Shaml - Palestinian Dispora &Refugee Centre
P.O. Box 38152
East Jerusalem 9700
Telephone: (02) 998-7537 Fax: (02) 998-6598
Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu is finding it more and more difficult to conceal his repeated display of double-talk. While at the same time declaring his government's readiness to start Final Status negotiations with the Palestinians, he is denying obligations the Israeli party to the Negotiations is required to carry out during the Transitional Period. The Palestinian leadership is therefore reluctant to respond to Netanyahu's call under conditions they regard as so unfavourable in the shadow of the current extremist coalition government, that it would be virtually impossible to anticipate an acceptable settlement.
In view of this situation, negotiations have reached a dead end. In the absence of any tangible outcome resulting from meetings held by the Quadripartite Committee for the displaced of 1967, prospects for a just resolution to the 1948 refugee problem appear now, more than at any time since the beginning of the current peace process, increasingly elusive.
The Resolution multilateral adopted by the Council of the League of Arab States in its ordinary session last March suspended Arab states' participation in the multilateral negotiations, which spells bad news for the refugees. Inadvertently, it adds yet more complications to the tasks undertaken by the Working Group on Refugees in the multilateral negotiations. Among other responsibilities, the group must consolidate the participation of the international community in order to achieve two objectives. The first is to alleviate the suffering of the refugees through the implementation of developmental projects in the camps. The second is the achievement of a political settlement, whereby the group must offer its support in order to create a suitable groundwork for the parties concerned.
Increasing restrictions imposed by host Arab states on the residency rights of the Palestinian refugee community, along with the massive political and economic constraints on the fledgling Palestinian state, act as a repellent rather than a force of attraction to would-be returnees. This situation, combined with the cut in services in the wake of UNRWA's financial crisis, contributes to a sense of futility and despair that blots out any ray of hope the Palestinian refugees felt when the promise of their own state was made for the first time since 1948.
By Nur Masalha*
Since the Madrid Conference of 1991, Israel has reluctantly agreed to discuss the refugee question, provided the Palestinian "right of return" is not raised. Shortly after the Declaration of Principles was issued in September 1993, the Israeli Labour government agreed to discuss certain categories of the 1967 refugees who might be allowed to return to the West Bank and Gaza within the restricted framework of family reunion. Shortly after, following French intervention and mediation, the Labour government also reluctantly announced its willingness to process 2,000 applicants for family reunion each year.
However, the number of those waiting family reunification-- wives and children unable to live with their husbands and fathers in the West Bank and Gaza-- is estimated at 120,000. There are another estimated 100,000 persons who have been denied re-entry into the West Bank and Gaza on grounds of having stayed abroad for periods longer than the Israeli authorities permitted. In practice even within the narrow perspective of family reunification very little progress has been made in recent peace talks on the 1967 refugees.
There is also the question of the 320,000 Palestinians displaced by the 1967 war and their descendants--whose number is assumed to be 700,000. Although consideration of their case for return is allowed for in Article XII of the Declaration of Principles (article XII calls for the setting-up of a joint Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian-Egyptian committee which will decide upon "the modalities for the admission of persons displaced from the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967"), no progress had been made on this issue as of May 1996. In 1995 and early 1996 the multilateral technical committee on refugees held several rounds of talks. But the parties involved in the talks were unable to reach a consensus on the definition of a "displaced" Palestinian, the number of the 1967 refugees, or the means of repatriating the 1967 refugees to the West Bank and Gaza.
2.The 1967 Exodus:
The 1967 exodus from the West Bank involved up to 250,000 people and was by far the largest out-movement of Palestinians caused by the 1967 hostilities. The population loss of the Gaza Strip between June and December 1967 was estimated at 70,000. In total some 320,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled from the West Bank and Gaza in the course of the hostilities or shortly after. An important body of new evidence has been unearthed in recent years, much of it appearing in the form of investigative articles in the Hebrew press, which sheds new light on the events surrounding the 1967 exodus. This article is an attempt to examine the causes of the 1967 exodus in the light of this new historical evidence.
2.1 The Destruction of the al-Magharbeh Quarter:
The June 1967 war began suddenly and ended quickly. At the end of the war, there were attempts to implement a forced population transfer. Residents of towns and villages in areas near the Green Line were expelled from their homes and their communities destroyed; the Israeli authorities offered financial 'incentives' and free transportation to Palestinians willing to leave.
In the course of hostilities and in the immediate aftermath of the war, with its rapidly changing circumstances, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and other army commanders (including 'Uzi Narkiss, Haim Hertzog, and Shlomo Lahat) found an ideal opportunity to drive out tens of thousands of Palestinians from their villages, towns and refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Israeli conception of exploiting opportunities to transfer Arab populations, which was first employed in 1948, resurfaced shortly after the 1967 War: commanders in various ranks of the army believed that the wind blowing from the political echelon was calling for the exploiting of opportunity to thin out the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
Among the first evictees were the residents of the ancient al-Magharbeh quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem. They were turned out of their homes on 11 June, after 3 hours' notice. Apparently the quarter was completely demolished because it was located immediately adjacent to the southern part of the Wailing Wall, the Western Wall of al-Haram al-Sharif. Its inhabitants, about 1,000 persons, were the beneficiaries of an ancient and important Islamic Waqf foundation originally established in 1193 by al-Malik al-Afdal, the son of Salah al-Din. Its obliteration in June 1967 also resulted in the destruction of several historic religious sites (including two mosques, two zawiyas and a great number of Waqf residences) which the quarter contained.
Several senior Israeli commanders in the Jerusalem district (including Narkiss, head of the Central Command, Lahat and Hertzog) as well as Dayan, the mayor of West Jerusalem Teddy Kollek were all involved, one way or another, either in the initial decision or in the actual implementation of the systematic operation to destroy the ancient Arab quarter. Kollek appeared to have played a central role in the formulation and implementation of the decision to demolish the al-Magharbeh quarter. Kollek also informed the then Minister of Justice, Ya'acov Shimshon Shapira. The latter replied: "I am not certain of the legal position, but what should be done-- do it quickly, and let the God of Israel be with you." Central to the mode of procedure by Kollek, Dayan, Narkiss, and other commanders was the need to act speedily in order to stave off internal criticism and potential obstruction and avoid attracting too much attention in the foreign media.
