Secretary General of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) – Saeb Erekat – has told a political symposium in Jericho that West Bank Arabs would not be allowed to voluntarily leave – virtually holding them captives against their will.
"We will not allow resettlement or formation of refugee committees for that aim, while holding on to the settlement of their cause in accordance with international legitimacy resolutions."
Michael Lynk - the United Nations Human Rights Council’s “Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967” – had issued a statement on 28 June endorsing the right to freedom of movement – enshrined in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Erekat’s outrageous threat was not responding to Lynk’s comments - but to leaked reports claiming the United States might be seeking the resettlement of Palestinian refugees in at least five Arab neighboring countries.
If confirmed - 'West Bank' Arabs could well be prepared to voluntarily leave the West Bank in large numbers – especially if offered the opportunity to legally enter other Arab countries and receive financial assistance for rehousing and resettlement there.
President Trump has a massive US$28.7 billion possibly available to aid 'West Bank' Arabs who want to emigrate – being the money he wanted to plough into revitalising the West Bank and Gaza – which both the PLO and Hamas unbelievably rejected.
Given the state of relationships between Israel, the PLO and Hamas – spending that money earmarked for projects within the West Bank and Gaza was a highly questionable exercise that could have seen the destruction of such projects in future conflicts between these three long-time enemies.
Helping those desperate to emigrate who have suffered the perverse decisions of the PLO during the last 25 years is a much more targeted use of the money – guaranteeing a far better outcome for West Bank Arabs and their families.
The 2019 Human Rights Watch Report evidences the toxic nature of the West Bank:
- the PLO arrested activists who criticized their leaders, security forces, or policies, and mistreated and tortured some in their custody.
- The Independent Commission for Human Rights in Palestine (ICHR), a statutory commission charged with monitoring human rights compliance by the Palestinian authorities, received 205 complaints of torture and ill-treatment by 'West Bank' security forces as of 31 October 2018.
- In the 'West Bank' and East Jerusalem, Israeli security forces fatally shot 27 Palestinians and wounded at least 5,444,
- attacks by Israeli settlers injured 61 Palestinians and damaged property in 147 incidents.
- Palestinians killed 10 Israelis, including six civilians, and wounded at least 58 in the same period in the West Bank.
Since the 1993 Oslo Accords - 95% of the 'West Bank' Arab population has been under total PLO administrative control.
The World Bank has concluded that lack of progress towards peace and reconciliation creates an unsustainable economic situation. The PLO has refused to negotiate with Israel since April 2014 and has failed to call elections since 2007.
The only media outlet reporting Erekat’s incendiary statement was the Chinese newsagency Xinhua. The remaining media’s failure to report this news is concerning.
The UN Special Rapporteur’s failure to condemn Erekat’s controversial announcement is despicable.
Hopefully President Trump will pressure the PLO to reverse its position and offer a window of opportunity for those to leave who wish to do so.
Offering West Bank Arabs a lifeline to a better future elsewhere is long overdue.
Author’s note: The cartoon — commissioned exclusively for this article — is by Yaakov Kirschen aka “Dry Bones”- one of Israel’s foremost political and social commentators — whose cartoons have graced the columns of Israeli and international media publications for decades. His cartoons can be viewed at Drybonesblog