Rami AbdulRaheem, for Zionism On The Web 13/4/2007
Zionism On The Web thanks Mr AbdulRaheem for this article. It was written and published in the spirit of cooperation between Palestinians and Zionists to increase real understanding of the complexities of the Middle East and highlight the need for a real solution to the problems faced by Palestinian refugees. Such a solution should in our opinion including a two state solution, but as Mr AbdulRaheem highlights, it must also extend beyond that. The problem is not one Israel and the Palestinians can solve alone, nor is it one in which they are the only players. - Andre Oboler, Zionism On The Web
According to the United Nations definition, a "Palestinian refugee" is a person whose "normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict". The definition also include the descendants of these people, regardless of whether they reside in areas designated as refugee camps or in established permanent communities. Using this definition, the number of Palestinian refugees registered with the UN has grown to over four million.
The majority of Palestinian refugees live within 100 miles of the borders of Israel in neighbouring Arab host states. More than half the refugee population lives in Jordan. Approximately 37.7% live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. 15% lives in almost equal numbers in Syria and Lebanon. 260,000 internally displaced Palestinians reside in Israel. The remaining refugee population lives throughout the world, including the rest of the Arab world (from the Gulf States to Egypt). Of the 4 million refugees registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), 33% live inside UNRWA's 59 refugee camps throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
The majority of the refugees in Jordan hold Jordanian citizenship and have integrated themselves into the country's economic and social life.
The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon mostly live in one of 12 refugee camps. Palestinian refugees in Lebanon face many problems. They are not allowed government jobs. They do not have social or civil rights, and they have very limited access to the government's public health and educational facilities. Palestinian refuges in Lebanon are denied access to public social services. The majority rely entirely on UNRWA as the sole provider of education, health and relief and social services. Considered as foreigners, Palestinian refugees are prohibited by law from working in over 70 trades and professions.
Lebanon's discriminatory practices against Palestinians violate international human rights law and according to a 2003 Amnesty International Report, they are in violation of obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
About half of the Palestinian refugees in Syria live in one of 12 refugee camps. The refugees in Syria enjoy employment and education rights, and the government helps maintain the camps. They are denied citizenship but have the same social welfare rights as Syrians. Palestinian refugees in Syria are however subjected to strict political control.
Palestinian refugees who move to the West Bank and Gaza Strip are granted Palestinian citizenship and are treated equally with those Palestinians who were living there before the 1967 war (when this area passed from Jordanian control to Israeli Control before coming under the Palestinian Authority when it was created).
Palestinian refugees in the Gulf emigrated immigrated there more recently, most in the 1960s, in search of work. They were relatively wealthy, but their position was considerably weakened by the Gulf War.
Having lived in Borj AL Barajeneh refugee camp in Beirut, Lebanon most of my life, I want to explain what the Palestinian refugees who live there want, though this may be particular to us, I canít speak for those living else where under different conditions. From my experience of life as a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon and the demands placed on the refugees in Lebanon, I can say that in contradiction to the Arab mediaís propaganda, the majority of the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon would prefer to live in the West (e.g. Europe, USA, or Canada) if they get that opportunity. Most of my friends have immigrated to the West and others are desperate to make their way to Europe and Canada. Hundreds of Palestinian have paid thousands of American dollars to agents in order to find way of getting them in to Europe.
Life in the future Palestinian state will not satisfy the dreams of the Palestinian refugees who have lived in Lebanon in poverty and isolation for more than 60 years. The opportunity to live in Europe or else where in the West with a good standard of living is what they really seek. The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon still have the strong love of Palestine in their hearts, but seeking a higher standard of life outside Palestine does not conflict with our loyalty to the future Palestinian State.
Borj Al Barajneh Camp, Lebanon
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