The evicted residents of the al-Magharbeh quarter were dispersed in West Bank localities close to Jerusalem. Like the eviction of the large villages in the Latrun area (discussed below), this removal should be treated as an internal expulsion. However, it is extremely important to remember that these cases of internal expulsions had a psychological effect on the 1967 exodus from the West Bank to Jordan, helping to precipitate and encourage further exodus out of the country, especially in the first few weeks following the war.
The destruction of the al-Magharbeh quarter was only the beginning of the sweeping changes carried out by the Israeli authorities. On 17 June 1967 the Israeli army ordered the inhabitants of the former Jewish quarter and the surrounding houses to leave the premises within 24 hours. This measures affected several hundred Palestinian families. Some 4,000 Palestinians were evicted to make possible the reconstruction of a vastly enlarged and exclusively "Jewish" quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, excluding its former Arab residents.
2.2 Bayt Nuba, 'Imwas, Yalu, Habla, Jiftlik, Bayt Marsam, Bayt 'Awa and al-Burj:
Also among the first to go were the inhabitants of the large villages of Bayt Nuba, 'Imwas, and Yalu, situated near the Green Line in the Latrun area northwest of Jerusalem. In 1987 these evicted villagers and their descendants numbered about 11,000 in Amman, and some 2,000 who lived on the West Bank near Ramallah.
Latrun had been the gateway to Jerusalem in 1948, which the Israelis failed repeatedly to capture, so they had to realign the roadway to bypass Latrun. For many years before 1967 the Israeli army had plans for taking over the Latrun enclave and straightening the border. According to Meir Pa'il, there had been a "minimum plan" which included the occupation of the Latrun enclave and the destruction of its villages. June 1967 created the opportunity to realize these plans. The Latrun area was captured by the Israeli army on the morning of 6 June 1967. On orders (not in writing, of course) from head of the Central Command General Narkiss (a Labour party man who later became Director General of the Jewish Agency's (JA) Department of Immigration and Absorption and is in 1995 chairman of the JA's Department of Information), the army bulldozers moved in and wiped out the three villages, due to their "strategic location" and in order to "straighten the [Green Line] border," according to the Israeli officer in charge of the operation."
Canada Park was created with the help of the Canadian Jewish National Fund on the site of the bulldozed villages and their 20,000 dunums of agricultural land. Ironically, the Canadian government, which has sponsored the Middle East peace talks on Palestinian refugees, is also an official sponsor of Canada Park.
We know a lot about the destruction of the Latrun villages: the story was originally revealed in graphic detail by 'Amos Kenan, who took part in the fighting in the Latrun area; and many interviews with the evicted inhabitants of these villages were published in the Israeli and Palestinian press. But we know little about other West Bank villages which were cleared and raised to the ground in 1967. On 16 June the Israeli army totally destroyed Bayt 'Awa (in the Hebron district) and Bayt Marsam; most of Habla met a similar fate on 22 June; al-Burj was destroyed on 28 June; and Jiftlik in late November 1967.
And only the intervention of a group of liberal Israeli intellectuals and academics saved the West Bank town of Qalqilyah from a similar fate when an order by the army Central Command for the expulsion of the inhabitants and the total destruction of the town was cancelled. Apparently Zeev Shaham, commander of a force that operated in the Qalqilyah area had received a verbal order to destroy Qalqilyah from Narkiss. Between 9 June and 18 July 1967 (before the cancellation of the order) at least 850 out of 2,000 dwellings in Qalqilyah had been blown up by the Israeli army and dozens of residents were forcibly transported from the town to the Jordan River.
3. The 'Transfer' Operation of Haim Hertzog, Shlomo Lahat, and `Uzi Narkiss, June 1967:
Haim Hertzog was the army's first Military Governor of the West Bank after the 1967 War. Hertzog had been a political and military broadcaster during the war. It was only in November 1991, a few days after the Madrid Conference, that President Hertzog revealed publicly one of Israel's little known secrets: that he, as the first Military Governor of the West Bank, efficiently organized and carried out, in cooperation with Lahat, the commander of Jerusalem, the operation of transferring 100,000 Palestinians from the West Bank in the immediate aftermath of the war. According to a statement confirming that this operation was indeed carried out, the President's office said: "his [Hertzog's] considerations were that in the departing wave many of the PLO men would leave, and this would make it easier for the military administration. For days and weeks lines of buses ran from the Damascus Gate [in East Jerusalem] to the Allenby Bridge [on the River Jordan]."
Hertzog claimed that he had been prompted to organize this operation during a meeting with Anwar al-Khatib, the former Arab governor of the Jerusalem district, at the Ambassador Hotel in Jerusalem on Friday 9 June 1967. According to Hertzog, al-Khatib raised at this meeting the problem of the families of Arab consuls stranded in Jerusalem and the problem of the families of the Jordanian officers, who fled and left their dependents behind, and asked the Israeli Military Governor to allow these families to leave Jerusalem for Jordan via the Allenby Bridge. Hertzog agreed and told al-Khatib that from the morning of Sunday, 11 June, buses would be waiting near the Damascus Gate to transport any Arab wishing to depart to Jordan, on condition that each departing Arab signed a statement to the effect that he was leaving voluntarily. Hertzog also revealed that Lahat, then the commander of Jerusalem and the mayor of Tel Aviv from 1974 until 1993, was put in charge of implementing the operation, and that "no contrary order was given by Moshe Dayan at any stage [to halt the operation]."
The superior Commanding General of Hertzog and Lahat, Narkiss, told an interviewer in October 1988 that he himself had supervised the implementation of the transfer operation in 1967, which, according to the interviewer, had resulted in the total "transfer of 100,000 [Palestinians to Jordan] without anybody saying a single word." Narkiss told the same interviewer in 1988:
I placed several buses in Jerusalem and in other cities [of the West Bank], written on them: "To Amman--Free of Charge." The bus used to carry them to the [partly] destroyed Allenby Bridge and then they would cross it [to Jordan]. I spread the news about these buses through individuals with wide contacts....In this [bus] operation between 20 and 25 thousand people got out.
