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A ‘humane’ Israel sets conditions for Palestinians fleeing Syria

When it comes to helping victims in far away countries (like Haiti and more), Israel does a great job. Not so great if you happen to be a Palestinian trying to flee the civil war in Syria. 

The Times of Israel reports today that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is giving a cold shoulder to his refugee brethren in Syria, who are under bombardment and suffering casualties as a result of the civil war:

Screenshot Times of Israel

The TOI decided to write this headline, despite the fact that the true headline was written very clearly in the first paragraph (my bold):

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected an Israeli offer to allow Palestinian refugees fleeing Syria to enter the Palestinian territories on condition that they forgo their “right of return” to Israel proper, Abbas told the Egyptian press on Wednesday evening.”

I have yet to read any Israeli official denying this, including the TOI item itself.

Now, first of all, anyone reading the press knows two things: 1) Abbas approached the UN weeks ago asking for its help on the issue; 2) UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has asked surrounding countries for assistance, including Israel. So, the word “offer” in the headline is also misleading, since it is not Israel that initiated an offer, but if anything, is now “agreeing” to a request already made – and with conditions.

But actually, the journalism of the TOI isn’t the story. The story is this: Humane Israel, the same Israel that boasts about how it sends field hospitals to quake disasters before everybody else, now sets conditions (and right on their own border, not thousands of miles away!) for refugees in physical danger of their lives.

The first thing that popped to my mind was how it sounded like a “deal with the devil.” “Sure, we’ll let you in, save your lives – but first, sign here on the dotted line…”

The comparison to that ‘deal with the devil,” who eventually gets the victim’s “soul,” could not be more appropriate considering that the right of return is one of the most cherished, valued principles a Palestinian refugee holds dear to their hearts. Even Abbas, who although said to Channel 2 that he “has no right to live in Safed,” could never agree to imposing such a ridiculous condition on other Palestinians.

If Israel wants to show any kind of humanity, it should let those people through without holding a virtual gun to their heads. God knows they’ve suffered enough already.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Kolumn9

      I am confused. Israel offered the Palestinians entry with the only condition being the same as the one that will accompany any likely future peace deal. If the Palestinians choose to reject it the only logical conclusion is that they prefer dead Palestinians to compromise and that they continue to insist on destroying Israel by flooding it with Arabs.

      Hamas was even more explicit on the matter. They said that Gaza would reject all Palestinian refugees from Syria because it might look like they are using their right of return which according to Hamas is reserved for Israel-proper. Notice that there are no actual conditions from Israel on entry into Gaza since Israel does not control that border.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bab

        Kolumn9 – if Palestinians are going to have to give up the right of return anyway as part of peace negotiations, then whether they do so now is of no consequence.

        The problem with Israel is that it insists that the Palestinians make the necessary concessions (no right of return, recognise Israel as a Jewish state) without making any concessions themselves.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn9

          Nonsense. Israel makes offers and the Palestinians reject them because they can’t compromise on the right of return. Feel free to do your own research in the Palestine Papers in the Palestinian reaction to Olmert’s offers. I did and now I know that every time somebody on the left tells me that the Palestinians were ready for compromise and that a peace treaty was oh-so-close to being signed and Israel was at fault they are completely full of crap. Completely and utterly full of crap. Do your own research.

          Reply to Comment
    2. K9 – I’m confused, too. By your comment. We’re not talking about letting a Safed refugee from Syria go back to Safed. We’re talking about a Safed refugee from Syria going to the West Bank, not to his original home. Why can’t Israel, for the sake of humanity, let him be displaced again, but somewhere a bit safer (for now)?

      Reply to Comment
      • Kolumn9

        Why can’t the Palestinians for the sake of their own people suffering in Syria sign the damned paperwork that everyone knows they are going to eventually sign anyway? Really? It is Israel that is the bad guy here and not the representatives of these people that couldn’t actually give a crap about them except as political pawns? The case of Hamas in Gaza makes this entirely obvious without the obfuscation you have put in place in your article.

        Reply to Comment
        • If the actual fleeing Palestinians have to sign a waiver of “right to return [to Israel],” it is under duress and of no real import. One can be asked to sign understandings to obey the law, report to authorities as a refugee, and the like. But something unrelated to the civil administration of the entering area while breaching a widely held belief has no real standing.

