This film was shot on location in the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) facilities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, by a TV crew hired by the Nahum Bedein Center for Near East Policy Research.
Posts Tagged ‘refugees’
Iraqi, Jordanian, and Turkish border guards are pushing back tens of thousands of people trying to flee Syria, Human Rights Watch charged on Monday.
“Iraq, Jordan, and Turkey have either closed numerous border crossings entirely or allowed only limited numbers of Syrians to cross, leaving tens of thousands stranded in dangerous conditions in Syria’s conflict-ridden border regions. Only Lebanon has an open border policy for Syrians fleeing the conflict,” the statement from the human rights body said.
Turkey denied the allegations, which if true, are a violation of the 1951 Refugee Convention, which prohibits sending anyone back to – or pushing back anyone trying to leave – a country where their life or freedom would be threatened or where they would face a serious risk of torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
Aristides Sousa Mendes was the Portuguese consul in Bordeaux in 1940, when the German army invaded France. Despite orders to the contrary from his government in Lisbon, Mendes issued 30,000 visas to refugees who then escaped into neutral Portugal.
When the Salazar government stopped recognizing his visas, Mendes issued refugees Portuguese passports. He used to drive to the Spanish border to persuade guards to let people across. A third of those he saved were Jews.
Historian Yehuda Bauer says his was “the largest rescue action by a single individual during the Holocaust.”
When Sousa Mendes insubordination was discovered, Portuguese dictator Antonio de Oliveira Salazar threw him out of the diplomatic service, canceled his pension and disbarred him from practicing law.
Mendez was unable to support his wife and 14 children, his family home in the village of Cabanas de Viriato was repossessed after the war, and he was forced to live on handouts from a local Jewish association. He died in poverty and disgrace in 1954.
His children were blacklisted, forced to seek education and work abroad. Two of his sons enlisted with the Allied forces.
Now the Sousa Mendes Foundation is cooperating with groups in Portugal and France to preserve Sousa Mendes’ memory, identify those he saved and collect artifacts that they hope one day will fill the museum, Paul Ames reports in the GlobalPost.
Survivors who escaped with Sousa Mendes’ help, accompanied by relatives and members of the Sousa Mendes family, last month retraced their steps from Paris to Portugal via Bordeaux, honoring the man who is one of Yad vashem’s “Righteous among the Nations.”
“I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to reunite these families who last saw each other in 1940 and re-enact the journey,” Olivia Mattis, president of the Seattle-based Sousa Mendes Foundation, told Ames. “It was very intense, a fantastic opportunity to shine a spotlight on the Sousa Mendes cause.”
Mattis’ father was seven when he fled from Belgium with his parents.
The group’s visit to Cabanas de Viriato attracted media attention, and Portugal’s culture minister announced that funds will be made available to repair the Sousa Mendes home’s roof as a first step to restoring the 19th-century mansion.
Yisrael Beitenu Knesset Member Shimon Ohayon, on United Nations World Refugee Day, called on the Arab League to accept responsibility for the exodus of Jews from the group’s countries before and after the re-establishment of the State of Israel .
“The Jews of Arab countries, starting in 1947, were used as weapons by the Arab League against the establishment of the Jewish State,” MK Ohayon said. “The Arab League drafted laws for its member states to withdraw civil and human rights from its Jewish inhabitants, and it is time for it to own up to its role in the ethnic cleansing of the Jewish population from most of the Middle East and North Africa.”
The Political Committee of the Arab League drafted a law in 1947 to govern the legal status of Jewish residents in all Arab League countries.
The “Text of Law Drafted by the Political Committee of the Arab League” called for the freezing of bank accounts of Jews and confiscating their assets. Subsequent meetings reportedly called for the expulsion of Jews from Arab League countries.
MK Ohayon, who along with his family fled Morocco in 1956, is the chairman of the Knesset Caucus for the Rights of Jewish Refugees from Arab Lands and has drafted a law to hold an annual day to commemorate the Jewish refugees in the Israeli calendar.
The number of Palestinian Arabs whose residence was within the boundaries of historic Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, and lost their homes as a result of Israel’s War of Independence, was, in 1949, estimated at 711,000.
The number of Palestinian Arabs still alive today who were personally displaced by the war is now as low as 30,000.