One of the extraordinary revelations made by Narkiss in connection with his transfer operation was the daily telephone calls he used to receive after the war from the dovish Finance Minister Pinhas Sapir:
Pinhas Sapir used to phone me twice a day, to ask: how many [Arabs] got out today? Is the number of the inhabitants of the West Bank diminishing? The number [of those being transported by the buses?] began with 600 and 700 persons a day, and then it began to decline until it reached a few scores, and after two or three months the [bus?] operation stopped.
The statements of the President's office elicited wide publicity in Israel in November 1991 and surprised Israeli historians. Hertzog's claim that Anwar al-Khatib was a partner in such an organized operation of mass transfer was denied by the latter. A former Israeli soldier described the "voluntary" and "humane" aspects of this operation in a November 1991 interview with Kol Ha'ir:
My job was to take..... [each Palestinian's] thumb and immerse its edge in ink and fingerprint them on the departure statement....Every day tens of buses arrived. There were days on which it seemed to me that thousands were departing ......there were also not a few people who were simply expelled....We forced them to sign. I will tell you how exactly this was conducted: [for instance] a bus [carrying men] was arriving and only men were getting off,...--only men, aged 20 to 70, accompanied by borderguard soldiers. We were told that these were saboteurs, fedayeen, and it would be better that they would be outside the state.......[The Palestinian men] did not want to leave, and were dragged from the buses while being kicked and hit by revolver butts. By the time they arrived to my [signing] stall, they were usually already completely blurred [as a result of beatings] at this stage and did not care much about the signing. It seemed to them part of the process. In many cases the violence used against them was producing desirable results from our point of view. The distance between the border point and the [Allenby] Bridge was about 100 metres and out of fear they were crossing to the other side running; the borderguard men and the paratroopers were all the time in the vicinity. When someone refused to give me his hand [for finger printing] they came and beat him badly. Then I was forcibly taking his thumb, immersing it in ink and finger printing him. This way the refuseniks were removed....I have no doubt that tens of thousands of men were removed against their will.
4. The Three Large Refugee Camps Near Jericho: 'Ayn Sultan, Nu'aymah and 'Aqbat Jabir:
Until June 1967 the Palestinian population in the West Jordan Valley was dominated by three huge refugee camps surrounding the town of Jericho: 'Ayn Sultan, Nu'aymah and 'Aqbat Jabir. The residents of these camps had been driven out from present-day Israel in 1948. During the 1967 hostilities or shortly after virtually all residents of these camps, over 50,000 people, fled or were expelled to the East Bank, along with more than 50 percent of the native rural population of the Jordan Valley, reducing the region's total population by 88 percent.
In this context it is worth noting the reactions of two Israeli historians to the 1991 revelations surrounding the "transfer" operation of Hertzog, Lahat and Narkiss and to the relevance of this operation to the almost total de-population of the three refugee camps near Jericho. Uri Milstein had this to say:
I remember that 5 days after the..... War I was in Jericho. It was empty there and we were told that the [refugees of 'Ayn Sultan, Nu'aymah and 'Aqbat Jabir] fled. It is more likely that ......[the Israeli army] drove them away. In ....... [Israeli commanders] volunteered to carry out [transfer] on their own initiative. In the Six Day War there were similar situations. Many thought that we had not completed the job in ....... It is known that there was a plan to conquer Qalqilyah and destroy it. There was also a plan to carry out transfer in Hebron as a revenge for the massacre [of Jews] in 29.
Meir Pa'il stated:
The travel route of the buses.......from the Damascus Gate to the Allenby Bridge, had to pass via the Jericho valley and the [three] large refugee camps that were there and this is another confirmation of the story.
5.Why Did the Palestinians Leave?
The 1967 exodus was a complex phenomenon requiring a multi-cause explanation:
1) The exodus was, in part, a response to the severe situational pressures existing at the time. The pressures were generated by the Israeli aerial attacks upon these territories, including the extensive use of napalm;
2) The occupation of the West Bank villages and towns by the Israeli army, and the actions of the occupying forces. Certainly the most drastic of these actions was the evictions of civilians and the deliberate destruction of several villages ['Imwas, Yalu, Bayt Nuba, Bayt Marsam, Bayt 'Awa, Habla, al-Burj, and Jiftlik], and the initial destruction of Qalqilyah;
3) Other actions, such as threats and the mass detention of male civilians, also created situational pressures;
4) There were other indirect reasons: the Palestinian villagers were ill-prepared to resist and cope with these situational pressures; the Palestinian population was still in shock and disarray in the face of Israeli military force, reeling from the military occupation and in no position to resist Israeli pressures;
5) They were ill-informed and unfamiliar with the terrifying nature of the aerial attacks;
6) To this the social structure of Arab society should be added: the family-centered social structure; some Palestinians left to protect their family, particularly the honour of their womenfolk;
7) To this we should add the organized "transfer" operation (by busses) of Narkiss, Hertzog and Lahat. The extensive use of loudspeakers in the main cities to encourage departure for Amman is also well-documented;
8) To this we should add the following complex phenomenon: the 1967 refugee exodus varied from one region to another: over 90,000 people (almost 90 percent of the population) were driven from the Golan Heights, while the Gaza Strip lost about 20 percent of its 400,000 residents. There were also local variations in the West Bank and a complex mix of factors responsible;
9) The high population losses in some regions were the result of a "psychological legacy of pre-war events, a legacy of assorted fears," for instance, in the Hebron district and in the region surrounding the village of Qibya in the West Bank, where the Israeli army had carried out a large and infamous massacre in October 1953, in which 65 villagers (mostly women and children) were killed;
10) Another example was in the Latrun area where the over 6,000 residents of Yalu, `Imwas, and Bayt Nuba were ordered to leave their villages by the Israeli army and the chain-reaction effect of their movement across the West Bank can be traced in the higher losses from other villages on the Latrun-Ramallah-Jerusalem highway.
