You know Israel is doing something right when it manages to put both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas on the PR defensive. And it evidently did exactly that with last week’s conference in New York to raise awareness of Jewish refugees from Arab lands.
Yesterday, Hamas lambasted the conference as a “dangerous, unprecedented move,” clearly outraged by anything that could undermine the false idea Palestinians have successfully implanted in the world’s consciousness for decades: that they are the only refugees, the only victims of the Arab-Israeli conflict; hence the world should grant them endless sympathy while treating Israel as the villain.
But Hamas’s pathetic attempt to rewrite history — it claimed the Jews “secretly migrated from Arab countries” before Israel’s 1948 War of Independence and were responsible for the Palestinians’ displacement during that war, whereas in truth, most arrived only after 1948, driven by persecution in their former homes — is far less interesting than the response of Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran PA legislator, member of the PLO’s executive committee and former minister, who once served as spokeswoman of the Palestinian negotiating team and currently functions as a PA envoy-at-large.
In an article published in several Arab media outlets, Ashrawi said that terming Jews from Arab lands “refugees” is a “deception and delusion,” because they “migrated to Israel, which is supposed to be their homeland.” And “if Israel is their homeland, then they are not ‘refugees;’ they are emigrants who returned either voluntarily or due to a political decision.”
What makes this so interesting isn’t just that this argument only works if Israel is in fact the Jewish homeland — something the PA routinely denies, insisting instead that millennia of Jewish history are a fabrication and that Jews therefore have no rights in the land of Israel. Even more interesting is that the PA rejects this argument with regard to Palestinian refugees.
Though every serious peace plan has proposed resettling Palestinian refugees in the Palestinian state-to-be, the PA has consistently demanded that they relocate to Israel instead, saying that otherwise, they would remain refugees. Indeed, its ambassador to Lebanon has said a Palestinian state would even deny citizenship to refugees already living in its territory: They, too, would remain refugees.
By Ashrawi’s logic, what this means is that the Palestinian state won’t be the Palestinian homeland: If it were, then both refugees already in its territory and any who subsequently immigrated to it would cease to be refugees. Hence there would be no reason to demand that they relocate to Israel instead.
But if a Palestinian state won’t be the Palestinian homeland, what conceivable justification could there be for its existence? After all, the point of creating a Palestinian state is supposedly to give the Palestinians a homeland where they can run their own lives and cease to be dependent refugees; if it won’t accomplish that, why bother?
Ashrawi’s statement shouldn’t be dismissed as a mere slip of the tongue, because it reflects something opinion polls have long revealed: To many Palestinians, a Palestinian state really isn’t a longed-for homeland. It’s just a vehicle for destroying Israel.