The Palestinian ‘Refugee’ Dodge

One the most remarkable news items I’ve read lately is Haaretz’s report on a conversation between an Israeli and “a well-known Egyptian statesman…who held top positions in the past and still has great influence on the generals in Cairo.” The Israeli raised the issue of the Palestinian refugees, and the Egyptian exploded:

“What refugees are you talking about?” the Egyptian scolded his Israeli interlocutor. The region is flooded with millions of new refugees living under impossible conditions and desperately needing help. These people fled the terrors of war in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, rotting in the desert in the summer and freezing in the winter.

As the journalist Amos Harel noted drily, “Such candid words are very rarely uttered by Arab statesmen.” Which is a pity, and not only because these fake Palestinian refugees divert desperately needed money and services away from real refugees–a point I’ve made here before. No less significant is what a candid discussion of the refugee issue would reveal about the Palestinian statehood project.