Mr. Abbas, Tear Down This Wall!

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This historical and political absurdity—unique in the experience of the world’s tens of millions of refugees displaced by modern war and political conflict—helps explain why Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas walked away from the best deal his people have ever been offered. It happened in November 2008, when Ehud Olmert, then the prime minister of Israel, presented him with a detailed map of a future Palestinian state that, with land swaps, would constitute close to 100 percent of the territory of the West Bank and Gaza prior to the June 1967 war. Olmert also offered to divide Jerusalem, enabling the Palestinians to locate their capital in the eastern half of the city. The only thing he would not agree to was a right of return for Palestinian refugees—for the obvious reason that this would mean the end of the Jewish state.

As I have reported elsewhere, Abbas, promising to come back for further discussions, took the map to his Ramallah office for his aides to study. But he never returned with the map, and this was the last time the Israeli and Palestinian leaders met. The reason, I believe, is clear: if Olmert’s offer had ever become the basis of serious negotiations, Abbas would have had to admit to the residents of Balata and the other refugee camps on the West Bank that their leaders had lied to them for 60 years and that they were not returning to Jaffa. Among those leaders was Abbas himself, who in his 2005 campaign for the PA presidency declared repeatedly that he would never bargain away the Palestinian refugees’ right of return.

Today, two years later, face-to-face meetings, brokered by the Obama administration, are again being held between Abbas and an Israeli prime minister. But just like the Abbas-Olmert meetings, the current talks will go nowhere until Washington recognizes that the official Palestinian stance on the refugees presents a far more serious obstacle to Middle East peace than the issue of construction within Jewish West Bank settlements. The latter is no more than a complication, while Palestinian insistence on the right of return is a deal breaker.

Why not, at long last, break up the awful refugee camps and encourage their residents to integrate themselves into West Bank civil society? The rationale for doing so is not merely political expediency. There is an overwhelming human-rights imperative to deal with the issue now. For the past decade, an array of peace and human-rights groups has been protesting Israel’s “brutal” West Bank occupation and the military checkpoints restricting the movement of innocent Palestinians. Now, many of the checkpoints have been closed, and Palestinians are building their economy and policing their own cities. In these circumstances, where are the human-rights advocates demanding that the Palestinian refugees be freed from their crowded camps, allowed to build their own homes anywhere on the West Bank, and permitted to send their children to regular Palestinian schools?  Why aren’t peace demonstrators marshaling outside the Balata refugee camp with signs saying, “Mr. Abbas, tear down this wall”?

Somehow one doubts that the Palestine Human Rights Campaign or other like-minded groups will undertake such protests. But what does that say about their bona fides as advocates of peace? Does it not powerfully suggest that for them, as for Arab leaders throughout the Middle East, the welfare of suffering Palestinians has been of far lesser import than the demonization, if not the weakening and destruction, of the state of Israel?

Sol Stern is a contributing editor of City Journal, published by the Manhattan Institute.

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  • muslimpoxbyebye

    I do fear Islam. Any man or woman or child with knowledge of Islam should fear it. I would probably not be alive today if I were born in an Islamic country, or my life would be so circumscribed as to not be recognizable

  • Chezwick_Mac

    "Balata’s Palestinian residents are prohibited, by the Palestinian Authority, from building homes outside the camp’s official boundaries. They do not vote on municipal issues and receive no PA funding for roads or sanitation."

    Sounds like Apartheid to me, folks.

    • ajnn

      This is not apartheid. apartheid relates to employment and minority / majority color issues.

      This is more of a straight 'human rights violation' under international law and human rights law. under international law, these people are being denied citizenship in their country. this is a significant human rights violation under the law.

  • tommy

    As to why palestinians still live in refugee camps- see below

    • Nick Shaw

      This is a great link Tommy even though I knew the overview the detail is amazing. Manufactured victimhood, that's all it is. Do you, or anyone have links to information that refutes the facts posed in it? I'd like to see what the Arabs and their sympathizers have to say on the matter.

      • tommy

        hello Nick– I don't know if this is of any use to yourself but it is certainly worth reading
        good background material

  • aspacia

    Human history is full of displaced individuals. Since 1947, there have been numerous refugees who resettled elsewhere, and their children were not granted refugee status, for example the Cypratriots who Turkey expelled from Cyprus, Jews driven from Arab lands, et al. Valid sources are available on the web if interested.

    This problem is simply antiJewish, and driven by Arabs to destroy Israel.

    Liberals are afraid, hence they will not acknowledge this fact. They also will not acknowledge what will happen to them if Sharia Law in installed in the West.

    • Eliz

      We need to hear liberals speak out about Sharia Law. We are waiting since they love to condemn Tea Party activists. I just wonder if they would also condem Sharia law. They need to put speak up.

  • Nick Shaw

    And how did the problem become anti-Jewish, aspacia? May I offer my two cents? I think it's because of the rise of liberal / progressive / socialism in the west. A culture of victimhood where there is always an oppressor. Jews, true victims through the ages, are always made out to be the bad guys. Liberals like to tie "bad" to "money" so, if you have money or do better than your neighbour it's impossible, in the mind of a liberal, that you could have done it without taking it from someone else. Jews, if I may be so bold and not be accused of some kind of racism, have a talent for picking themselves up after being thrashed to within an inch of their lives, metaphorically speaking, and going to the head of the socio-economic, political class in surprisingly short periods. Liberals look at this as some kind of conspiracy while instead, it's plain old hard work and co-operation among Jews. (cont.)

