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Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Netanyahu Distorts The Palestinian Refugees Problem
By Rami G. Khouri This commentary was published in The Daily Star on 08/06/2011
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu showed his great deception skills again on Sunday.
He stated that the clashes on the occupied Syrian Golan Heights that day proved that the Palestinians were not interested in a solution based on 1967 borders, but rather sought a solution based on 1948 borders.
For once there was a nugget of truth in his comments, because he correctly mentioned the importance of 1948 in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Netanyahu was being typically deceitful to say the Palestinians want a settlement based on the 1948 borders – for Palestinians and all Arabs have repeatedly affirmed that we seek a comprehensive peace agreement based on the 1967 borders. A fair and lasting accord, however, must resolve the two key issues that emanate from 1948: the Palestinian need to have their refugee status morally acknowledged and legally redressed through a combination of available options; and the Israeli need to be formally accepted by the Arab world as a legitimate state in which Jews can live in peace and recognition, and enjoy normal relations and security in their own national homeland.
Netanyahu distorted the Arab position and played on Western sympathies for post-Holocaust Jewry by insinuating that Palestinians want to flood Israel with refugees and thus effectively wipe out the Jewish-majority Israeli state. He was speaking after Palestinian and Syrian demonstrators Sunday approached the Syrian-Israeli border in a symbolic gesture to affirm the Palestinian right of return, to which Israel responded by its common behavior of shooting Arabs who challenge it, in this case killing over 20 protesters.
This followed what happened three weeks ago when Palestinian refugees walked toward the Israeli border on four fronts, dramatizing their determination to struggle non-violently for their national rights, including the right to return to their homes on the basis of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194, which was passed in December 1948.
This is where the crucial link to 1948 comes in. Yes, we Palestinians and Arabs want a resolution of the conflict on the basis of two key aspects of 1948: the acknowledgment by Israel of Zionist responsibility for a large share of the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem in 1947-1948 (the 750,000 original refugees now are some 4.6 million), and a negotiated agreement on refugee rights based on Resolution 194 and the 2002 Arab peace plan. The critical aspect of the 2002 peace plan is its offer to seek “[a]chievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194.”
An “agreed upon” solution to the refugee problem means one that both Israelis and Palestinians accept. In conjunction with the Arab peace plan’s conditional recognition of Israel within its pre-June 1967 borders this means unambiguously that Israel will neither be dismantled nor will a flood of Palestinians remove the Jewish majority in Israel that exists today.
The entire world accepts such a path to a comprehensive peace accord. However, Netanyahu, with his disdain for facts, insists on presenting lies and distortions that aim only to maintain Jews and Israelis in a state of perpetual fear.
The progressive Israeli columnist Gideon Levy, writing in the Haaretz newspaper this week, was more accurate and ethical in understanding how 1967 and 1948 connect.
He observed: “1948 received a donkey’s burial in Israel; there has never been a genuine public discussion of it here, but its spirit never died for a moment in Palestine and the Palestinian diaspora. Its survivors, the refugees and their grandchildren carry its memory and their pain to this day, just as the Jews carry their own memories and pain. That should have been acknowledged long ago.”
Levy continued, “We can arrest and interrogate him as much as we like, but the sight of the young Palestinian from Syria [who crossed the border fence three weeks ago and] who came to Jaffa to visit his ancestral home was an extremely impressive sight in the history of the conflict. Maybe now we will begin to understand its roots and solutions.
The time has come to remove the abscess and air out the wound. We’re not talking about an impossible turning back of the wheel of history, about the return of millions and the end of the State of Israel, as the right is trying to scare us into believing. We’re talking about understanding the other side and granting some of its desires – accepting moral responsibility for 1948, a solution to the refugee problem, and of course, that very minimum, the 1967 borders.”
The Israeli prime minister defiles his own people when he continues to lie about Arab political positions and perspectives, and stokes frenzied Jewish fears of national oblivion. The truth is that a peace accord based on a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders allows movement into the future, and a moral and political resolution of the deeds of 1948 allows us to close the chapter of the injustices, crimes and pains of the past.