How other refugee problems have been resolved
It is frequently claimed (incorrectly) that Palestinians are the only refugees who have been unable to return
to their homes, deliberately ignoring the fact that millions of refugees have indeed been resettled in host countries.
In a November 1957 paper, "Century of the Homeless Man," published by the Carnegie Endowment for International
Peace, Dr. Elfan Rees, Advisor on Refugees to the World Council of Churches, wrote:
No large-scale refugee problem has ever been solved by repatriation, and there are certainly no grounds
for believing that this particular problem (the Palestine refugees) can be so solved…The facts we must face force us
to the conclusion that for most of the world refugees the only solution is integration where they are.
In terms of Article XIII of the 1945 Potsdam declaration signed by Stalin, Truman and Atlee, approximately
15 million Germans who had well established homes and businesses in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Austria were forcibly
relocated to Germany. They lost title to the property they left behind, and no arrangements were made to compensate them for
The creation of Pakistan similarly resulted in the relocation of millions of people. Immovable property left
behind by these refugees was seized by the respective governments to help settle the incoming refugees.
All were successfully resettled in host countries and none of those many millions were entitled to claim
a right to return to their ancestral homelands. One must ask why only the Palestinian refugees have been deliberately left
to rot as political pawns, pacified by the false hope of return, rather than be absorbed by their brethren in neighboring
It is cruelty in the extreme to tantalize these refugees with hopes they might gain something by giving up
a right they in fact do not have and to make a concession not theirs to make.
Hopefully there is some light at the end of the tunnel in the courageous statements of Al-Sweidan and Bassem
Eid, quoted above, who ask the Arab states to follow Israel’s example in having successfully absorbed the thousands
of Jewish refugees who had lost everything in fleeing from Arab countries, after the 1948 war. They reinforce the prescient
views expressed much earlier by Dr. Marguerite E. Ritchie in a paper, "Revolutionary Violence and Canadian Policy," presented
to the Human Rights Institute of Canada. She wrote:
Perhaps Canada is in the best possible position to urge that the Arab states, whose invasion of the territory
assigned to Jewish Palestinians created the refugee problem in 1948, accept and integrate into their territory those Arab
refugees who live on international dole in these UN camps.
After all, Canada includes among its most honored citizens the descendants of the United Empire Loyalists
who lost their homes as a result of the American Revolution. Canada did not keep those loyalists in camps, but rewarded them
for their loyalty by the gift of new land and new lives. Are the Arab states less generous towards their own brethren?
Subject for academic study
The result of the vote in the Doha debate truly provides an interesting subject for study. It is interesting to observe how an overwhelming majority of well-meaning
intelligent people make decisions intended for the benefit of others which are actually contrary to the interests of those
very people they sincerely intend to serve.
82% of the audience who live in comfort urged millions of refugees living in distressing conditions to forego
benefits which could be traded in exchange for foregoing this possibly non-existent right of return.
That the true interests of the refugees are not served by this call is evident from the survey by professor
Khalil Shikaki, referred to above. The poll disclosed that only 10% of Palestinians in refugee camps demanded to return
to live in Israel, and this figure dropped further when it was realized that their original homes no longer existed and that
they would have to become Israeli citizens. Most preferred other solutions as suggested by Bassem Eid and others. The complete
results of the survey may be viewed here.
This episode suggests the high probability that many decision-making processes by responsible people are
likely to be intuitive and seriously flawed. The lesson: politicians dealing with life and death subjects which affect large
populations such as nuclear proliferation and global warming ought to take compulsory courses in structured rational decision