          This is a remarkable example of how the political word games elites (and we at this site) play much as in a video game can nonetheless have potentially disasterous consequences for real people. Your report of Hamas’ stand shows exactly the same thing. If Hamas takes in some of these distressed it in no way implies the “right of return” is being abrogated. It would just mean the leaders of Gaza are acting humanitarianly, for their own self designated people. Israel’s demand is extraneous and meant to humiliate Abbas. And Abbas is trapped in word games of lesser actual harm yet as real as those of these Syrian Palestinians.

          Reply to Comment
    3. Paul

      The stipulation for all refugees is that they go back the their country of origin once it’s safe again. This is just a clarification of that.

      Reply to Comment
      • Eliza

        Paul – but in this case the refugees’ country of origin is Israel. We are not talking about Syrians but Palestinians who have been granted refuge in Syria due to ethnic cleansing practices of Israel. So this condition of Israel is just a mite more than confirmation of the standard practice of refugees obtaining temporary protection and not residency rights.

        Reply to Comment
    4. XYZ

      I think there is an unstated other problem at work here that the Palestinians don’t want to bring up publicly, but it is the fact that the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian population on the West Bank DO NOT WANT AN INFLUX OF PALESTINIAN REFUGEES to their area. They view them as aliens and a large influx would upset the demographic and economic conditions there. The same applied with the old “free passage” route between Gaza and the West Bank. Israel closed it for security reasons but the West Bank Palestinian were happy because they didn’t want Gazans coming in and taking jobs from them since they would work for lower wages. This was reported on in the New York Times at the time Barak was Prime Minister. Gazans speak Arabic with a very distinctive Egyptian accent which stands out in the West Bank and the article pointed out hostilty shown by the local West Bank population to Gazans who were there.
      This works out nice for Abbas, he keeps them out of his turf and he gets to blame Israel for it.

      Reply to Comment
      • tomas barry

        XYZ may have a point. This is a common reaction to refugees, regardless of where they come from. Two years ago black South Africans were attacking and killing black Zimbabwean refugees for fear that they would take their jobs. Indeed, many Ashkenazi Jews were not too happy when Ethiopian Jews or Mizrahi Jews arrived in Israel. So regardless of how much this behaviour over a perceived or real threat to scarce resources is presented as being particular to Palestinians, it is not.

        Reply to Comment
        • Y-Man

          “Indeed, many Ashkenazi Jews were not too happy when Ethiopian Jews or Mizrahi Jews arrived in Israel.” They were more than “not too happy,” the Ashkenazi elite consciously tried to marginalize them.

          Reply to Comment
          • XYZ

            But this same “Ashkenazi elite” brought them to Israel. In 1948 Israel had a population of 600,000 Jews and yet brought in over a million in the next few years, at great expense and effort. Yes, there was an attempt to create a “new Israeli” who would have the values of the secular Ashkenazi elite, but this same elite made great efforts to bring these people in, under very difficult circumstances.

            Reply to Comment
          • tomas barry

            This is a benign assessment of the complex brutal history of how the Mizrahim were treated. They were ‘brought in’ to do the dirty work and boost demographics. That treatment led to the origin of the Israeli Black Panthers. They also went through a process of de-Arabisation where their culture, language, music etc, was distained. This does not equate being welcome, which was the original premise.
            These people were brought (coerced/manipulated) in by tiny minority of any country-its politicians, and not its overall population, who, like in every society in the world, including Israel’s, has many people who reject newcomers.
            XYZ is either in deep denial or woefully lacking knowledge of the Mizrahim experience. It would be educational to speak with Yael ‘Yuli’ Tamir.

            Reply to Comment
      • Y-Man

        it’s not hard for Abbas to blame Israel for the situation, given the entire fucking reason they’re refugees in the first place is Israel.

        Reply to Comment
        • rsgengland

          Yes, they are refugees just like the million odd Jewish refugees that were ETHNICALLY CLEANSED by the Arab/Muslims in the wave of Antisemitism that swept Middle East/North Africa, before and after 1948.
          There can never be peace without sorting the refugee issue, both the Arab Jews and the Arab Muslims.

          Reply to Comment
      • I do not know the actual number of refugees exterior to the Bank and Gaza, but I suspect it is so large that, given the fragile nature of both Ganan and Bank economies, an inflex of most of these refugees would be prohibitive. Under the best fantasy Two State solution, I suspect many to most of this class would wallow in neglect. I think the “right of return” has become a dangerous fantasy hope upon which, in the event of a true agreement, would become a conceptual refuge of rump violent resistence. I don’t like this. I’m not taking sides. I just fear it is the hard political economic reality.

