The Palestinian Refugees: A Story That Never Ends

25 August, 2005

Letter on the position of the
Palestinian refugees

November 17, 1949

This letter from the chairman of the United Nations ns commission for Palestine to the secretary-general describes the stark conditions of the refugees in the wake of the 1984-49war. It inspired the formation of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) for the Palestinian refugees in the Near East.

The problem

The Arab refugees-nearly three-quarters of a million men, women and children-are the symbol of the paramount political issue in the Near East.
Their plight is the aftermath of an armed struggle between Arabs and Israelis, a struggle marked by a truce that was broken and armistice from which a peace settlement has not emerged.
Before the hostilities in Palestine these families lived in that section of Palestine on the Israeli side of the present armistice lines. Abandoning their homes and villages, their fields and orange groves, their shops and benches, they fled to nearby Arab lands. Tens of thousands are in temporary camps; some are in caves; the majority have found shelter in Arab towns and villages, in mosques, churches, monasteries, schools, and abandoned buildings. Some seventeen Jewish refugees, too, fled from their homes in and around Jerusalem and territories on the Arab side of the armistice lines. They entered into Israel where most of them have now been absorbed. . . .

On 11 December 1948 the General Assembly adopted a resolution stating: “. . . that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest possible date, and that compensation must be paid for the property of those choosing not to return. . . .”

The same resolution established a consolation commission for Palestine to negotiate a settlement of outstanding differences between Israel and Arab States of Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi-Arabia, Syria and Yemen.
No settlement has been reached.

The Arab refugees have not been able to return to their homes because Israel will not admit them. Israel has to date offered to repatriate only 100,000 and only as a part of a general peace settlement of all other issues.
The Arabs refugees have not been able to gain a livelihood in the Arab lands where they are because there is insufficient opportunity for them to do so.

The Arab refugees have not yet received compensation for the property they abandoned, nor have the Jewish refugees in their turn.
The refugees are still on relief.
United Nations funds so far subscribed for the feeding of refugees will not last through the winter.


In the light of these findings, the Economic Survey Mission* makes the following recommendations, which are explained later in the report. . . .

3. An agency should be established to organize and, on or after 1 April 1950, direct, the programmes of relief and public works herein recommended.**

* The UN Economic Survey Mission was deputed by the Conciliation for the Palestine to examine economic conditions in the Middle East.
**this became the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for the Palestinian refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).


This document has been taken from an interesting book that sheds the light on the following perspectives:

Ø The Middle East and Palestine to 1914
Ø Ottoman society, Palestine, and the origins of Zionism, 1800-1914
Ø World war I, Great Britain, and the peace settlements, 1914-1921
Ø Palestine between the wars: Zionism, the Palestinian Arabs, and the British Mandate, 1920-1939

Ø War world II and the creation of the state of Israel, 1939-1948
Ø The beginning of the Arab-Israeli Conflict: the search for security, 1949-1957
Ø From Suez to the six-day war, 1957-1967
Ø War and the search for peace in the Middle East, 1967-1976
Ø Lebanon, the west bank, and the Camp David accords: the Palestinian Equation in the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1977-1984
Ø From pariah to partner: the PLO and the Quest for peace in the global and regional contexts, 1984-1993

Ø Israeli-Palestinian/Arab negotiations and agreements, August 1993-March 2000

The letter illustrates the situation of the Palestinian refugees who suffer from 1948 till this moment. No one is willing to put an end to their suffering. Regardless of what they lost starting from security, lands, homes, and a good future for their kids, they have been humiliated and insulted by every body. Although the United Nations resolution allows the Palestinian refugees to return back to the land that they have been thrown from by force, Palestinian refugees can’t return back. The international community is silent, the United Nation can’t enforce its resolutions, the PLO is paralyzed, and the Arab countries can’t do anything if the people who are themselves must do something are paralyzed as well. So what is the solution? Why do we have to pay the price twice!! I want an answer.

I feel that we as refugees are dumped both by the PLO and the Arab countries. We can’t get nor Palestinian passports neither the citizenship of the Arab countries in which we live! I feel that we have no identity. No future. You can’t imagine how Palestinian refuges suffer when it comes to visas and traveling. They are not allowed even to visit some other countries. For example, my mom hasn’t seen her sister since the first gulf war, that’s mean about 14 years although she lives in Kuwait near UAE! My poor aunt is dying to come to UAE at least for 2 weeks to see us and her sister. Is there any rule in humanity bans two sisters from seeing each?

I have seen long time ago a program about the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Oh my god. What I saw was unbelievable. Animals can’t live in such situations then how about human beings! No Clean water. No electricity! No Education! Unemployment! What a life! They live in verrry small rooms built of broken wood and asbestos which is not healthy at all. Imagine their situation in the winter then. I keep telling my self that I would have been one of them. Their homeless kids have one dream. It’s only one dream. Although it’s pinky and optimistic, it sounds to be impossible which is returning back to their homes in Palestine. These kids might be asking themselves the reasons behind living in camps and nasty districts separating them from the rest of the society as if they are viruses that spread diseases. No one will answer their question. They will wait till they grow up and figure out that they were born Palestinians that’s why they must suffer the loss of identity and land.

Finally as it was said, every one is born in his/her country except the refugee whose homeland is born in his/her heart.