Skip to comments.Refugees Forever: A Global Issue, Penalty of Aggression, Transfer: Not a Solution (1st of 3 parts)
Posted on 02/08/2003 5:50:40 AM PST by SJackson
Understanding the roots of the problem
Wars produce refugees. The humanitarian imperative is obviously to settle refugees as quickly and as safely as possible. And yet, in the case of the 650,000 Palestinian Arabs who left Israel before and during the War of Independence in 1948, the international community has colluded with the Arab world in doing the exact opposite: For the past half-century, there has been a deliberate refusal to resettle Palestinian refugees within the Arab world. Instead, the Palestinian and Arab leadership have condemned these people and their descendants to poverty and misery in the UNRWA-run camps that offer little hope of a better life.
This sore and tragic problem can and must be solved, because the longer it takes to arrive at a solution, the more its alarming dimensions will multiply. In this booklet, compiled and written by Eliyahu Tal, the facts - as opposed to the myths - behind the creation of the Palestinian refugee question; the fate of the Arab world's Jewish communities following Israel's creation; and comparisons with other world conflicts that spawned refugee problems, are presented in a clear and concise manner. There is a consensus, spreading from the Israeli Right to the Left, that there can be no right of return to their 1948 homes for Palestinian refugees, even in the context of a full peace accord between Israel and the Arab world. First and foremost, such a return would threaten the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, as within the space of one generation, the Jewish majority within Israel would be lost. As Tal points out, Israel has changed over the last half century. The villages to which these refugees demand to return no longer exist.
In the present war in which we find ourselves against the Palestinians, brought about in no small part by their refusal to accept that there can be no right of return, it is important for all to understand the roots of this issue and the justness of Israel's stance.
We at The Jerusalem Post consider the publication of this supplement our contribution towards finding a solution.
Chairman of the Board
I-Refugees - A Global Issue
The Palestinians are neither the first nor the last population to become refugees. This condition is the inevitable outcome of tragic conflict - and the 20th century alone saw refugees on an epic scale due to its numerous conflicts. Tribal feuds, ethnic and religious clashes and full-scale wars have always resulted in the forced displacement of populations, usually as the only alternative to violent death. The more bitter and drawn out the fighting, the more numerous and scarred the refugees left amid the ruins.
Unique about the Palestinian refugee problem is that it has been allowed - even forced - to continue and to grow. Every other major refugee group has been resettled within a generation.
Of the approximately 135 million refugees created over the last century, only the Palestinians have retained this dismal, nationless status. Thus, while a few decades ago they constituted less than 5% of the total number of refugees, they are today the biggest refugee group, at 17% of some 24 million worldwide.
International attempts to solve refugee crises have met with mixed results.
To a limited degree, international intervention forces in the Balkans and Rwanda have restored refugees to their place of origin. In most cases, however, they have successfully settled elsewhere in their homelands, or found haven in other countries.
After World War II, for example, the US stepped in to contain Europe's economic tailspin, its Marshal Aid Plan resurrecting Germany's industry and allowing for the absorption of German refugees. German towns which had been conquered were renamed (Danzig became Gdansk, Konigsberg became Kaliningrad, etc.) to ensure that those who had left accepted their new reality.
As Pakistan broke off from India, Muslims crossed to the latter and Hindus to the former in a voluntary population transfer which, with the exception of Kashmir, proved largely successful. This method was first tested in 1922, when the League of Nations - predecessor to the UN - decreed that a territorial war between Turkey and Greece in Asia Minor be settled by having the sides exchange nationals and finalize their border.
Israel - tiny, arid, and practically devoid of natural resources - has done its utmost to take in and rehabilitate refugees, multiplying its population by eight between 1948 and 2000. Many of these new arrivals were Jews who had survived the horrors of the Holocaust. Another 800,000 had fled anti-Israel hostility in their native Arab countries, where their property, valued at tens of billions of dollars, was confiscated.
How can it be, then, that the Palestinian refugees have been denied resettlement? Is this a tragic oversight, or devious design? And who is to blame?
The Sad Paradox
In 1947, while Britain was disengaging from Palestine, it was also withdrawing from India, leading to the birth of independent Pakistani and Indian states. Whereas the Arab- Israeli conflict created hundreds of thousands of refugees, the Indians and Pakistanis wisely agreed to transfer millions of their people across the border in order to defuse ethnic and religious tensions. India sent Muslims to Pakistan, which in turn sent Hindus to India. Both states granted citizenship to these refugees.
