Reflections on Refugees, New Jersey & Broken Cameras
by Joel B.
Much has been written and said about the Palestinian refugee problem, and much blame has been cast at Israel for not allowing those “refugees” to “return” to their old homes in Israel. However, in the context of Palestinian Arabs,“refugee” is a propaganda term with no basis in law or fact. According to international law, there are no Palestinian refugees.
Let's examine these elements, starting with the reason for the inability of the so-called refugees to return to their former homes.
If you argue that these so-called refugees should have the right to "return" to homes that are now in Israel, you're contradicting the concept of Palestinian nationality. If you consider an Arab who once lived in Jaffa, or Haifa, or Lod (or whose grandparents once lived there) to be a refugee even though he's living in the Palestinian West Bank or Gaza, you're saying that he's not really a Palestinian; rather, he's a Jaffa-ite, or a Haifa-ite, or a Lod-ite.
Consider a parallel situation. My grandparents fled Russia. Let's assume that I wanted to move into my grandfather's old home in Russia. The Russian authorities could rightfully insist, "You can't move here --you're not a Russian citizen." Would I be considered a refugee? Of course not! Having been born in the United States, I have American nationality and citizenship. Although my grandparents were born in Russia, Russia isn't my "country of origin", the United States is.
Consider another parallel. In 1947, British India was partitioned into a Muslim state (Pakistan) and a Hindu state (the Union of India). Millions of Hindus left their ancestral homes in Pakistan to become Indian citizens, and millions of Muslims left their ancestral homes in India to become Pakistani citizens. Although displaced, they did not become refugees, even if their displacement was the result of duress or violence. Certainly their descendants are not considered refugees.
Another interesting parallel: millions of Muslims remained in India and accepted Indian citizenship, just as thousands of Arabs remain in Israel and accepted Israeli citizenship. Muslim Pakistan was not so hospitable to keeping a Hindu minority, just as the Muslim Arab states were not amenable to keeping their Jewish minorities.
Then there are the thousands of Americans who were displaced from New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. They can't go back to their ancestral homes in New Orleans — they have to make their homes elsewhere in the United States.
Five Broken Cameras
I haven't seen the new film documentary "Five Broken Cameras" yet, but I've read enough about it to get the gist — that Israeli soldiers and Jewish residents the Bil'in area behaved atrociously toward their Arab neighbors.
No one can condone the destruction of Mr. Burnat's cameras or Bil'in's loss of some agricultural land. But before we use this documentary as justification to indict Israel, Israelis, and Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, we should consider that implacable conflicts over land exist everywhere. Here in our own State of New Jersey, entire communities have been wantonly destroyed in the name of public policy.
I am imagining that there is an award-winning documentary out of Brazil consisting of home movies by a peaceful Amerindian villager in which he recorded heartwarming moments with this family and nasty confrontations with white loggers, ranchers and Brazilian soldiers, who smashed five of his cameras. Why do we react to "5 Broken Cameras" differently than we would respond to "Cinco Câmeras Quebradas"?
Maybe it's this:
Notwithstanding the atrocious treatment of Brazil's minorities, I haven't heard of any calls for Brazil to be wiped off the map or for white Brazilians to go back to Portugal and turn the entire country over to Amerindians, who, after all, were there first. There's no international boycott or divestment movement directed at Brazil. Artists don't cancel concert tours to Brazil because of oppression of indigenous peoples; Brazilian academics aren't barred from international conferences or banned from European universities.
Some Brazilians can do unjust things to other Brazilians without the legitimacy of entire nation being challenged.
Then, there's Israel ...
Joel B. provided this original content material; it is used with permission.