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A Broader Look At The Long-Lasting Conflicts Between Arabs And Jews And The Status Of The Refugees

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The Palestinian Refugee Problem

A Broader Look at the Long-Lasting Conflicts Between Arabs and Jews and the Status of the Refugees

Is the Palestinian refugee problem a unilateral matter? Is it fair to examine this problem from only the Arab or Jewish perspective? Since the situation of the Arabs living in the refugee camps are worse than the simultaneously emigrated Jewish people, we refer to this problem unilaterally as if the only victims of the Palestine events were the Arabs, but in fact that is not true, as it is also not true that the Jews and Israelis are the only responsible ones of overall events. To understand the Palestinian refugee problem, first the meaning of the word refugee should be understood; a refugee is an individual who left his or her native country and is unwilling or unable to return to it because of persecution or fear of persecution as because of race, religion, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Those individuals who seek refugee status are sometimes known as asylum seekers; the most common asylum claims to be industrialized countries based on religious and/or political grounds. Once the definition of the word refugee is clarified it would be a good start to talk about the historical background of Palestine and then perceive the events from both Arab and Jewish sides, from the states and migrants point of views, considering the expulsions, massacres, human rights violations and follow the history and the conditions in which the refugees are living since 1948, Israel's role and finally the almost non mentioned massacres and expulsions of the Jews from the Arab states. The aim of the first chapter is to give you a general historical background of Palestine and the origins of the refugee problems and the roots of the conflicts and this section will be followed by the Arab Israeli conflicts, Arab states irresponsibility on the refugee issues, statistics showing the emigration rates, and the role of the UNRWA, and my final chapter will include the other side of the issue; the Jewish refugees immigrated right after the Second World War and their massacre experiences in various Arab countries and then at the end I will sum up with clarifying my point of view objectively after summarizing my researches.

In order to understand the Palestinian refugee problem we should have a look at the Palestine's historical background throughout the centuries. In 1516, the Ottoman Empire defeated the Mamluks and in the aftermath for 300 years the Ottomans avoided any foreign influence to involve in the region, but in 1831 a dependent

of the Ottoman Sultan, an Egyptian viceroy entered with his forces to Palestine and occupied it and during his times the region was available to the European influence. The Sultan reestablished the control in 1940 again, however the Western influence continued to exist. In 1882 Jews especially the Russian Jews were the first ones to settle among many Europeans. Towards the end of the 19th century the Zionist movement was established and huge amounts of Zionist colonies established here. This Jewish movement was a response to the increasing anti-Semitic ideologies and according to the Zionist ideology a Jewish land must have been established in Palestine. In the beginning of the Zionist colonization of the Palestine land the majority of the Palestine population was Muslim and the rural population was mainly composed of Arab peasants, on the other hand in the urban areas there were located large sizes of Arab Christians at Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Jerusalem and also many Jews at Jericho, Hebron, Jerusalem, Zefat, and Tiberias (Shemesh, 1998: p.112).

Contemporaneously there was a rise in the Arab nationalism in the Middle East against the Ottoman rule. At the First World War, the British troops invaded Palestine thanks to Arabs support. In 1917 with the Balfour Declaration, the British government made a deal with the Zionist leaders ensuring them to help them establishing a Jewish national land in Palestine and also to protect those non-Jews (Sicke, 1989: p.71). Interestingly British promised similar things to the Arabs simultaneously, like backing up the creation and independence of the Arab states. The problem was about the fact that Arabs considered Palestine to be one of these promised lands.

There were 58,000 Jews, 74,000 Christians, and 568,000 Muslims living in Palestine in 1919. After a year the first sign of public violence against Zionists started. The administration of the area initiated in 1920 and in 1922 the League of Nations approved the mandate of the Britain. Because of the fact that British government was the mandate, the responsibility to help the establishment of a Jewish homeland and also supporting and giving momentum to the Jewish immigration were also under British responsibility. With the 1922's White Paper Britain emphasized that their policy was not to make the whole land Jewish, they thought to make only a part of Palestine a Jewish land, and also they stressed the economic constraints on the numbers of the immigrants and asked for a defined limits. In 1920's even though the immigration of the Jews was almost slight, the economic improvement of the Jewish community was pretty sizeable. At the end of the 20's because of the fact that Arabs were feeling threatened by the unexpected and fast prospering of the Jews, a very harsh tension rise between Arabs and Jews experienced. As a result of these, another White Paper was signed in 1930 in order to limit the immigration of the Jews. Huge increase of Nazism in the world especially in Europe, thoroughly triggered the immigration of the Jews to Palestine, while looking at the statistics it can be seen that while in 1932 the number of the authorized immigrants was about 5,000, this number goes up to 62,000 in 1935. Vis-Ðo-vis this increase many boycotts and general strikes were realized by the Arabs, these were long lasting strikes, actually one of those lasted for six months and also guerilla forces were formed to fight against the Jews.

Because of all these disorders the Peel Commission gathered in 1937 and as a result of the gatherings, the Commission found British promises non reliable and incapable and unworkable in many ways British rule itself. Because of all of these points the Commission advised that the Palestine land should be divided into Jewish, Arab, and British mandatory states. The Arabs rejected this while the Zionists unwillingly accepted the segmentation. What Arabs mainly objected to was the proposal for the Arabs to leave the proposed Jewish state (Sicke,1989: p.18). Consequently Britain dropped the division idea and declared a fresh policy with the White Paper of 1939. According to the new White Paper there will be a limitation



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