However, UNRWA, an agency with an annual budget exceeding $650 million, tasked with caring for Palestinian “refugees”and only Palestinian “refugees,” counts descendants of those original 711,000 as “refugees”, and so puts the figure at over 5 million – a number which includes millions of Palestinian Arabs who are citizens of other Arab countries.
UNRWA’s strange logic is what inspired a component of the following headline, and accompanying text, in a Guardian story by Harriet Sherwood about a Palestinian who is poised to win Arab Idol.
The golden voice of a young man from a Gaza refugee camp [Khan Younis] has enchanted viewers of Arab Idol, broadcast weekly to huge audiences across the Middle East, making him a favourite to win the final of the television singing contest.
Mohammed Assaf, 22, has won massive support from viewers enthralled by his rendition of traditional love songs and laments for the Palestinian cause. He has also succeeded in uniting Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and the diaspora behind his efforts to win.
Assaf, who often performs wearing a traditional black-and-white chequered keffiyeh, is one of 12 finalists in the competition, broadcast by the Saudi-owned MBC1. Last year’s winner secured a lucrative recording contract and was presented with a car.
The Palestinian “refugee” swindle is but one of the many political derivatives from the ideologically inspired uncritical embrace of the Palestinian narrative which so often passes for serious journalism at the Guardian.
Mohammed Assaf - a Palestinian (born 42 years after the 1949 war) who lives in the Palestinian run territory of Gaza, in Khan Younis – is not, by any reasonable definition of the word, a refugee. And, the fact that Palestinians continue to hold the key to this immutable victim status illustrates a greater truth about the egregious abuse of ordinary language within the cognitive battlefields of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
More than 1.5 million have fled Syria, 4 million more are displaced within other nations, meaning 30% of the Syrian people have left their homes. Just to give an example, Reyhanli, one of the Turkish border towns in the southern province of Hatay, where 51 people were killed by twin car bombs on May 11, has a population of 90,000—50,000 of which are Syrian refugees. Some 400,000 Syrians are now living in Turkey, nearly half of them sheltered in camps with poor conditions.
Of course they are more than welcome to Turkey; our doors are wide open to anyone seeking shelter in our land, but this is obviously not a solution to the suffering of 8.3 million people who are in need – not to mention the rest of the Syrians who are also living in fear – nor does it stop the ongoing bloodbath of the Assad regime.
Since March, 2011, the death toll has risen to nearly 100,000, and the real figure is, most probably, far higher.
Most of the victims are civilians.
UN top Middle East envoy Robert Serry is saying there are mounting reports of chemical weapons being used in Syria, and Israel has taken a few solitary, bold actions to eliminate these weapons while the world was still pondering what to do. Provided that there is zero human loss, I advocate that the production and storage facilities of chemical weapons and artillery ammunition be eliminated. As long as it spares human lives meticulously and guarantees that no living beings are affected, Israel’s action to stop lethal weapons from being used is a reasonable move.
On the other side, fighters from Hezbollah—which has been a staunch ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad—have joined the battle on Qusayr, a settlement near the border with Lebanon. Because of the town’s strategic importance – since this residential area connects the capital Damascus to the coast – the Hezbollah-backed Assad regime does not want to give up this rebel stronghold in the central province of Homs and continue to kill more people to recapture the city.
While the spirit of protecting human lives is pressuring the conscience of every human being to interfere with the intention of stopping the bloodshed, some writers overseas either secretly support this situation in one sense, or embrace indifference, as long as they are not personally affected. I find this very unbecoming.
One of the Middle East experts that has disappointed me was Daniel Pipes, who has suggested overlooking the bloodbath in Syria and allowing both sides to destroy each other. In a TV interview, he restated his policy, suggesting that the West should back Assad, and keep Syrians killing each other. While he admits that his is not a humanitarian perspective, and offers this as a strategic view, we should remember that these are human beings we are discussing. I am against militant fundamentalism just like Daniel Pipes, and I am also against the communist Ba’ath regime; however, while innocent people are being killed on a daily basis, saying “Let us leave them to fight one another” is wholly unacceptable, standing in violation of both conscience and common sense.
