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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Let the refugees return - Edith Garwood

Sixty years ago, more than 700,000 Palestinians were forced from their homes, not knowing where they were going, not knowing when they would return. This displacement of over half of the indigenous inhabitants of Palestine created the largest and oldest refugee population today and is the root of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. This tragedy is called Al Nakba in Arabic.

We are often told the Palestinians fled of their own accord, but British and Israeli archives opened in the late 1970s tell a different story. The indigenous Arabs -- Muslim, Christian, secular -- were systematically driven out of areas desired for a new Jewish state.

Jews fleeing anti-Semitism in Europe started migrating to Palestine in the mid-19th century. The United Nations, attempting to quell conflicts between indigenous inhabitants and the new immigrants, proposed dividing the area.

Jewish immigrants accepted it, but the Arab side rejected it as unjust as it gave 55 percent of the land to the new immigrants while they were only one-third of the population and owned only 7 percent of the land at the time.

Arabs were expelled or fled

Archives show armed Jewish militias expelled Arabs using home demolitions, massacres, rape, beatings, bombings and widespread threats of terror. Some 300,000 were expelled before Israel declared itself an independent state in May 1948. Another 400,000 Palestinians were driven out or simply fled in the fighting that ensued.There are approximately 7 million Palestinians today, with 4 million still living as refugees in neighboring Arab countries as well as in the Israeli Occupied Palestinian Territories. After 60 years of dead-end peace initiatives, all parties are frustrated, especially in the refugee camps where frustration is spiraling and hope is dead.
Let the refugees return - Edith Garwood


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