All Palestinian areas conquered by Israel in 1967 experienced immediate and substantial out-movements of Palestinian residents. Yet one of the most distinguishing features of the 1967 exodus was its complex "geographical character," with wide geographical variations in population losses-- as opposed to the wholesale nature of the 1948 exodus. For instance the Gaza Strip and the West Bank highlands, where most population centres were distant from the 1967 war-zone, experienced a comparatively moderate exodus (around 20-25%). The Gaza Strip also showed the smallest population reduction partly due to the fact that the area --in contrast to the West Bank-- is furthest from any potential sanctuary. In contrast to the highlands of the West Bank, where population loss was about 20-25 percent, 88 percent of the Palestinian population in the West Jordan Valley was driven out from a region "highly attractive to Israel owing to its strategic attribute." Also both the Hebron district and the Dayr Qaddis administrative division, on the western border with Israel, ranked among the highest loss areas.
Although the policy of evictions, demolitions and encouragement of "transfer" continued for several weeks after the Israeli army occupied the West Bank and Gaza, some leading Israeli politicians were clearly disappointed with the overall demographic outcome of the war. Dayan himself was criticized by Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon for not driving out the entire Palestinian inhabitants of East Jerusalem and Hebron. Allon's disappointment at the demographic outcome of the 1967 war was expressed at a private meeting in November 1967:
Is this the way to occupy Hebron? A couple of artillery bombardments on Hebron and not a single 'Hebronite' would have remained there. Is this the way to occupy [East] Jerusalem [without driving most of the Arabs out].
Systematic evictions and demolitions were evident in numerous geographical locations in the West Bank-- the Latrun villages, the al-Magharbeh quarter and the former Jewish quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem, the border towns of Qalqilyah and Tulkarm, the west Jordan Valley, the large refugee camps near Jericho, the Hebron district, and the Dayr Qaddis area. Thousands of young and middle age men from several cities and refugee camps were also targetted for deportation. Evacuation and demolition were executed at the level of middle and senior military echelons with the tacit approval of top level command and Defence Minister Dayan. Throughout this process of evacuation and demolition there was some lack of communication between the civil authorities, particularly Prime Minister Eshkol, and the military commanders; in practice the military exercised civilian functions. Senior military commanders, backed by Dayan, encouraged Palestinian residents to get out of East Jerusalem and other cities of the West Bank and to go to Jordan.
* Dr Nur Masalha is a Lecturer in Politics at Richmond University, London, and Honorary Fellow in the Centre for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, University of Durham, England. His most recent book is A Land without a People: Israel, Transfer and the Palestinians, 1949-1996 (London: Faber and Faber, 1997).
The Samaritan Sect and Israeli Nationality
Notables amongst the Samaritan sect in the city of Nablus have denied that a large number of Samaritans have acquired Israeli nationality, according to a news item published in the Hebrew paper "HaEretz" (25.4.97). Saloum al Kahen, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, said, on behalf of the sect, that the report concerns only a few dozen senior citizens who applied for Israeli citizenship about twelve years ago, in order to gain much needed pensions and national insurance allowances. Al Kahen affirmed that about 75 Samaritans have Israeli citizenship, most of whom were senior citizens, and that young Samaritans carry the same I.D. passes carried by all residents of Nablus. He added, "We are Palestinians and belong to Palestine, to Nablus and to Holy Mount Gerizim."
Farouk Al Sameri, the sect's secretary, vehemently denied that any members of the Samaritan sect in Nablus were in the process of obtaining Israeli citizenship. He said "We have no identity other than the Palestinian and Nablusi identity. Our existence is drawn from being here on this land on Mount Gerizim." The matter, he said, was no more than "a humanitarian issue," with no political overtones. "A number of senior citizens were compelled by their circumstances to obtain Israeli pension allowances in Israel by means of obtaining Israeli citizenship," Al Sameri said.
Members of the Samaritan sect in Nablus refused to accept an offer of citizenship from the Israeli government directly after its occupation of the town of Nablus in 1967. The people of Nablus remember to this day what the spiritual head of the Samaritan sect, Sidquh al Kahen, said in a radio interview with "Voice of Israel" after the occupation of the city. When the interviewer asked how the inhabitants of the town were treating them, he replied, "If our prophet Moses was with us to this day, I do not believe he would have treated us better than the way we are being treated by our own people - our brothers and sisters in the town of Nablus." The Samaritan sect is the smallest religious sect in the world, consisting of 680 individuals, half of whom live on Mount Gerizim whilst the remainder live in the Israeli town of Houloun, near Tel Aviv. The Samaritans believe in the sacredness of Mount Gerizim. Although they adhere to the ancient Old Testament, they deny the Jewish doctrines, believing them to be a corruption of the teachings of Moses.
40% of Palestinian Returnees Prefer Exile
40% of Palestinian returnees working for the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) look favourably upon the idea of returning to exile, according to a study by Dr. Yousif Abdul Haq, Professor of Economics in Al Najah University in Nablus. Housing problems seem to be a major cause of dissatisfaction. Only 15% of those returnees are home owners. 78% said that they are facing enormous difficulties in finding housing. 54% said they would not advise others to return in the light of current living conditions. More than two thirds of those interviewed said they were not happy in their work. The study indicates that the average income per family of returnees is $670 per month, which is not enough to meet rising rents and increasing costs of living. The study will be published by the Centre for Palestinian Research and Studies (CPRS).
200,000 Housing Units Needed in PNA Areas Over the Next Five Years
Marwan Abdel Hamid, the Under-Secretary of State of the Palestinian Ministry of Housing, recently said that the current housing crisis in the Palestinian territories is due to 30 years of Israeli occupation, during which the Israeli government greatly expanded settlements, confiscated Arab land and refused to grant building permits to Palestinians. Abdel Hamid added that Palestinians will need 200,000 new housing units during the next five years at a cost of $6 billion. The donor countries have not contributed any substantial aid to the building projects in the PNA territories, leaving the matter entirely to the private sector.
