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THE ISRAEL REPORT

July/August 2000
Jerusalem

The Palestinian Arab Refugees:
Arafat's Secret Weapon

by Morton A. Klein
July 16, 00' / Tamuz 13 5760

One of the most controversial issues under discussion at the Camp David summit is the future of Palestinian Arabs who fled Israel in 1948, yet were never permitted to settle permanently in the Arab countries to which they fled.

The larger portion of these Arab emigrants are the Palestinian Arabs who left the newborn State of Israel during the Arab invasion of 1948--according to most estimates, about 500,000-600,000. If six Arab countries hadn't attacked Israel in 1948, in an attempt to destroy the state and murder its Jewish citizens, there would not be a single Arab refugee and no "refugee problem."

According to Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, all of these Arab "refugees," plus all of their descendants--totaling several million people--should be granted the right to take up residence in the towns where they or their parents lived in 1948.

It is remarkable that for decades, Arafat and the Palestinian Arabs have loudly protested the idea of Arabs in the territories being "under Israeli rule"--yet the Palestinian Arabs are now demanding that these Arab "refugees" from around the world be permit to settle in Israel, "under Israeli rule." How can this contradiction be explained?

Arafat's demand for the "return" of the Arab refugees is not motivated by humanitarian concerns. Since he and other Arab leaders were unable to destroy Israel militarily, they aim to overwhelm Israel through political pressure and the demographic weapon--the higher Arab birth rate.

The same Arafat who allegedly believes in "two states for two peoples" (that is, one Arab and one Jewish) is determined to flood the Jewish state with millions of Arabs. This isn't "two states for two peoples"--it's a state for the Palestinian Arabs next to a shrunken, weakened Jewish state that will be gradually overwhelmed by the Arabs.

All Israeli governments, Likud and Labor alike, have understandably opposed any such influx of Arabs from abroad. One danger is the likelihood that terrorists could enter the country in the guise of refugees. Indeed, those Arabs who are most hostile to Israel are the ones who are most likely to want to enter Israel, in order to be able to attack Israelis.

Another problem is that the arrival of hundreds of thousands of Arabs would threaten Israel's Jewish character. During the 1950s and 1960s, Arab spokesmen openly referred to the Arab refugees as a demographic weapon against Israel. As Radio Cairo declared on September 1, 1960: "It is obvious that the return of one million Arabs to Palestine will make them the majority of Israel's inhabitants. Then they will be able to impose their will on the Jews and expel them from Palestine." These days, Arab propagandists are more sophisticated; instead of openly referring to the refugees as a military or political weapon, they now camouflage the issue in humanitarian language.

And even if millions of Arabs from around the world entered Judea and Samaria (rather than pre-1967 Israel), under Palestinian Authority rule, they would still pose a serious threat to Israel's future. Israel presently draws 35% of its annual water supply from sources in the territories. A substantially larger Arab population in the areas would deprive Israel of desperately needed water. A significant population increase in the territories would also mean that many more Arabs may be entering Israel in search of employment, potentially complicating Israel's a security problem.

Furthermore, overcrowding in Arab cities and towns would strain local resources to the breaking point, and the PLO authorities might well react the way tyrants often respond when domestic troubles multiply: divert the masses' attention from their real problems by focusing their hatred on their Jewish neighbors.

Israelis wonder, with justification, why anyone should regard it as Israel's responsibility to resolve the Arab refugee question. It was the Arab states, after all, that caused the refugee problem in the first place, by repeatedly invading Israel. And it was the Arab states that have kept them languishing in the squalor of refugee camps, instead of integrating and rehabilitating them. (The Arabs also blocked offers by the United Nations to finance the construction of permanent housing in Judea, Samaria and Gaza for them.)

Contrast that with the way Israel behaved when the Arabs brutally expelled 800,000 Jews from Arab countries after the 1948 war: they were welcomed with open arms in Israel, provided with food, housing and other government aid so that they could become fully integrated Israeli citizens.

Responsibility for the Arab refugees rests solely on the shoulders of the Arab regimes who exploited them and who, to this day, still hope to use them as a political or military weapon against Israel.

Obviously no Israeli government would ever grant entry to millions of hostile Arabs. Arafat and his supporters understand that. Thus, they will try to implement the process slowly and gradually. At first, Israel will be pressured to take in a "symbolic" number --perhaps 100,000-- and tens of thousands more will be brought in under the guise of "family reunification."

Once that is accomplished, Arafat will move on to the next phase. Arafat's allies in the international community will accuse Israel of "obstructing peace" by not taking in more of the Arab refugees. Arafat and his aides, will make threatening speeches, hoping to intimidate Israel into giving in.

Hamas will launch new terrorist attacks against Israelis; Arafat will say he is not responsible for the violence, but cannot prevent such "understandable" responses to "Israel's cruel refusal to let the refugees return to their homes." Arafat expects that the combination of violence and political pressure will force Israel to grant entry to even greater numbers of Arabs from abroad.

That's how it will begin. It's not hard to imagine how it will end.

Morton A. Klein is the National President of the Zionist Organization of America.
Source: Arutz 7
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