Considering this bloodshed, it is obvious that there needs to be an intervention in Syria. However, what matters is to ensure that there will be no loss of life. Syria has a very complex and intricate structure; thus, any intervention needs to be well planned. First of all, an embargo—starting with air and trade sanctions—can be imposed. Second, world public opinion needs to be stirred up. They will be unable to withstand the pressure if the entire international public is fixed on them. We therefore need to establish a major shift in public opinion.
In addition, since the most dangerous aspect of Syria is its airforce, runways must be made unserviceable. Once it has been guaranteed there will be no loss of life, air bases should be bombarded, so that the air force is immobilized. But I would like to reemphasize: it is essential that nobody be caught up in these interventions; it must be established that the area under attack is empty.
Additionally, a game-changing force would develop from an alliance between Turkey and Israel, and that alliance will make the current Syrian regime tremble in their boots.
However, Assad must not be made to panic. It might prove dangerous if he is under the false impression that he is about to be killed. He must be treated kindly and made to feel that the aim is to save his life and his family. Since Assad is, in a way, seeking shelter behind Russia, Putin thinks he needs to protect him at any cost. An agreement can be reached between Russia, the USA, Turkey and the opposition parties: they can promise that Assad’s safety will be guaranteed, and that nothing will befall his wife and children. Since the opposition forces killed Qaddafi in a horribly humiliating way, guarantees need to be given that his honor will not be compromised, no matter what.
And as soon as we stop the shedding of blood in Syria, there must be peaceful elections accompanied by international observers. Bashar Assad should be a candidate if he wishes, and if he wins the elections, he can stay on. If the opposition is elected to govern, then they should be the ones ruling, or there can be some kind of coalition between Assad and the opposition parties. But the Syrian regime as it now stands is a dictatorship, and there must be legitimate and certified elections that will reflect the will of the Syrian people. Only in that way can a lasting and just peace come to Syria.
Pro-Palestinian political leaders, media outlets, and activists the world over continuously assert that the Palestinians should be granted a right of return according to international law. However, NONE of these claims hold water if one actually examines international law. For example, the Palestinians rely heavily upon the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states that “no one should be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his country.” Yet, can one consider Palestinians born in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and other Arab countries to be Israeli citizens and thus deprived of the right to enter their country?
Most of the Palestinians living across the Arab world were never born in Israel and have never lived in Israel. Secondly, even the minority who did live in Israel did so under the British Mandate, not under Israeli rule. They fled before they had a chance to receive citizenship rights and their Israeli blue ID cards, because their leadership was opposed to them coexisting with the Jewish people. Such peoples are about as Israeli as Turks who lived in Ottoman-controlled Greece yet left are Greek. So why should the Palestinians be any different? Based on international precedents, Palestinians are entitled to equal rights within their present countries, yet not Israeli citizenship.
Another document that pro-Palestine activists rely on when stating that there should be a Palestinian right of return is UN resolution 194, which states, “The General Assembly… resolves that refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”
UN General Assembly resolutions, however are never legally binding. Instead, they can be viewed as mere suggestions, which Israel can either listen to or ignore. But even if this resolution was legally binding, it states “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors.” This means that any Palestinian who doesn’t want to live at peace with their neighbors shouldn’t be given a right of return, thus implying that the decades of terrorism orchestrated by the Palestinian leadership and supported by the majority of the Palestinian population means that the Palestinians lost their “right of return.”
Furthermore, the resolution states at the “earliest practicable date.” This means that so long as this proposal cannot be practically implemented, it doesn’t need to happen yet. Because there have been decades of animosity and hatred between Israelis and Palestinians and since the cultural gap between Israelis and Palestinians is gigantic, the idea of a Palestinian right of return seems impractical and it will continue to be so in the foreseeable future.
Given what has happened in Bosnia since the signing of the Dayton Agreements, where ethnic animosity and violence has prevented most refugees from returning to their homes despite the existence of such a right, it seems that a right of return isn’t a good solution for ethnic conflicts. Most Holocaust survivors didn’t want a right of return to Europe, preferring to be resettled in a new country that was free of the traumas that they experienced. Jewish refugees from Arab countries also generally have no desire to return to Arab states, for similar reasons. Given this, is it really in the Palestinians best interest to come to a foreign country whom they have been engaged with in a violent conflict for decades? While the Palestinian refugee crisis needs to be solved, it should be solved in the Arab world, not in Israel.
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