Immigrants From the Former Soviet Union Living Outside the Green Line Exceed 14,000
Israeli sources have revealed that a large number of new immigrants to Israel have settled in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This contravenes pledges made by Tel Aviv to Washington in exchange for American loans. In order to obtain these loans for the absorption of immigrants, former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir promised that no new immigrants would be sent to the settlements. The greater part of the loan, which amounts to about $15 billion, has been transferred to Israel over the past 5 years. A report prepared by the Peace Now movement indicates that immigrants from the former Soviet Union make up 90% of the settler population, although the percentage of immigrants in each of the 15 settlements varies from 17%-43%. The movement, which has been monitoring settlement activities in the occupied territories, added that 14,000 recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union now live in the settlements. Half of these live in Ariel, near Nablus, and Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem, the two largest settlements in the West Bank.
A Quarter of Homes in Jewish Settlements are Vacant
An American survey compiled over several months through satellite photos and other means obtained by HaEretz newspaper revealed that there was no need for Israel to expand settlements, since 26% of homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank are vacant. The vacancy rate, according to the report, was up to 56% in Gaza Strip settlements.
The survey, conducted for the most part last February, discovered that at least 9,939 homes were vacant out of a total of 41,000 settlement homes in the West Bank. According to HaEretz, American officials expressed their concern that the Israeli government is building 11,000 new settlement homes, not taking into account the 6,500 homes the Israeli government is planning to build in the settlement of Abu Ghoneim.
Binyamin Netanyahu dismissed the report as groundless, but declined to substantiate his assertion with any tangible facts.
Olmert Working to Close Only Refugee Camp in Jerusalem
Ehud Olmert, the mayor of Jerusalem, is striving to revive old plans to close the Shu'fat Palestinian refugee camp, which is the only camp falling within the municipal boundaries of the city of Jerusalem. Olmert recently declared that he has a plan for the camp's "material and social development." The Israeli paper, Jerusalem, (28.3.97) stated that more than 300 people from the Shu'fat camp have recently obtained Israeli nationality, and that dozens more have submitted similar applications, but have not yet received responses.
Tour of the Gulf by UNRWA's General Commissioner
UNRWA's High Commissioner, Peter Hans, completed a tour of the Arab Gulf countries last March. The tour included Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The purpose of the visit, begun by Mr. Hans toward the end of last February, was to broaden UNRWA's donor base and consolidate the organisation's standing in the international community. The Agency plans to continue its work in the Gulf region and to begin a number of activities focusing on the media, commerce and humanitarian institutions. Mr. Hans intends to begin a similar tour this spring in South Asia.
52,863 New Births in the West Bank in 1996 but Suicide Rates are Increasing
There were 52,863 new births in the West Bank during 1996, according to a census published by the Palestinian Ministry of Health. During 1995 and 1996, there were 1,623 infant deaths. The census also shows that there are 2,534,598 inhabitants in the Palestinian governorates. 1,571,572 live in the West Bank, while 963,026 live in the Gaza Strip. Reports issued by the Palestinian Police indicate an increase in the suicide rate amongst 20-30 year olds. These reports reveal that last March, two Palestinians committed suicide while 14 others made attempts to take their lives. In April there was one death by suicide and 17 attempts. There may also be other suicides and suicide attempts that go unreported.
Andrew Robinson Visits Gaza
The Canadian Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Andrew Robinson, visited the PNA areas last April during a Middle East tour. As the Gavel Holder of the Working Group for Palestinian Refugees in the multilateral peace talks, the Canadian government faces an arduous task during the critical phase the peace process is currently experiencing. Last March the Council of the League of Arab States passed a resolution urging members not to participate in the multilateral peace talks as a protest against Israel's continued expansion of the settlements. The Quadripartite Technical Committee charged with studying the mechanisms for the return of Palestinians displaced in 1967 has been paralyzed since the Likud victory in the Israeli election last Autumn. The Committee's last meeting in Bethlehem made no progress. A meeting expected to be held in May faces a similar fate. As part of an inspection of projects financed by the Canadian government to improve living standards in the refugee camps, Robinson visited the "Canada neighborhood" in the border town of Rafah, and met refugees' families who crossed the Egyptian border that divides the town.
900 for Israeli Work Permit
Reports published by the General Union of Palestinian Labourers and several human rights centres indicate that dozens of Palestinian workers have fallen prey to swindlers working for the Israeli authorities. The workers were promised that they would be issued with work permits in return for a payment of up to $900 per permit. For months Israel has imposed closures on the PNA areas, preventing thousands of Palestinian workers from crossing the Green Line into Israel.
Israeli Report: The Value of Palestinian Refugees' Property is $ 6 Billion
PLO Dismisses this Figure As Absurd
The property left behind by Palestinians forced to leave in 1948 has been valued at more than $6 billion. This figure is based on an official report written in 1948 and recently published by the Israeli paper, HaEretz (18.4.97). The 49 year old report valued these possessions in 1948 at one billion dollars. The property included the land and homes where more than 900,000 Palestinians had been living in areas of what is today known as the state of Israel. The emigrants were forced to leave their lands and homes after the occupation by Israeli armed forces. HaEretz published this document after it was released by the State Office of Archives. The newspaper stated that the Israeli government last studied the document during a sitting held on November 11th 1951. During the meeting, the then Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett mockingly suggested that Israel agree to a recommendation made by the UN Palestinian Reconciliation Committee that 250,000 refugees be allowed to return and compensation be paid to the others. The then Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, refused.
Dr. Asa'd Abdul Rahman, Executive P.L.O. Member and Head of the Refugee Department, dismissed these figures as "absurd". He said that the true value of refugees' property was many times that estimated figure. Abdul Rahman revealed that the P.L.O. holds a detailed file that lists all properties. "We will open this file when the Final Status Negotiations with the Israelis begin," he added.