  • Nick Shaw

    (cont.) Arabs have figured out that culture of victimhood simply by guaging the west's response to the Arab-Israeli wars over the last 65 years or so and , despite being the stronger force (without Jewish cohesion however) they have painted themselves as the victims. As victims, they get to do any number of things that would not be accepted by normal western society. Imagine what would happen if Mexican civil rights folks decided to lob mortor shells into Brownsville. Wouldn't last long would it? "Cause the Mexicans haven't fine tuned their victimhood yet. But that's the middle east today. The guys (Arabs, Muslims) with all the money and weapons and promote mayhem worldwide are the victims while Jews are the bad guys who attacked no one without provocation. We are through the looking glass. I know I don't have to tell you this aspacia, you're a regular here. I just wanted to rant. (and what happened to the first part of my comment? Moderator..!!!)

    • ajnn

      "Cause the Mexicans haven't fine tuned their victimhood yet." Oy. What happens if they do ?

      Is this not what calling them 'undocumented workers'as opposed to 'illegal aliens' accomplishes? Of course, being undocumented these human beings are stripped of every protection 100 years of labor rights has earned legal americans.

      • Nick Shaw

        You don't really see the nonsense of your last line do you? Whether they are illegal or undocumented, they are not legal Americans with labour rights. I was using the Mexican thing as a flippant example, not to be taken seriously but, now that we are here, yes Mexico is fine tuning their grievences with the US with The One's help to be cast as victim. Once that is achieved certain Mexican elements will be allowed to cause mayhem in the US, Mexico will say these are rogue elements, might even use "radical" Mexicans (sound familiar?) and the US will tread lightly and not take any action because of the huge number of Hispanics that may be offended that live and vote in the US. It would make a great action flick! Better hurry before it becomes more a documentary.

  • bubba4

    wow…you and Bin Laden should get together and go bowling. Then you can talk about your mutual plans for WWIII.

  • PAthena

    Do not echo the Soviet-Egyptian propaganda of calling Arabs "Palestinians," with all the phony history and politics based on it. The Arabs do not deserve yet another state, as in the so-called "two-state solution."

    The Roman Emperor Hadrian changed the name of Judea to "Palestina" in 135 A.D. after he had defeated the last Jewish uprising under Bar Kochba. He wanted to eradicate all memory of Judea and Judaism (he outlawed Judaism). Since that time, "Palestine" became synonymous with "land of the Jews" or "the Holy Land" (since Jesus was a Jew), and "Palestinian" synonymous with "Jew." That is why the Zionists wanted the "Palestine Mandate" and why Great Britain was awarded the "Palestine Mandate" after World War I as the "homeland of the Jews."

    Calling Arabs "Palestinians" is a consequence of Soviet propaganda, for Nasser and the Soviet Union in Cairo in 1964 invented the "Palestine Liberation Organization" with all the phony history to accompany it. Israel should certainly not give up any territory, including the propaganda-named "West Bank," namely, Judea and Samaria, for a "Palestinian" state named "Palestine." It should not give up any territory it controls, in any case, for military reasons, and the Arabs, as phony "Palestinians" do not deserve yet another state. The only "Palestinians" are the Jews, with the state of Israel.
    The Arabs in the so-called "refugee camps" show the determination of UNWRA to keep in business. Many of them have left, for I have met them in the United States and Canada.

    • Nick Shaw

      Would that a few upper level state department clowns learn a bit of history, eh? Thanks PAthena, a welcome addition of information.

    • ViewPoint

      The Palestinians are Arabs based on what the first female Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meir pointed out during the Partition Resolution of 1948; that the Palestinians are a new invention… created for the sole purpose of denying Israel. This is further evidenced by the fact that the Palestinians do not have anything in their new culture that is distinct… because they are, in actuality, Saudis, Jordanians, Syrians, Iraqis, Iranians, Egyptians, etc.

  • ajnn

    'Right-of-Return' is a term invented by the Israelis to describe their immigration policy regarding jews living in the Arab world and Europe.

    It is pretty much the same as the immigration law of every other country in the world with one important difference. The Israelis reverse the factual presumptions regarding 'refugee status'.

    By that I mean that in most countries the person claiming refugee status must show that he/she may not return to his country of origin without a well-founded fear of persecution. The Israelis changed this for their jewish immigrants so that the burden of proof is on the government , not the refugee. There have been several highly publisized examples of jewish immigrants being turned awaty (thrown out) of Israel; so it happens.

    That is it. the whole 'right of return' nonsense. Otherwise, there is no 'right of return' for anyone under international law.

  • ajnn

    Between 1945 and 1050 approximately 100 million (100,000,000) persons became displaced persons.

    Of those 100,000,000 the only ones remaining un-resettled and still on the international agenda are the palestinian arabs.

  • ajnn

    "not a single Arab nation has ever granted citizenship to a single Palestinian."

    This is a significant human rights violation under human rights law as recognized by the UN, Helsinki, etc.

    In this upside-down world, it is the Arabs who are discriminating against, oppressing, and denying the rights of the palestinian arabs.

    • Nick Shaw

      Not to mention the rights of every Christian or Jew or woman or homosexual living in Arab lands under Muslim control.