Sunday, July 22, 2007

Palestinian Rights

Dear Friends,


Difficulties faced by Palestinian Arabs have been a focus of world attention for decades. But oppression of Palestinians by fellow Arabs barely rates a mention. 


Often subject to political racism, Palestinian Arabs have been forced into refugee camp ghettos in many Arab states.  Identical to the racist laws against Jews in those places, they are also unable to hold citizenship, own land, get jobs or otherwise integrate into their host states. And despite Palestinian Authority or Hamas control of Gaza, there have been no steps toward dismantling the camps there. This is a situation condoned and maintained by the UN and its institutions. If the Arab states were truly interested in helping the Palestinians, they would give them full social and economic rights.


The world appears oblivious to this apartheid policy; both East and West politically and financially encourage it.  Taxpayers support it with hundreds of millions channeled annually through UNRWA to pay for basic education, housing and medical services. All of which could probably be paid for by the welfare recipients themselves, if they were only allowed to work freely and integrate into the society around.  


It is outrageous that the Nahr el-Bared refugee camp in Tripoli, Lebanon, is nearly empty after months of bombing by the Lebanese army. The refugees, who were never allowed to integrate into their adopted country, have become refugees once again.  In one day last week, a 16 year old was killed and a 13 year old girl was severely injured - both bystanders in the fighting between the Lebanese army and Palestinian 'militants'.  


Or in Gaza; after a bloody coup, summary 'justice' is being handed out by Hamas against their Fatah rivals. Hamas allows a humanitarian disaster to accumulate, while spending fortunes importing huge supplies of advance weaponry into Gaza.  Vast quantities of weapons and military equipment are smuggled in – and yet food and medicines are in short supply. It is easy to blame Israel for the poverty and distress and leave the Western taxpayer with the responsibility of picking up the pieces.  No human rights group raises even an eyebrow.


Unfortunately, NGOs so vocal about Israel's infractions as she defends her citizens have more important things on their agenda than to be concerned about these innocent civilians. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and Christian Aid (to name just three NGOs focusing significant resources on Palestinian issues) have yet to issue a condemnation of the attacks in Nahr el-Bared. 


These same NGOs, supported by the world media, strongly criticize Israel for closing its borders to Gaza.    Despite the use of these border crossings for the smuggling of weapons and terrorists that threaten her civilians,  Israel assists the passage of food, medicine, stock feed and other basic necessities.  In the last month I have counted reports of some 33,000 tons of solids and 1.2 million liters of liquids in these categories. Hamas response has been to attack those very border crossings, to scare away international supervisors, and force closures. 


The last weeks have seen Israel release both hundreds of convicted terrorist prisoners and large sums of back taxes.  Victims of violence in Gaza – civilian and militant – are receiving the best of medical care in Israel's hospitals. All this while the Kassams still rain down on the Israeli city of Sderot and its surrounds.


Those truly concerned about Palestinian welfare would best focus on making border crossings safe, allowing food and medicine to enter Gaza, allowing trade to flow in both directions; or help to stop the fighting in Lebanon; or prevent the destabilising arms build up in those two places; or end corruption in the Palestinian Authority that siphons billions in international aid away from the average Palestinian toward corruption and violence; or... the list is almost endless of important ways of helping the Palestinians which do not involve criticising Israel…unless, of course, the motivation is more sinister.



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