All people of good will feel anguished over the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, but those who honestly wish to help the suffering Palestinians can endorse only one potential solution: allow the desperate residents to escape from their Hamas-ruled hell-on-earth to find new homes elsewhere among their Arab brothers.
In no sense would this constitute a forced migration: normal, sane human beings hardly require force or even encouragement in order to flee from the wretched realities of today’s Gaza Strip. In nearby Iraq, some two million people have left their homes and run away from ongoing violence to reestablish themselves in Jordan, Syria and elsewhere. Why would anyone want to deny the same choice to the Palestinians – who live under far more abject and long-standing poverty (with no oil resources), and under the rule of even more demented Islamist fanatics? In fact, the surviving opponents of the malevolent crazies of Hamas have every reason to fear for their lives, and face ongoing threats of the same gruesome fates as their compatriots who’ve been dragged through the streets, or thrown from tall buildings, or gunned down in front of wives and children.
Last week, when Hamas gunmen fired indiscriminately into a non-violent, non-aligned peace demonstration pleading for reconciliation and brotherhood among Palestinian factions, they established their bona fides as bloodthirsty maniacs. Some residents of Gaza might welcome the “perfect Islamic justice” they promise to impose, but most others would no doubt prefer to find homes elsewhere in the Middle East.
America’s top priority in the area ought to be a concerted effort to help them do so.
Some Palestinian sympathizers might insist that these new Middle Eastern refugees should get the chance to relocate in only one country: Israel. After all, most Gazans claim that they once lived in the Holy Land, or that their great-great grandfathers once lived there, and they insist that the very existence of the thriving democracy to their east as the illegitimate occupation of their sacred Palestinian birthright.
It is this very refusal to accept Israel’s reality in any terms (part of a sixty year history of self-destructive Arab rejectionism) that makes it unthinkable for the Jewish state to welcome the suffering multitudes of Gaza. After all, voters in the West Bank split more evenly between Fatah and Hamas in the recent Palestinian elections, but the residents of Gaza voted overwhelmingly for Hamas: the fundamentalist terror organization that pledges in its charter to resist forever the right of Jews to even “one square inch” of their ancient homeland.
Moreover, the idea of resettling Palestinians in today’s Israel means bringing people to a society where 80% of the inhabitants practice a different religion, speak a different language, uphold different values, and exist in a different century (the 21st century as opposed to the 7th).
Since so many Gazans want desperately to leave, doesn’t it make more sense to relocate them among their fellow Arabs, who practice exactly the same religion (they’re nearly all Sunni Moslems), speak the same language, honor the same traditions, claim identical histories, and embrace the same pan-Arab nationalism? If Jordan and Syria accept hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees, why not Palestinians from Gaza, who would fit into the host societies at least as easily as the Iraqis? (Jordan already boasts a clear Palestinian majority). Meanwhile, Egypt is a nation of some 70,000,000 which actually ruled the Gaza Strip for nineteen years (1948-1967) and many of the so-called Palestinians actually originated in Egypt --including the most famous “Palestinian” of them all, Yasser Arafat who was born and raised in Cairo, and spent most of his young manhood in Kuwait.
And speaking of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States currently suffer an acute labor shortage, and import workers from all over the world to sustain their economies. Instead of bringing in more laborers from Pakistan or Rumania or the Philippines, why not invite the Palestinians to escape the enduring misery of Gaza?
The reason that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and the rest of the Arab states won’t accept Palestinian refugees is the same reason that those unfortunates remain locked into squalid refugee camps throughout the Arab world: Middle Eastern dictators and potentates prefer to exploit the Palestinians as political pawns rather than actually taking action to alleviate their suffering. The only nation in the immediate vicinity with no refugee camps is, in fact, Israel proper, where the Palestinian residents live in towns or cities (including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa) rather than remaining penned into fetid and supposedly temporary settlements for more than a half century. The United Nations has played a shameful role in sustaining this wretched state of affairs and now fields a gigantic and wasteful bureaucracy with a vested interest in keeping the camps going for eternity.
During the very years that Arab states refused to accommodate or integrate Palestinians (only Jordan granted legal citizenship), Israel welcomed more than 800,000 Jewish refugees from Islamic nations (Morocco, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt, Yemen and many more) who, with their more than two-million descendants, now function as full members of Israeli society.
The current crisis in Gaza (or “Hamastan,” as it may become known), should lead to a similar assimilation of desperate Palestinians by their Arab brothers and neighbors. The only alternative would be walls, fences and blockades far more brutal than the controversial Israeli Anti-Terrorism Barrier which aims, after all, only to keep intruders out, not to lock anyone in. Israelis are free to leave the country whenever they choose to do so. If Hamas refuses to authorize and facilitate the same choices for the 1.5 million human beings under its control the result will be the moral equivalent of the infamous Berlin Wall: barriers designed to keep people from fleeing a nightmare regime that puts the prospect of scoring political points above any consideration of its subjects’ well-being.
Recent horrors have, in fact, already led to previously unthinkable challenges to the principal tenets of Palestinian nationalism. The New York Times reported on June 6 (the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War) that “a few Palestinian columnists have broken a political taboo by referring to the Israeli occupation as perhaps preferable to the current chaos. For example, Majed Azzam wrote in the Hamas-affiliated al Risala weekly in Gaza that Palestinians ‘should have the courage to acknowledge the truth,’ that the only thing that ‘prevents the chaos and turmoil in Gaza from spreading ot the West Bank is the presence of the Israeli occupation.’ “Another Palestinian writer, Bassem al-Nabris, a poet from Khan Yunis, I the Gaza Strip, wrot in the Arabic electorinc newspaper Elaph that if there was a referendum in the Gaza Strip on the question of whether people would like the Israeli occupation to return, ‘half the population would vote yes. But in practice, I believe the number of those in favor is at least 70%.”
No matter how much the anguished Gazans may yearn for an Israeli return, there’s no chance that Jewish troops or settlers ever will return.
But that doesn’t mean that the only alternative for the US and our allies is to isolate the Gaza Strip, while encouraging (and prematurely rewarding) the Fatah leadership on the West Bank.
The best plan would be to challenge both Gaza and the West Bank, and all other Arab entities on the same basis: to allow freedom of movement and settlement for Palestinians within the Arab world, and to abandon all brutal attempts to preserve their cruel status as the world’s only permanent refugees.