70,600 New Immigrants to Israel in 1996
Recently published official figures reveal that there were 70,600 immigrants to Israel last year. This represents an 8% decrease in immigration from 1995. An official at the Central Bureau of Statistics stated that 83% of immigrants arrived from the republics of the former Soviet Union, with the remainder coming from other parts of Europe, the United States, Argentina, as well as other countries. The official added that 16% of new arrivals are trained in the field of engineering, and 1.4% are trained in the field of medicine.
More than 780,000 Jews immigrated to Israel since the former Soviet Union lifted restrictions on travel in 1989. The influx of immigrants peaked in 1990 when almost 200,000 people migrated. The figures indicate that since 1992 between 70,000-80,000 immigrants have been admitted. Official sources estimate that the population of Israel is approximately 5.5 million.
Jordan Eases Restrictions for Temporary Passport Holders in a Drive to Attract Investors
In mid-March, the Jordanian government declared that it is providing new incentives for investors who hold temporary Jordanian passports. This decision is the latest in a series of economic opportunities not previously available to temporary passport holders, most of whom are from Gaza. A recent decree granted foreigners with these passports permission to own vehicles and register them in their name. Gazans with temporary Jordanian passports can, after this latest governments decision, now own homes and land in Jordan. They can also set up companies registered in their own name.
Ibrahim Mismaar, the Head of the Jordanian Department of Lands and Surveys, stated that the Council of Ministers will allow foreign investors to become owners of property in Jordan. Applications submitted by Arabs who hold temporary Jordanian passports will be considered by the Council of Ministers for approval, whether the land to be bought is residential, industrial, agricultural or for investment purposes. Mismaar added that applications submitted by individuals who are of Jordanian or Palestinian descent will be referred to the Intelligence Services for scrutiny. Approval should take no less than two weeks from the date of submission.
Refugee Camps in Amman To Be Transferred to New Residential Quarters
Informed sources in Amman recently stated that the Jordanian government has decided to transfer Palestinian refugees camps in the capital to new housing areas. This step is one of a number of ambitious projects funded by the World Bank for Social Development to improve to deprived regions and areas built without proper urban planning. Refugees living in the camps of Whihdat, Baqa'a and Hitteen will be transferred to new quarters in one of the districts of Greater Amman. The governorate will supervise the organisation of these quarters and the provision of services previously undertaken by UNRWA. The same sources added that the names of the proposed housing areas will be different to the names by which these camps are currently known.
The authorities began to blueprint some of these camps, including Hitteen located in the Eastern part of Amman, in order to extend the network of roads and drainage systems, and to renovate buildings. A fast road will be built through Wihdat camp, which lies to the south of the Jordanian capital. This will require the destruction of a number of homes that lie on the planned route. The governorate of Amman will house the inhabitants of these homes in other areas. Although recent press reports state that a government plan exists to transfer the camps to housing areas, Jordanian officials stress that nothing will be done in that direction until the PNA and Israel come to an agreement concerning the refugee issue. Jordan would like to be a participant in these negotiations because it is the host country with the greatest number of Palestinian refugees.
Foreigners Exempted from Entry Visa Requirements But Palestinians Are Not
Lebanon has decided to grant citizens of certain countries immediate entry visas to its territories through airport, harbour and land entry points, making it unnecessary to apply beforehand through Lebanese embassies abroad. A memorandum issued on the 28th of April by the General Security Administration permits entry at the borders to the citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, France, Britain, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, Greece, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, Finland, and Portugal. A similar memorandum giving the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council identical treatment has already been issued. However, the Lebanese authorities still require that Palestinians who have residency status in Lebanon obtain return visas when leaving Lebanon. Hundreds of Palestinians outside Lebanon have great difficulty obtaining such visas and therefore find themselves unable to return.
Sectarian Contention Behind an Appendix to the Nationality Law
The Lebanese Ministry of the Interior declared that it has begun the process of issuing an appendix to Nationality Regulations No. 5247(1994). It has designated offices at the Department of Personal Affairs, in the district of Al Matin, to receive applications from those who satisfy the requirements for nationality. Sources in Beirut requested that the Department designate the evenings of April 14th 1997 and May 14th 1997 as dates for receiving applications. In accordance with the nationality regulations of 1994, the Lebanese authorities have already granted citizenship to hundreds of thousands of non-Lebanese citizens, and thousands more are expected.
The Council of Muftis, a religious body that represents Sunni Muslims in Lebanon, issued a statement criticising what it considers as "sectarian rejectionism in the name of national harmony," in granting Lebanese citizenship. The statement adds that "a citizen's rights should not be denied to anyone because he belongs to a particular sect," but also added that citizenship should not be granted "to those who have no right to it, under the pretext of maintaining harmony."
350,000 People in Egypt Search for a Nationality
The law prevents Egyptian mothers from passing on their nationality to their children when married to foreigners. The figures this amount to are roughly 350,000 stateless children born to 150,000 Egyptian women. Amongst these children are 12,000 some term as "victims of the Union" between Egypt and Syria (1961-1985) as they were born to an Egyptian mother (then known as the Southern Province) and a Syrian father (then known as the Northern Province). These children were deprived of their right to Egyptian nationality after the failure of the Union. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry has recently been bombarded with complaints from about 900 completely stateless children who, for various reasons, also failed to acquire their fathers' nationalities.
The current Egyptian nationality law was formulated at the beginning of this century and borrows most of its articles from an Italian law that the Italian government annulled long ago. Although the Egyptian law does not totally deprive a mother of passing on Egyptian nationality to her children, the requirements described by the law effectively make taking the nationality impossible. Amongst the requirements, the child must be born to an unknown, or a stateless father, and that the application for nationality be submitted to the Minister of the Interior within the first year of the child's adulthood. The Minister of the Interior has discretion to make the final decision. The law also prevents children of stateless Palestinians who hold legal travel documents from benefiting from this clause on political grounds. The difficulties caused by these restrictions have led to the splitting up of many families.
