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Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Dreadful Middle Eastern Imbalance

Now that Premier Abbas of the Palestinian Authority has called on President Obama to impose a two-state solution, it seems that the armies of brave jihadis out to martyr themselves to liberate al-Quds are probably incapable of the task without American help. But this is not the only obscene imbalance between Israel and its neighbors.

A far more serious one is that after four generations in camps, the Palestine Arab refugees of 1948 and their offspring are not citizens of Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Kuwait, and other Arab states. This population has voting, property-rights citizenship only in Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, and Israel itself. Worse, this is a situation aided and abetted by the international community, including the United Nations. It serves no other purpose than to keep a raw wound raw.

Some argue that the Palestinian Arabs want their olive and orange groves between the Jordan and the Mediterranean; or that Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt, lacking oil wealth, cannot absorb this population. This is utter nonsense. Palestinian Arabs who ended up in the United States have become citizens, despite the vast linguistic difference between the President's English and Levantine Arabic. As for lacking oil wealth, many more millions of refugees were displaces at roughly the same time by the partition of British India, yet they and their descendants are no-questions asked Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis today. This situation has reached the point where Lahore-born Manmohan Singh could sit down with Delhi-born Pervez Musharaf to discuss defusing tensions between India and Pakistan. Yet the resettlement and absorption of the millions of displaced Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians from East Bengal, West Punjab, and Sindh and that of displaced Muslims from the Gangetic Plain went on without a penny of oil wealth to aid it.

Further, those descended from the ancient Jewish populations formerly living in lands from Iraq to Morocco and from the Hauran to Yemen, expelled and dispersed with no more than the clothes on their backs, are today no-questions-asked Israelis. And, it is worth noting, these populations predated the Arab presence in all of their lands of domicile prior to the Islamic conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries. Indeed, the prayer of Qol Nidre was probably heard and recited throughout Babylon every Yom Kippur long before the Arabic Azan was ever dreamt of. Yet today, Iraq, the second homeland of Jewry, which held large and thriving Jewish communities since the sixth century B.C. (I unapologetically write as a Christian) and where several of the Old Testament prophets are buried, is now Judenrein. The same can be said of Egypt, where a prominent Jewish community lived since shortly before the Babylonian exile, and where the Greek Septuagint, the first major translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, was produced. Yet where is the world's outrage over the destruction of these communities, whose contributions to civilization worldwide, were immense?

Further, there are many, many Greeks whose grandparents speak Turkish, whose family memories go back to the lands that were once Proconsular Asia, Pontus, and Cappadocia; and numerous Turkish families whose ancestors once lived in Thessaly and Crete. Countless states with seats in the United Nations--and others without--which have absorbed many more refugees than those displaced by the establishment of Israel in 1948. It is time to make the naturalization and permanent resettlement of the Falastin refugee population in the Arab countries--which, after all, share a language and religion with the majority of Palestinians--part of a permanent Middle Eastern settlement. That the United States has not made such calls loudly and persistently is the shame of our diplomacy. That the Arab states--apart from Jordan--have not taken steps on their own to do such a thing is their own lasting disgrace.

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