        Reply to Comment
    5. @paul – what is their country of origin?
      .
      And let’s say their country of origin is Syria, why not sign a document saying “I will return to Syria?” Why insist on giving up on ROR??

      Reply to Comment
    6. sh

      “considering that the right of return is one of the most cherished, valued principles a Palestinian refugee holds dear to their hearts.”

      It is not really “one of” and has nothing to do with hearts. It is the *principal* principle that can resolve the situation. And Israel, by constantly shucking off any suggestion of a responsibility to participate in its resolution, is, apart from causing unnecessary and prolonged suffering, forgoing any possibility of peace with the environment to which it sees itself umbilically connected.

      Discussing RoR freaks Israel out because it is the siamese twin of our LoR. And you have to deal with the one if you want to save the other or accept both as one unit. In other words nothing but discussion that leads to a concrete plan will solve our problem with each other. Israel’s persistent refusal to discuss it puts it into situations such as the one above that stymie innate humanism. So sad.

      XYZ, the accent and vocabulary of different Palestinians towns can be different from each other but none have problems understanding each other (nor do Bostonians and Brooklyners, I imagine) or bear particular animosity to each other. There are a variety of accents in Gaza alone because of the different places of origin of its inhabitants. Since you raised the issue, here’s a blog on that subject and others that I found interesting and even personally evocative: http://48refugee.blogspot.co.il/2013/01/refugee-culture.html
      After all, how different is that from diaspora Jewish refugee accents and customs and the dilemma of trying to hold onto something that has vanished via the vanishing last generation to experience it?

      Reply to Comment
      • Sh

        Thanks for that link! By the way, don’t try to reason with XYZ. He is incorrigible.

        Reply to Comment
    7. Vittorio

      Sh:
      “don’t try to reason with XYZ. He is incorrigible.”

      This is a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Arieh

      “And let’s say their country of origin is Syria, why not sign a document saying “I will return to Syria?” Why insist on giving up on ROR??”

      Hmmmmm, let me think about it for a second.

      Ummmmm, errrr, maybe because they claim a right of return to Israel proper and Israel does not want them to?

      Reply to Comment
      • Arieh, you can say errrrrrr and hmmmmmm and ummmmmmmmm as much as you like. It doesn’t make your comment look any less ridiculous and patronizing and stupid as it already it is.

        Reply to Comment
        • Arieh

          nsttnocontentcomment

          Reply to Comment
          • Arieh

            “When it comes to helping victims in far away countries (like Haiti and more), Israel does a great job. Not so great if you happen to be a Palestinian trying to flee the civil war in Syria.”

            Reminder:
            Countries like Haiti and more have not declared themselves to be the enemies of Israel.

            Reminder:
            The Palestinians declared themselves to be the sworn enemies of Israel. And showed with their actions that they mean it.

            Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            The Zionists early on declared they wanted the “strangers” out of Palestine and showed with their actions that they meant it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kiwi

            “The Zionists early on declared they wanted the “strangers” out of Palestine and showed with their actions that they meant it”

            No, David Irving, they did not. In 1948, the Zionists accepted UN GA resolution 181. The Palestinians were the ones to reject it. They rioted and they threatened to drive the Jews into the sea.

            Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            p.s. Abbas of all people should know Palestine did not have a quasi-government organization compared to the Jewish Agency; the Arab Higher Committee did little more than represent Palestine at the Arab League and issue commands through local committees that were usually not heeded. So how exactly were the Palestinians supposed to implement partition even if they accepted it? Most villages put up no resistance against the Haganah as it was, so if the Haganah leadership wanted partition that badly they could have enforced it. Instead, they took every bit of the country they could freely snatch up.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kiwi

            “So how exactly were the Palestinians supposed to implement partition even if they accepted it?”

            Irrelevant. They did not accept it. So your original assertion was false.

            Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            Okay, Flavius Josephus. The Zionist movement was over 60 years old by 1948. Here’s an early example of a Zionist figure proposing transfer:

            “In May 1914, to note one example, 255 he submitted his plan for the transfer of Arabs from Palestine to Syria. In a letter to Dr. Victor
            Jacobson256 he wrote: “We are considering a parallel Arab colonization. Thus, we are planning to buy land in the regions of Homs,257 Aleppo etc. which we will sell under easy terms to those Palestinian fellahin who have been harmed by our land purchases.”258 Ruppin to Jacobson
            [Bloom 363]”

            http://www.tau.ac.il/tarbut/tezot/bloom/EtanBloom-PhD-ArthurRuppin.pdf

            And this oft-cited remark by Herzl: “We must expropriate gently the private property on the state assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it employment in our country. The property owners will come over to our side. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly. Let the owners of the immoveable property believe that they are cheating us, selling us things for more than they are worth. But we are not going to sell them anything back.”