New Restrictions on Egyptians Travelling to Israel
A source within the Egyptian Ministry of the Interior stated recently that the Egyptian government has decided to place new restrictions on the travel of Egyptians to Israel. The reasons for this are the "negative effects" that Egyptian travellers are having on national security. This source also reported that a committee of ministries, including Defence, Labour, the Interior and Justice, led by the Foreign Ministry, will be formed to review the issue of security and travel to Israel. A security official emphasised the importance of making Egyptians aware of security issues before their departure, and the importance of holding meetings immediately upon their return. Egyptian males under the age of 35 need clearance from the security forces before travelling abroad in order to determine their status regarding compulsory military service. For Egyptian travellers, a special passport must be submitted to the Israeli embassy for a visa, and thereafter special permission is required from the Egyptian Passports Office. These additional restrictions will most likely lead to a reduction in the number of Egyptian travellers to Israel.
The Israeli embassy in Cairo stated last year that the number of Egyptians travelling to Israel dropped from 30,000 in 1995, to 13,000 during the first 10 months of 1996.
23 Iraqi Refugees Drown in the Aegean Sea
3 Million Iraqis Have Emigrated Since 1990
23 Iraqi refugees drowned in the Aegean Sea at the beginning of last May. The refugees were attempting a crossing from Turkish shores to one of the Greek islands in search of asylum. The victims are members of two families, including women and children, who arrived in Turkey via northern Iraq. After the Turkish authorities refused to grant them permission to stay, the two families hired two small boats, at a cost of $3,000 per passenger, in an attempt to reach the Greek island of Samos.
This is the fourth reported case of drowning in the last two months, and increases the number of casualties amongst Iraqi refugees to more than 850 victims over the past three years, official Turkish sources said. According to some reports, approximately 3 million Iraqis, from a population of almost 22 million, have fled since the imposition of sanctions placed after their forces invaded Kuwait in 1990. Reports indicate that a number of those who recently emigrated to the United States have been imprisoned and face deportation. American measures were criticised by the media as well as human rights groups.
Repressive Measures Used on Saloum Camp's Deportees Condemned by AOHR
In a statement issued on April 29th, the Arab Organisation for Human Rights (AOHR) condemned the Libyan authorities' use of force a week earlier, when they attempted to move more than 200 Palestinian refugees from a camp on the borders of Egypt and Libya to a camp in Tubruk, east of Tripoli. The 250 refugees face "an uncertain future" in Libya.
Libya began a campaign in the summer of 1995 to expel Palestinians residing there in order to prove the "failure" of the self-rule agreements between the Palestinians and Israel that were signed in 1993 and 1994. AOHR, which is based in Cairo, added that the Libyan authorities "used force to evacuate the camp and did not allow [the families] to gather their belongings or even change their clothes". Amongst the deportees were women, children and the sick.
AOHR urgently called upon the Libyan leadership to protect these Palestinians and guarantee them decent living conditions after their bitter ordeal in the border camps. It called particularly for the provision of housing, employment, and schooling.
Recent reports indicate that two families, consisting of 15 members, were returned to the camp in mid May. Open disagreements have arisen between the Libyan and Egyptian authorities over the future of these two families. The Libyan authorities state that they were sent to Egypt because they were in possession of Egyptian entry visas. The Egyptian authorities replied that the entry visas to Egypt had only been granted to some, not all, of the family members.
Half a Million Algerians Have Emigrated Since 1990
A report published in April by the National Office of Statistics in Algeria revealed that approximately 410,000 Algerians emigrated between the years 1990 to 1995. This 5 year period saw the rise of violent confrontations between the growing Islamist movement and the Algerian government. The stated figures do not include illegal emigrants.
300,000 Aliens Deported by the UAE in 1996
A senior security official in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) reported that the total number of workers deported since the implementation of the new Entry and Residence Law for Aliens in 1996, reached 300,000 people. Most of the deportees were Asian or Iranian, although an unspecified number of Palestinians were also expelled.
Kuwait: Swindlers Trade in Work Permits for Foreign Workers
The Kuwaiti Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour asked the Public Prosecutor this March to investigate nearly 300 businessmen suspected of dealing illegally in work permits. The businessmen obtain up to $3000 from the workers by falsely promising to issue them with permits. Many of the defrauded workers end up bankrupt and unemployed after borrowing heavily to pay the swindlers. The maximum penalty for illegally dealing in work permits is 5000 dinars ($16,500) and three months' imprisonment Diplomats have said that a number of businessmen have been forming paper companies that recruit workers from Asian and Arab countries. Kuwait, whose total population is two million, employs about one million foreign workers.
Palestinians and Lebanese Amongst Refugees Who Face Deportation from Germany
Recent reports indicate that hundreds of Lebanese and Palestinians are among the 300,000 refugees currently facing deportation from Germany. The refugees, mostly Bosnian nationals, were offered temporary residence permits when they fled as a result of the war in their country. The Bosnian government asked the German government to delay the forced return of the refugees in order that the necessary preparations be made to receive them. The Bosnian government feels that returning such a large number of refugees at such short notice could result in a social and humanitarian catastrophe.
Contention Around Dupres' Immigration Law Continues After Law is Passed in French Parliament
The French Constitutional Council rejected two clauses forming part of the law pertaining to immigration already passed by the French parliament, and drafted by the Minister of the Interior Jean Louis Dupres. The Socialists in the Parliamentary Assembly, the National Assembly, and the Council of Elders sent the law to the Constitutional Council on March 27th. The first clause, which was annulled by the "Nine Elders " in the Constitutional Council, stipulates that seekers of political asylum should have their fingerprints taken. The second stipulates that their residence permits should not be renewed in cases where doing so would pose a threat to security. The Constitutional Council considered the other clauses valid, to which Socialist parliamentarians objected. The draft law ignited a huge wave of protest in France and in the European Parliament, especially amongst civil liberties and immigrants' rights groups, and many artistic and intellectual circles. The Socialists have promised to annul this law if they win the general election.
About three million refugees, mostly from the Maghreb and other areas in Africa, are legal residents in France. The number of illegal immigrants in France is estimated to be between 100,000 and 500,000.
