Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Refugees will not be citizens of new state, but continue to be cannon fodder for the "Palestinian cause"

From The Daily Star (Lebanon), September 15, 2011, by Annie Slemrod:

Abdullah Abdullah, Palestine’s "ambassador" to Lebanon. 
(Photo by Mahmoud Kheir, The Daily Star)

BEIRUT: Palestinian refugees will not become citizens of a new Palestinian state, according to Palestine’s "ambassador" to Lebanon.

...The ambassador unequivocally says that Palestinian refugees would not become citizens of the sought for U.N.-recognized Palestinian state, an issue that has been much discussed.
“They are Palestinians, that’s their identity,” he says. “But … they are not automatically citizens.”

This would not only apply to refugees in countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Jordan or the other 132 countries where Abdullah says Palestinians reside. Abdullah said that
“even Palestinian refugees who are living in [refugee camps] inside the [Palestinian] state, they are still refugees. They will not be considered citizens.”
Abdullah said that the new Palestinian state would “absolutely not” be issuing Palestinian passports to refugees.

Neither this definitional status nor U.N. statehood, Abdullah says, would affect the eventual return of refugees to Palestine.
“How the issue of the right of return will be solved I don’t know, it’s too early [to say], but it is a sacred right that has to be dealt with and solved [with] the acceptance of all.” He says statehood “will never affect the right of return for Palestinian refugees.”
... “The state is the 1967 borders, but the refugees are not only from the 1967 borders. The refugees are from all over Palestine. When we have a state accepted as a member of the United Nations, this is not the end of the conflict. This is not a solution to the conflict. This is only a new framework that will change the rules of the game.”

The Palestinian Liberation Organization would remain responsible for refugees, and Abdullah says that UNRWA would continue its work as usual.

...He says the U.S. should be mindful of “signals in the region … that are ringing a bell.” He mentions the tension between Turkey and Israel and the recent eruption of protests at the Israeli embassy in Cairo.
“If wrong policies are adopted in the U.S., it will only give a freer hand to extremism. It only empowers negative forces. And this will make it more difficult and complicated for rational forces to prevail.”

Despite clear signs of opposition from the U.S., Abdullah says anything could happen next week, when the U.N.’s General Assembly session opens and the issue of Palestinian statehood will be debated.
“When we go [to the United Nations],” he says, “we [will not] bet on anything.”
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