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Posts tagged ‘refugees’

Israel keeps making, not taking, more refugees

Long before Syrian refugees found their way to Europe, the war-torn country’s neighbours have been hosting a staggering number of displaced persons – with one notable exception.

Syria has five neighbours: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, and Israel (with the latter occupying the Golan Heights since 1967). According to recent figures, Turkey currently hosts 1.8 million Syrian refugees, Lebanon a further 1.17 million, Jordan around 630,000, and Iraq some 250,000.

Israel, however, with a GDP per capita almost double that of Turkey and five times as much as Jordan, has not accepted a single one. Read more

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Nakba Day is not just about remembering – it is about the Palestinians’ return

67 years ago, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine unfolded through expulsions, massacres, and demolitions. Hundreds of villages were emptied, then levelled; centres of Palestinian urban life and community disappeared; columns of refugees took flight at the barrel of a gun.

A society was dismembered and fragmented. In the months and years after 1948, the army of the State of Israel, formed from the militias who had occupied and ‘cleansed’ village after village, used bullets and landmines to keep out the refugees trying to return home. Read more

We need to talk about Israel’s ‘right to exist’

There was outrage last week when the University of Southampton cancelled a forthcoming conference on Israel and international law, ostensibly on the grounds of “health and safety”.

The university had been under pressure from pro-Israel advocacy groups, and organisers have begun legal efforts against what they see as a concession to outside interference and bullying. The story of the campaign to shut down the conference should not, however, distract from why Israel’s supporters found the topics scheduled for discussion so objectionable. Read more

From ethnic cleansing to return: a peace process worthy of the name

This week marks the 66th anniversary of the ethnic cleansing of Miska, a Palestinian village whose roughly 1,000-strong population was expelled in April 1948 by Haganah forces. Located around 10 miles from Qalqilya, Miska boasted 100-200 houses, an elementary school for boys, and a mosque.

The community was targeted and destroyed by pre-Israel Defense Forces (IDF) militias, as part of a policy of “clearing out [the area’s] Arab inhabitants“. The expulsion of the villagers,according to historian Benny Morris, was carried out “with Haganah/IDF General Staff and/or cabinet-level sanction”. Everything was destroyed except the school and the mosque. Read more

Israel as a ‘Jewish’ state will legalise discrimination against Palestinians

As the US-led Israeli-Palestinians peace process heads towards the buffers, one of the core aims and assumptions of the two decade-long negotiations – preserving a Jewish state in the majority of Mandate Palestine – has been forced into the spotlight.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas recognises Israel as a “Jewish state”, a call taken up by other Israeli politicians and lobby groups internationally, has garnered a lot of attention. But ultimately, it is the explicit expression of what has been the implicit assumption of talks since the Oslo process began. Read more

Under pressure: UNRWA facing serious challenges in 2014

At the end of 2013 came a shocking update from Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus – at least 15 Palestinians had died of hunger since September. The grim news was shared by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), whose spokesperson Chris Gunness told French news agency AFP that the conditions in the besieged camp were deteriorating. UNRWA, he said, “have been unable to enter the area to deliver desperately needed relief supplies” since September.

Meanwhile, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, anger at job cuts and budgetary problems has manifested itself in the form of industrial action, hunger strikes and marches by refugee camp popular committees. Read more

Re-shaping Palestinian national identity

Despite the frozen ‘peace process’ – or perhaps in part because of it – there have been a number of interesting developments in the Palestinian political scene in recent years. This includes the emergence of new youth-based groups and actions, as well as a growth in coordination between Palestinians on both sides of the ‘Green Line’. With this context in mind, a new initiative by BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights is instructive for the direction of the conversation amongst Palestinian activists. Read more

What is behind the Israeli mistreatment of African migrants?

The recent anti-African mob violence in Tel Aviv was, sadly, no surprise. Only a few days previously, Prime Minister Netanyahu warned “illegal infiltrators” could threaten the country’s existence “as a Jewish and democratic state”, with Interior Minister Eli Yishai saying that “the migrants are giving birth to hundreds of thousands, and the Zionist dream is dying”. Read more

Why Israel/Palestine needs a new definition of self-determination

Condoleeza Rice’s recently published memoirs contains an interesting passage about Palestine/Israel. Rice relates a conversation she had with Tzipi Livni in March 2004, with the discussion particularly focused on Livni’s concerns regarding the Palestinian refugees’ right of return.

The Israeli politician’s central opposition to the refugees’ return — that it could “change the nature of the State of Israel, which had been founded as a state for the Jews” — is nothing new. But the former Secretary of State’s response is instructive.

I must admit that though I understood the argument intellectually, it struck me as a harsh defense of the ethnic purity of the Israeli state when Tzipi said it. It was one of those conversations that shocked my sensibilities as an American. After all, the very concept of ‘American’ rejects ethnic or religious definitions of citizenship. Moreover, there were Arab citizens of Israel. Where did they fit in? Read more

Turning the ‘right of return’ into reality

After years of marginalisation in the peace process, the Palestinian refugees are back on centre stage.

On May 15, Nakba day, the refugees forced their way on to the news agenda; in the past two weeks, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have been compelled to comment on what has always been so much more than a “final status issue”.

During his remarks in the Oval Office, and in response to an op-ed in The New York Times by Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli PM Netanyahu dismissed the refugees’ right of return as fatal to “Israel’s future as a Jewish state”. But the permanent expulsion of one people to make way for another is a hard sell, which is why Netanyahu and others rely on oft-repeated myths about the refugees. Read more