The Arab League's Council, taking note of the General Secretariat's memorandum, and the recommendation of the Conference of Advisors on Palestinian Affairs, in its fifty-seventh session, and the recommendation of the Committee on Political Affairs,
Recalling General Assembly Resolution number 194 of 1948, and Security Council resolution number 237 of 1967,
Taking into account the provisions of the International Convention on Political and Social Rights, and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights,
1- To affirm the need for the implementation of the Arab League Council's resolution number 5414 of 15/9/1994, to entrust the UN Reconciliation Committee, set up in accordance with the General Assembly resolution number 194 and in cooperation with the Arab states and the UN Relief and Works Agency for Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), with the task of preparing a comprehensive census of Palestinian refugees and their properties, and of drawing up a comprehensive proposal for resolving their issue on the basis of resolution number 194.
2- To reject attempts aimed at considering the refugee problem as a mere humanitarian issue, whilst severing it from its political and legal dimensions.
3- To affirm the importance of convening an international symposium and to lay down mechanisms and proposals for reaching a just solution to the refugee issue on the basis of resolution number 194 of 1948, and to call upon the Secretariat General to exert the necessary efforts to convene such a symposium.
4- The necessity of implementing Security Council resolution number 237 of 1967, and other pertinent United Nations resolutions, in order to facilitate the return of the displaced.
The League's Council, taking note of the Secretariat General's memorandum concerning UNRWA's financial position, and the recommendations made in the joint meeting of the host states' representatives, the Secretariat General, in conjunction with the delegation from UNRWA headquarters on 13/3/1997, the League's previous resolutions concerning the issue, and the Political Committee's recommendation:
Draw attention to the gravity of the report concerning the Relief Agency's budget deficit, and the possibility of terminating its work by abandoning its responsibilities before the issue of Palestinian refugees is settled,
1- To affirm the international responsibility for the refugee issue, and the need for UNRWA to continue carrying out its work and offering its services without handing over its responsibilities to any other agency, until the refugee issue is resolved on the basis of General Assembly Resolution number 194 of 1948 .
2- To refuse any reduction or stoppage in the UNRWA's services and affirm the need for the continuance of all their programmes, including relief programmes for hardship cases, and that they not resort to burdening the Palestinian refugee community, or the host countries, with any financial costs due to the deficit in its budget.
3- To invite the donor countries to honour their commitments and contribute to UNRWA'S general budget, and invite the Arab states to expand their contacts with donor countries so that they may increase their contributions in order to consolidate their financial resources.
4- To call upon UNRWA to respond to requests from host Arab countries to exert more efforts to persuade donor countries to ensure a fair allocation of funds and projects destined for the Peace Implementation Program (PIP), amidst the five areas of UNRWA's operation.
5- The importance of holding a periodic meeting between member states of the Conference of Advisors and the Secretariat General, the High Commissioner and senior officials of various departments of UNRWA, to coordinate and carry out consultations previous to the meeting of the Conference of Advisors on Palestinian Affairs.
6- To affirm Arab League Council resolutions, particularly resolution number 4645 of 6/4/1987, which calls upon Arab states, as part of the international community, to increase their contributions to UNRWA's regular budget.
A Land without a People:Israel, Transfer and the Palestinians 1949-96
By Nur Masalha, 246pp, published by Faber & Faber, London, 1997, $24.95 (Pb).
Palestine, in Zionist thought, is "a land without people for a people without a land"; a vacant territory waiting for settlers, with Palestinian residents who are not attached to the land by historical or cultural ties. In his book, Nur Masalha discusses how "transfer" has informed the thinking of the Israeli officials since the creation of Israel in 1948, and how the policy "more land, less Arabs" has been seen as a serious solution to Israel's demographic problems.
Refugees Into Citizens:Palestinians and the End of the Arab-Israeli Conflict
By Donna "E. Arzt, 232pp, a Council on Foreign Relations Book, New York, 1997, $18.95 (Pb).
Syracuse University international law professor Donna Arzt explores a new, and very difficult field to test: a blueprint for Arab-Israeli peace negotiations. Her policy prescription calls for an end to the Middle East conflict by offering all Palestinian refugees dual citizenship, compensation for lost property, and/or voluntary absorption options in either a future state of Palestine, other Arab states in the region, the broader international community, or repatriation with Israel. Whether or not you agree with her conclusions, the author has made a great effort to explore various scenarios for the future
Palestinian Identity:The Construction of Modern National Consciousness
By Rashid Khalidi, 309pp, published by Columbia University Press, New York, 1997, $34.00 (Hb).
In his book, Rashid "Khalili examines the ways in which the Palestinian national consciousness has come full circle, and explores prospects for its future. Although the recognition of a Palestinian political entity gives cause for optimism, the author attempts to answer many questions remain unsolved, perhaps most importantly, whether this development can become the matrix for statehood and national independence.
These publications are available at a price of $ 10 each including postage and handling
The Palestinians displaced in 1967 and the Peace Negotiation
By a group of researchers, 1996, ( Arabic)
-No 1 : Civil and citizenship rights of Palestinian refugees
Two papers by Abbas Shiblak & Uri Davis, 1996,(English)
-No 2: Israel Plans to ressettle the Palestinian Refugees 1948-1972
By Nur Massalha, 1996, (English)
-No 3: The Palestinians in Syria, the Demographic, Economic and Social Conditions
By Nabil Al-Sahli, 1996, (Arabic)
-No 4: Israel resttlement Schemes for Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967
By Norma Masriyeh Hazboun, 1996, (English)
-No 5: the Palestinians in Egypt and North Sinai
Two papers by Abdul-Qader Yasin, Sari Hanfi & Oliver Saint Martin, 1996, (Arabic)
Shaml Forthcoming Publications
-Reintegration of the Palestinian Returnees
By Nicholas van-Hear and Others, (English)
- League of Arab States Resolutions on Palestinian Refugees' Residency Rights In Host Arab States
Compiled and Introduced By Abbas Shiblak, ( Arabic)
-Palestinian Refugee Community in Iraq
By Labib Qudsiyeh, (Arabic)
P. O. Box: 38152, Jerusalem, 97800
Tel: (97202) 998 7537
Fax: (972-2) 998 6598
Tel & Fax: (44 181)248 5336
Rex Brynen * email@example.com * 14 June 1997