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Another Look at the Problem of Refugees

Posted on May 17 2010 6:00 pm
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In mid-May, as usual, many newspapers around the globe devoted their pages to the seemingly irresolvable problem of Palestinian refugees. For instance, on May 16, the website of the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported from Israel:

According to the United Nations (UN) figures, some 726,000 Palestinians left their homes 62 years ago, shortly before Israel was declared as a state. Since then, the Palestinian refugees were deprived of returning to their villages.

The essence of this quandary was aptly described by Michael Steinhardt in the Op-Ed page of The Wall Street Journal:

Descendants of the Arabs who left their homes in 1948 now number in the millions. The Palestinians want these people returned to Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel says no, knowing this would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state.

All attempts to resolve that problem have failed – mostly, because of the stubborn and utterly unreasonable resistance on the part of the Arabs. But Mr. Steinhardt’s proposal (and many similar ideas) to cut this knot by employing a combination of monetary compensation and granting of citizenship to stateless Palestinians is worth considering seriously.

History provides convincing examples of how refugee problems have been successfully – although in most cases, painfully – resolved. For example, in the wake of World War II, untold millions of ethnic Germans were expelled from the territories they had lived in for centuries – from East Prussia, the Sudetenland in Czechoslovakia, eastern provinces of Germany proper, Romania, Hungary, and Yugoslavia. They were all accepted by the two post-war German nations as full-right citizens.

If Arab leaders do feel true compassion for the plight of their Palestinian brethren (as they invariably insist they do), and have sincere desire to put an end to their stateless existence, they can learn from very humane laws of granting citizenship that have been adopted by many nations: Armenia, Belarus, China, Croatia, Finland, Germany, Greece, Poland, Japan, France, India, Bulgaria, and many, many others.

Let’s take a look, for instance, at the appropriate laws adopted in Poland, Lithuania, and Armenia:

Constitution of Poland, Article 52(5): “Anyone whose Polish origin has been confirmed in accordance with statute may settle permanently in Poland”.

From the Constitution of Lithuania, Article 32(4): “Every Lithuanian person may settle in Lithuania.”

Article 14 of the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia (1995) provides that “individuals of Armenian origin shall acquire citizenship of the Republic of Armenia through a simplified procedure.”

The whole Palestinian refugee problem would’ve been resolved if parliaments of Arab nations had adopted a law proclaiming:

“Individuals of Palestinian-Arab origin shall acquire citizenship of this country through a simplified procedure.”

This is the law that Arab countries should adopt in order to grant citizenship to their Palestinian brethren, and finish, once and for all, with the dreadful refugee problem.

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