            Of course, this wasn’t empty talk. Early Zionist settlements took land from villages (i.e. Petach Tikva from Yahuddiya) and evicted peasants altogether (al-Fula, Shajara, the Druze from Metulla). Whenever it was possible, the settlers would try to exclude Arabs from the labor market, which was the point of the kibbutzim.

            Now, the declaration of the Israeli state mentions the UN partition, but that’s the funny thing about words and actions, they don’t always line up. By 15 May, there were already operations conducted outside the “Jewish state” boundary in the areas of Acre and Jerusalem as well as Jaffa which despite being on the “Jewish” side of the partition was assigned to the Arab state. Villages on both sides of the partition were depopulated, usually as a result of mortar fire followed by dynamiting the houses. (This can all be learned reading Benny Morris, not David Irving).

            Although Morris also defends the actions of the Zionist paramilitaries during 1948 as a response to Arab violence, he also concedes that transfer was a prerequisite for a Jewish state in the region, making him a bit confused on this point. What the early Zionist leaders were willing to accomplish through economic coercion, their immediate successors completed more thoroughly through military attacks.

            Reply to Comment
          • Kiwi

            Irrelevant.

            The Zionists DID accept the partition (the two state solution).

            So your original assertion was wrong.

            Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            For the sake of argument, let’s pretend they were going to accept any partition plan and hold to it. They still wanted the Arabs gone from their side of the country. That was very clear in discussing the Peel Commission plan:

            DBG at Zurich: “In many parts of the country new settlement will not be possible without transferring the Arab peasantry… It is important that this plan comes from the Commission and not from us… Transfer is what will make possible a comprehensive settlement programme.”

            DBG at a Jewish Agency meeting: “I support compulsory transfer. I don’t see in it anything immoral.”

            Menachem Ussishkin: “We cannot start the Jewish state with… half the population being Arab… Such a state cannot survive even half an hour. It [i.e., transfer] is the most moral thing to do… I am ready to come and defend… it
            before the Almighty…”

            For good measure, Ruppin said at this time: “I do not believe in the transfer of individuals. I believe in the transfer of entire villages.” [cited in Bloom and Morris] His thinking didn’t evolve much from the 1914 quote posted above.

            They wanted the strangers out of Palestine. QED.

            Reply to Comment
          • Vittorio

            “For the sake of argument, let’s pretend they were going to accept any partition plan and hold to it.”

            For the sake of argument, quit while you are behind.

            You made an assertion and Kiwi proved you wrong on every count.

            Stop twisting and turning and accept that you were wrong.

            Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            “You made an assertion and Kiwi proved you wrong on every count.”

            Well, no, he didn’t. He called me wrong. Big difference between calling and proving.

            Reply to Comment
          • Vittorio

            He called you wrong?

            Really?

            Lets try again:

            He PROVED you wrong. Even Abbas admitted that the Palestinians made a mistake in 1948 by rejecting UN Resolution 181. In other words, the two state solution.

            But you claimed that Israel rejected it. And you were wrong.

            You want to argue about it more?

            Reply to Comment
    9. JKNoReally

      Likewise, Abbas puts the immediate, humanitarian concern below the nationalist one. Which side is setting the “condition” depends entirely on whether you believe in “right of return” or not. If you don’t, then its meaningless for refugees to disclaim it, and no condition at all. Your headline is just as misleading at the one at the Times.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Rauna

      It’s clear that the option (ROR)is not dead yet. Thanks Bibi…

      Reply to Comment
      • Arieh

        But every time that I argue with a “progressive” they keep on claiming that Abbass is not insisting on a large number of Palestinians returning to Israel proper and the only impediment to a peace deal are the settlements. They say the ROR is not an impediment.

        Then we get this bit of news. It seems that as always, not everything is as it seems.

        Reply to Comment
        • The “right of return” is nullified by settlement expansion on two counts: 1) The settlements leave less land for return into the supposed Palestinian State or territory; 2) Settlement expansion as such implies all land is Israel’s, nullifying a right of return everywhere, as a State that places settlements where others live is not going to allow “aliens” to live within its borders. Expanding settlements, in principle, nullify the negotiating stand of Palestinians in toto–and that is why even the US is opposed to them.

