The Anti-Palestinian Arab Nations

February 24, 2012 12:12 pm 4 comments

King Abdullah, Queen Rania at the World Economic Forum on the Middle East, 2007. Photo: wiki commons.

In 1959, the Arab League resolution 1547 confirmed earlier resolutions calling on Arab countries to treat Palestinian Arabs well – but recommends that they “retain their Palestinian nationality.” Meaning that Palestinian Arabs should not be allowed to obtain citizenship in their host countries.

While the Arab League supports the right of any Arab to become citizens of any Arab country, they have a single  exception: Palestinians.

Today, over fifty years later, if you are a Palestinian and you want to become a citizen of an Arab country, you are almost certainly out of luck. And the reason being given is the same as in 1959: Arabs  say they are doing it to preserve Palestinian nationality, which they evidently believe is so fragile that if they were allowed to become citizens they would forget all about their history.

This is, of course, cynical. There are a few reasons why Arab countries do not want Palestinians to become citizens, but they have nothing to do with helping Palestinian nationhood. Lebanon is afraid of an influx of Sunni Muslims tipping the demographic balance in that country; Jordan (which took away the citizenship of all West Bank Palestinians in 1988) wants to make sure that the “Jordan is Palestine” idea is buried deeply away; and other Arab countries  just want to keep the Palestinian refugee problem alive to be used as a weapon against Israel.

No one has really asked the Palestinians themselves what they want.

While Palestinian leaders since the 1950s have been adamant when speaking to Westerners how they will not accept any solution besides return to Israel, in reality average Palestinians have acted in quite the opposite way. Every single time a crack in the system has allowed for a limited numbers of Palestinians to become citizens, they jumped at the opportunity.

In the 1950s and 1960s, about 50,000 Palestinian Christians managed to gain Lebanese citizenship. About 20,000 more managed to become citizens when a loophole opened in the 1990s.

Also in the 1950s, many Gazans sneaked across Israel to make it to the West Bank where they could become Jordanian citizens.

Last year, tens of thousands of Gazans hired lawyers to prove that they really had Egyptian ancestry to try to become Egyptian citizens. A few hundred Palestinians with Egyptian mothers managed to become citizens after public protests.

Meanwhile, Jordan has been stripping much of its Palestinian population of their citizenship if they can prove that they have ties to the West Bank. Again, this is being done, they say, for their own good.

It is obvious that most ordinary Palestinians who have lived their whole lives in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and the Gulf would love to become full citizens if they were given the chance, and those in Jordan want to remain citizens. Arab nations are denying them that right.

How come nobody is demanding that Arab nations allow Palestinian Arabs to become citizens if they want to? Why do people who describe themselves as “pro-Palestinian” ignore this institutionalized discrimination against an entire population?

Beyond that, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness and even the Covenant for the Rights of the Child in Islam, all encourage or demand that children born in a state should become citizens of that state. Why are no human rights organizations demanding that the basic right of citizenship be applied to Palestinians born in Arab countries if they desire it?

There are a lot of people who say that they are “pro-Palestinian.”  But if you ask them whether Palestinians should be given the right of citizenship in their host countries, almost none of them would support it.

Perhaps they aren’t as “pro-Palestinian” as they claim to be.

4 Comments

  • Is there any nation on earth, however benign or devout, that would be over the moon to receive a sudden influx of desperate refugees (to the tune of 1.8 million, if Moshe Feiglin gets his cloud-cuckoo wish of expelling the entire population of Gaza)? Arab League Resolution 1547 simply gives Muslim states a moral-ish way of saying thanks, but no thanks, and leaving the problem for someone else (Specifically, Israel, who unfortunately seem to want the Palestinians least of all). This makes the Muslim nations no better nor worse than any other nations (mine and the US included) who would rather wring their hands and denounce others for not doing enough to help, while rather obviously doing nothing meaningful to help.

    Good article here that sums up the economic and citizenship woes of the Palestinians:

    http://www.pij.org/details.php?id=1099

    It also, rather crucially, states that the “only viable solution is the creation of such an [employment] infrastructure in these territories”, and this would certainly seem worth trying, bearing in mind that harsh suppression and economic stranglehold have only succeeded, it would seem in causing extremism to concentrate and fester. The article notes this trend: “The situation is liable to become particularly serious in the refugee camps, which may become breeding grounds for extremism and violence.” Unemployment, lack of opportunity, and low self-esteem are the friends of political and religious extremists, who conversely find a dearth of new recruits when everyone is too busy (and contented) with their day to day lives to give a damn. Your article would appear to support that idea: “Palestinian leaders since the 1950s have been adamant when speaking to Westerners how they will not accept any solution besides return to Israel, in reality average Palestinians have acted in quite the opposite way.” This suggests that extremism among average Palestinians only (or mainly) arises out of a lack of opportunity and dignity.

    With respect, though, I see little point in blaming the Arab nations for this. My own nation (UK) routinely refuses even genuine asylum seekers, deporting them back to dictatorships and tyrannies where they know they will probably meet their death, and I frequently hear British people complain about immigration and foreign aid. In this day and age, the US attitude to immigration is much the same. If that is the standard we set, we have no business expecting any more from other states, Muslim or not. With even high-level Israeli voices suggesting that they should shoulder the burden of the Palestinian “problem”, one can hardly wonder at them going on the defensive, and putting the needs of their own citizens and economies first.

  • No one cares. As long as they’re for the extermination of all Jews everywhere the far left and the far right will sing their praises. Nothing else, literally nothing else matters.

  • Muslim/Arab interest in the well-being of Palestinians drops markedly when they can’t be used as a stick to beat Jews and/or Israel.

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