Some very telling excerpts in an op-ed by Mariam Barghouti in The Forward:
Because of the Nakba, there is a part of Palestinian identity that is inherently linked with being a refugee. … The Palestinian refugee story is the backbone of the Palestinian struggle. It is referenced in the poems we write and in the nostalgia that comes with exile, and it is the symbol of return to a life of dignity and belonging.
Since their self-identification as Palestinians is so tied up with their identification as refugees, then they must be defined as refugees. This is the logic the world is expected to accept – and pay billions of dollars for.
The implication is that if the definition of refugee as defined by international law applies to Palestinians, a large part of their identity would be taken away from them.
Their identity is based on a lie.
Forget the myths of them being Canaanites or Nabateans. Forget the pretense that soap-makers in Nablus or costumes in Bethlehem is what binds Palestinian people together with a shared history. All of that is fiction and they know it. The only thing that binds them together is their choice to remain “refugees.”
And it is a choice. Barghouti, without irony, says that most of the residents of Gaza are “refugees” – turning the definition of refugee as someone forced out of their country on its head. The Palestinians of Gaza and the West Bank and Jordan cannot be considered refugees under any reasonable definition – but, we are told, they must fight to maintain this completely incorrect label because they need to. Facts be damned – their entire self-identification is dependent on a lie and therefore the lie is more important than the truth.
Which brings us to UNRWA. While the agency continues to pretend that its purpose is to provide relief to “refugees,” Palestinians say (accurately) that its purpose is to allow them to remain refugees forever, as this screenshot from a recent interview with an official at an NGO at the Aida camp says explicitly;
These admissions made by Palestinians in response to the reasonable demand that they be defined according to the same rules as every other people in the world reveals how shallow the idea of Palestinian nationalism is – their nationalism and indeed their very claim to be a people is mostly based on the lie of most of them being refugees.
They cannot argue that they truly are refugees – because they are not. So they must argue that since they want to be considered refugees for their very survival, the world must oblige them.
Telling the truth, that most Palestinians would happily become citizens in other Arab countries (and millions of them have when given the opportunity, in Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt), is an inconvenient fact that must be hidden. Any misery that Palestinians have after 70 years is because of decisions made by Arab leaders so many decades ago, decisions that remain in force today, decisions explicitly made in order to keep Palestinians stateless in the name of their “unity.”
The Trump decision to end this farce is forcing even the most eloquent Palestinian spokespeople to admit that Palestinian nationalism is artificial. This is a long-overdue debate, and I’m happy to see it finally get some exposure.
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