          Reply to Comment
          • Kolumn9

            That is the point. The Palestinians hold entirely unrealistic ideas of what they can achieve in negotiations in light of their options outside of negotiations. Settlements make this obvious.

            Reply to Comment
    11. Vittorio

      And if the Palestinians do not give up their right of return demand, Israel should not negotiate with them because there cannot possibly be any kind of peace deal unless the Palestinians quit demanding their own Jew free state plus half of the state of the Jewish state.

      Of course if they would be granted THAT wish (which they will not be), in stage two they would take over the whole state. I guess that is what you are angling for don’t you Mr Pollock?

      Reply to Comment
    12. Rauna

      “Countries like Haiti and more have not declared themselves to be the enemies of Israel.”

      Arieh, Try to take one inch of Haitian’s land and see whether they still want to be your friend. The fact is that, if we treat others well then they will treat us well. As simple as that…. simple…

      Reply to Comment
      • Arieh

        “The fact is that, if we treat others well then they will treat us well. As simple as that…. simple…”

        The fact is that even before we Jews reclaimed part of our ancestral homeland, we were not treated well. Not even in Arab countries. So spare me your dubious wisdom.

        Reply to Comment
          • Arieh

            I don’t know what point you are trying to make. But I will play along with you.

            Ask the Mizrahi Jews how many of them would want to return to live in Arab countries. I know that none of the Mizrahi Jews who married into my family would take up your offer.

            Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            The point is that retroactively justifying Zionism by how Jews were treated in Arab countries, and positioning it as a liberation movement for them, falls flat of the reality at the time.

            Reply to Comment
          • Arieh

            The point is that you don’t know what you are talking about Andrew.

            Zionism is notjustified retroactively. The reason why it turned out to be so successful was because prior to Zionism Jews were persecuted and pushed from pillar to post by everyone. Including Arabs.

            No use trying to deny that retroactively, Andrew.

            Reply to Comment
          • andrew r

            Of course I’m not denying that the persecution of Jews in Europe has been used to justify Zionism. However, the colonization of Palestine was not aimed at rescuing Jews. The first aliyah settlements were an economic enterprise, not a refuge from pogroms. And on top of that, the plantation owners even had their turn at persecuting other Jews (The Yemenites).

            The book I linked above spells this out.

            Reply to Comment
          • Arieh

            ” And on top of that, the plantation owners even had their turn at persecuting other Jews (The Yemenites).”

            The Yemenites? Are you sure it wasn’t the pixies? Or the little green men from Mars?

            “The book I read spells this all out”

            Which book? The little green book of conspiracy theories written by your recently deceased friend, Musmmar Gaddafi?

            Keep on reading your books Andrew. And don’t forget to take your medications.

            Wait, I gotta go and do my next dastardly fiendeshly clever Zionist conspiracy.

            Reply to Comment
          • The Trespasser

            Hey, I have some Yemenite spares for sale. Really good prices.

            Also, properly prepared matza is available in small quantities.
            This one is expensive though.

            Reply to Comment
        • Rauna

          OK, you’re treated very badly before and it’s your payback time now. With all the hostilities in the ME the possibility of history to repeat itself can’t be ruled out. I would rather stop this cycle permanently.

          Reply to Comment
          • Arieh

            “I would rather stop this cycle permanently”

            So would I Rauna. So would many of us. But we need to be convinced that we won’t be taken advantage of again.

            The minimum that middle Israel expects from the Palestinians is recognition of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. And relinquishing the Right of Return demand.

            This should preferably be done via a democratically conducted national referendum amongst the Palestinian population. Otherwise some future Palestinian leader would just arbitrarily withdraw any recognition that a current Palestinian leader would make by claiming that he did not have the mandate to do it.

            In any case, this is all academic because clearly Abbas is not willing to make any such agreement.

            So, I am afraid, Rauna that the cycle is set to continue for a while.

            Reply to Comment
    13. Charles-Jerusalem

      But of course, it is better to be raped and die in Syria or in Jordanian refugees camps than signing a paper and be able to join the West Bank and be able to recover with its own people.
      Some call it Politics, some call it the price of freedom. I call it stupid and criminal.
      Abu Mazen and the rest of the arab countries want the Palestinian regufees to remain refugees because it damages Israel. And everything that can damage Israel is good even if it is at the price of the safety of Palestinian refugees.
      The arab countries do not even care about the Syrian refugees, so why would they care about the Palestinian refugees?

      Reply to Comment
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