The refugee problem: Is it resolvable?
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have started once again. Hopefully, despite the many problems which must be resolved, they will end with better results than previous ones.
One of the main problems is that of Palestinian refugees, as they are commonly called. To say it correctly, the people we now call refugees are the descendants of Palestinian Arabs who left Palestine in 1948 during the Arab countries’ aggression against the infant Jewish state of Israel.
Around 700,000 Arabs left, mainly encouraged by the propaganda of Arab countries, which essentially told the Arabs to get out of the way and come back to share the spoil after the Jews are thrown into the sea. During the same time, around 800,000 to 1,000,000 Jews were expelled from Arab countries. They were accepted by their Jewish brethren and became citizens of Israel.
Today, there are close to 5,000,000 descendants of the original Arab refugees. They were denied citizenship in Arab countries by a decision of the Arab League, supposedly to “protect their right of return.” In reality, they were denied citizenship as a ploy for the Arab countries to have one more strategy to destroy Israel.
Putting aside what caused the problem, the problem exists. Here are the approximate numbers of descendants of Palestinian refugees by their places of residence:
West Bank: 780,000
So what are the options to resolve the refugee problem with Israel remaining a Jewish state?
Syria and Lebanon can and should give citizenship to their Arab brethren. Jordanian descendants of Palestinian refugees are already Jordanian citizens and, in reality, Jordan is a Palestinian state. So if negotiations succeed, there will actually be two Palestinian states—the West Bank/Gaza being the second.
The descendants of the original refugees belong to these two Palestinian states. Since Gaza is extremely densely populated, Jordan and the West Bank should offer resettlement to some of Gaza’s residents.
The Arab league should change its “no citizenship” policy so that other Arab countries accept their brethren and offer them citizenship.
Arab countries possess huge masses of land (consider Saudi Arabia, for example) and an influx of people could be beneficial by allowing them to develop vast amounts of presently underdeveloped land.
Countries of emigration like the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, and other European countries should accept some number of Arab refugees. By doing so, these countries will help their ally, Israel, resolve a problem for which it is unjustifiably blamed, and help Jews preserve Israel as a country of their own.
These countries owe it to the Jewish people in return for our great contributions to these countries, and because of their past persecution of the Jews. One should not forget that, before the Holocaust, none of these countries agreed to accept Jewish refugees and, during the war, the allied countries refused to spend ammunition to bomb gas chambers and railroads to death camps—“non-military targets.” Bombing these targets would have saved at least some of our people.
Russia, with its vast Asian lands, can also accept some Arab refugees and benefit from having more people to develop these lands. Jewish people can expect this from Russia in return for the great contributions we made to Russia and remembering the pogroms and anti-Semitism of the past.
The final option is some combination of the other three.
For all of the reasons discussed above, any solution to the refugee problem should be financed by the United Nations, Arab countries, the United States, Germany, other European countries, and Jewish/Israeli contributions.
Maybe the above suggestions are naïve, but there is no doubt that experts can offer more and better ideas to solve the problem while preserving Israel as a Jewish state. Resolving the problem in such a way that Israel remains Jewish is possible if there is good will, which is sometimes not a readily available commodity. If not by good will, these problems must be resolved using common sense, for everybody’s sake.
Arkady Mamaysky is a mechanical engineer who emigrated directly to the United States from the former Soviet Union in 1979. He has visited Israel once, and often twice, during every year since then.