The much smaller - and perhaps even more easily solvable - problem of Arab refugees is a sad paradox, in that it has cost the Western world so many billions of dollars in humanitarian aid that only perpetuates the refugees' plight, and has monopolized its media attention for over half a century, when alternatives in refugee transfers such as the one between India and Pakistan have proven effective.
Excerpted from The Arabs in History (Oxford University Press)
II-The Penalty of Aggression
The Arab lobby has always blamed Israel for the Palestinian problem.
The blame game
The Palestinian refugees are victims, yes - but not of Israel. Rather, they are the victims of wars launched - ostensibly for them - by the Arab states, but for which they pay the price. They are the victims, effectively, of Arab aggression against Israel.
"Had the Palestinians accepted the UN [partition] resolution instead of waging an aggressive war, there would have been no refugees.... The initial refugee problem of 1948 was exacerbated when Egypt and Syria launched the Six Day War.... Never before in history have those who lost wars of aggression been deemed equal partners in the negotiation, and for good reason," writes legal expert Prof. Alan Dershowitz of Harvard University. The "good reason," of course, is that aggressors should not have incentives for perpetrating acts of aggression.
Dershowitz notes the unabated hostility toward Israel demonstrated by Palestinians over the years, as exemplified by their conspicuous support for Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War.
"Over the course of the conflict the Palestinians ... continue to play the violence card as part of their negotiating strategy. Indeed, the major bargaining chip they bring to the table is the threat of renewed violence if they don't get their way. Another chip has been the one- sided refusal of the UN to condemn them for their aggression and terrorism.
"There must be a price paid for starting and losing wars... Aggressors should be made to absorb refugees created by their aggression."
Prelude to World War II:
In the ill-fated Munich Pact signed with Hitler in 1938, Britain's Chamberlain surrendered to Germany's demand to annex the Sudetenland, a part of Czechoslovakia, inhabited by Germans for centuries. The Nazis soon occupied the whole country, and then invaded Poland.
Liberated by the Allies in 1945, the Czechs regained the Sudetenland, expelling 2.5 million of its ethnic Germans to Germany as authorized at the Potsdam Conference.
There is a parallel between the German Sudets and the Palestinian refugees - except that the latter refuse to accept the universal code that aggressors must pay for their acts.
A final agreement between the Germans and the Czechs was signed in December 1946, recognizing that the German Sudets were expelled on the understanding that they were pro-Nazi and, as such, enemies of the Czechs. Both sides agreed that the German Sudets would receive neither compensation nor apology. During the ensuing Cold War, the descendants of these Germans demanded to return to their "ancestral homeland" - but in vain.
Another example of international justice following WWII is the decision arrived at by Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill at the Potsdam Conference. The three agreed that Germany should compensate Poland for attacking and ravaging the country, by ceding sizable territory to it.
A "cooperation and good neighborhood" agreement was signed by the Republic of Poland and the Federal Government of Germany, denying the right of return to the millions of German refugees who had fled with the retreating Nazi army. It was also agreed that no restitution would be paid for abandoned properties.
Where is the German PLO?
The line between past and present was drawn, and Stettin, once the proud capital of Teutonic Pomerania, became the major Polish city of the region.
And of course, there has never been a Teutonic PLO, or "Pomeranian Liberation Organization." The only existing PLO is the Palestinian Liberation Organization, founded in Cairo in 1964 with pan-Arab support.
The code of penalty for aggression has been applied not only to mighty Germany but also to smaller countries who had gotten on the wrong bandwagon, such as Finland and Hungary.
Finland - In 1939 the Soviet Union invaded the small Finnish democracy. Despite courageous resistance, the Finns were defeated and forced to cede the Isthmus of Karelia to the Russians. In an attempt to recover lost territory, the Finns joined with the Germans, who invaded Russia in 1941. Joint Finnish/German forces recaptured the isthmus.
However, at the Paris Conference in 1947, Finland was forced to relinquish Karelia (which comprised one-eighth of its total area) and to pay the Russians a considerable war indemnity.
Moreover, 400,000 refugees were reabsorbed into Finland, without any international financial aid.
Hungary - The principle of penalty for aggression was also applied to Hungary who, during part of World War I fought on the side of Germany as a member of the dual Austro- Hungarian Monarchy. The war lost, sizeable Hungarian territories were ceded to Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia.
In World War II, Hungary once again chose the wrong side and fought with the Axis Powers. She was ultimately overrun by the Russians, and at the Treaty of Paris, was ordered to pay $3 billion in reparations to the Soviet Union.
III-Transfer: Not a Solution
There is a difference between voluntary and involuntary transfer.
