political pawns continues to be outrageous. And that outrage is magnified by the hope of among those host nations that most of those so-called refugees now will migrate to an eventual Palestinian state.

But, the hope of such a state being formed in the near future has a small chance of reality. For starters, there needs to be a united Palestinian entity committed to living in peace with Israel. Thanks in part to Israel PM Netanyahu’s work keeping the West Bank and Gaza ideologically divided, this initial requirement doesn’t exist.

The only growing thing today is the numbers of stateless Palestinians in Arab lands.

About the Author
A London based American journalist with a long wide ranging career spanning print, radio TV and online news.