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Friday, May 16, 2003

Arafat speech commemorates the "Catastrophe" of the establishment of the state of Israel
Saud Abu Ramadan reports for United Press International the following quotes from Arafat's May 15 speech broadcast by the PA-controlled local channel:

  • Palestine "is our country, to which every Palestinian refugee has the right to return."

  • ". . . the Israeli state was founded as a result of a colonial conspiracy and was established on Palestinian lands whose residents were expelled and massacred."

  • Arafat said he will not "accept humiliation and Israeli colonialism and the Israeli aggression carried out against Palestinians and their holy sites." He insisted that Israel must withdraw from all the lands it occupied in the 1967 Six Day War.

  • "For the past 55 years, martyrs have fallen for the sake of the homeland, freedom and the return of the refugees."

ARAB REFUGEES, AS OF 21 MARCH 2002 -- according to the UNRWA:
1,708,507 registered refugees and ten refugee camps in Jordan.
390,498 registered refugees and twelve refugee camps in Lebanon.
407,742 registered refugees and ten refugee camps in Syria.
647,919 registered refugees and 19 refugee camps in Judea/Samaria ("West Bank").
901,092 registered refugees and eight camps in Gaza.

In 1948, within 24 hours of the establishment of the state of Israel, that new country was attacked on the north, east and south by five Arab nations: Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Transjordan and Egypt. Both Arabs and Jews were displaced during that war. Approximately 600,000 Jews (of the 870,000 living in Arab countries) sought and received refuge in the state of Israel. In 1949, the UN Conciliation Commission put the number of displaced Arabs at 726,000. They, and their descendants --now four generations -- remain in refugee status, and number over four million. Approximately 30% remain in camps run by the UN Relief and Works Agency, originally envisaged as a temporary organization. Its mandate has most recently been extended to the year 2005.

What happened in 1948, according to Abu Mazen, now prime minister of the Palestinian Authority:

"The Arab armies entered Palestine to protect the Palestinians from the Zionist tyranny but, instead, THEY ABANDONED THEM, FORCED THEM TO EMIGRATE AND TO LEAVE THEIR HOMELAND, imposed upon them a political and ideological blockade and threw them into prisons . . . The Arab States succeeded in scattering the Palestinian people and in destroying their unity. They did not recognize them as a unified people until the States of the world did so, and this is regrettable" - from "What We Have Learned and What We Should Do", by Abu Mazen, published in Falastin el Thawra, the official journal of the PLO, of Beirut, in March 1976.

For more on the Arab refugees, I highly recommend The Peace Encyclopedia.