A number of historic precedents point to transfer as a viable solution to territorial dispute, provided it is carried out by mutual consent.
In an effort to end the Balkan Wars at the beginning of the 19th century, Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey agreed to exchange their minority populations in the Treaties of San Stephano (1878), Constantinople (1913) and Neuilly (1919). However, the major exchange of population (transfer) took place between Greece and Turkey in order that a permanent border could be set between the longtime enemies.
Endorsed by the Treaty of Lausanne (1922) and drawn up by the League of Nations, the transfer agreement fixed the terms by which the international community could restore ties with Turkey, which had been defeated in WWI. One of the major signatories was Elefterios Venizelos, Greece's elder statesman, six times the country's prime minister.
Altogether 1.25 million Greeks from Asia Minor and Eastern Thrace were transferred to Greece, and nearly 500,000 Turks, primarily from Macedonia and Epirus, were transferred to Turkey. This project was organized and supervised by the celebrated Norwegian Arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen, winner of the 1922 Nobel Prize for his humanitarian activities.
Grasimos Apostolatos, former minister in the Greek government, presently head of The Society for the Study of Greek History, admits in his Annual Report (Athens, 2001) that the project of transferring some 1.25 million Greeks to their ancestral homeland was a painful one, but only such a radical solution could end the conflict. It took a few years for the integration of the displaced persons into the local economy, but the ultimate result was positive, and Greece emerged from the experience stronger and more prosperous.
Henry Morgenthau, the first president of the Refugee Settlement Committee, described the arrival in Salonica of a boatload of Greek refugees from Turkey. "I saw 7000 people crowded in a ship that would have been taxed with a normal capacity of 2000. They were packed like sardines upon the deck - a squirming, writhing mass of human misery." (This has an eerie parallel with the arrival of ships to Israel, bearing waves of Holocaust survivors, including the famous "Exodus," prevented from docking by the British.)
The India-Pakistan venture
The largest population transfer yet was effected when Pakistan split from India on August 15, 1947. Eight million Hindus and six million Muslims were involved, and perhaps a million died in a painful but necessary operation that had broad international support. Despite the enormous number of refugees and the relative poverty of both nations, no international relief organizations were established to aid in the resettlement. (It was a grave historical error that the area of Kashmir, in dispute today, was overlooked, thus leaving a festering wound in the relations between the two countries.)
The refugees resettled, and a new generation grew up considering itself native to its new home - both Indians and Pakistanis having made the pragmatic decision to start afresh. Pakistan's President, Gen. Pervez Musharaf, was one such refugee, having been been born in New Delhi and transferred to Pakistan at the age of four, along with his family.
The idea of "transfer" had been nurtured by leading statesmen even before 1942. Many Western and Arab leaders alike favored transferring the Arab population of Palestine to neighboring states.
In 1927, Iraq's King Faisal I spoke of "Muslim Arab peasants from Syria and Palestine" coming to cultivate the vast expanses of unoccupied Iraqi land.
By 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt told his Secretary of the Treasury, Henry Morgenthau Jr., "I would provide land for the Arabs in some other part of the Middle East... There are lots of places to which you could move the Arabs."
In 1945, Herbert Hoover proposed the recovery of some 3 million acres of land in Iraq for the resettlement of the Arabs of Mandatory Western Palestine. "Palestine itself," he wrote, "could be turned over to Jewish immigrants in search of a homeland."
In 1947, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Sa'id suggested exchanging the Jewish population of Baghdad for an equal number of Israeli Arabs.
Not a viable solution
In view of the conditions presently prevailing in the region, voluntary transfer by mutual consent is not a viable solution in the foreseeable future for several reasons:
- The Jerusalem Post, November 20, 2001, Moshe Kohn, quoting International Proposals to transfer Arabs from Palestine 1895/1947, Ktav 1988
- Valuing Palestinian Losses in Today's Dollars, Atif Kubursi
- Palestine Refugees and The Right of Return (Pluto Press, London, 2001)
- The General Situation in Asia and the Far East (UN, Hong Kong and London, 1957)
- The New York Times, August 15, 1947
- Chutzpah (Little, Brown; 1991)
Why? The whole purpose of the refugees has always been for them to one day get to take over Israel and have the Jewish Israelis treading water in the Mediterranean. That's the dream they've been fed for over 50 years, while being handed scraps from other Arabic countries who, for all their pious rants, wouldn't accept them in their own countries on a bad bet. They want the Palestinians to stay as useful idiots, and are using them in the most cynical way possible.