refugee camp in Syria
refugee camp in SyriaiStock

(JNS) Palestinian Arabs are one of the most downtrodden ethnic groups in the Middle East, suffering from political and economic hardship—overwhelmingly at the hands of their fellow Arabs.

Palestinian Arabs living in most Arab countries are treated as second-class citizens often restricted to living in squalid refugee camps; most are simply not granted citizenship at all.

For example, some half a million Palestinian Arabs have been consigned to refugee status in Syria since they emigrated there upon Israel’s independence. Another nearly half a million Palestinian Arabs live as refugees in Lebanon. Both groups are denied citizenship, both are barred from professional employment and do not receive government benefits.

In Jordan, about two million Palestinian Arab residents are registered as refugees, more than 600,000 do not hold citizenship and about 370,000 live in Jordanian refugee camps.

Of course, Palestinian Arabs living in any Arab nation are also subject to the severe limitations on civil rights, low standards of living and diminished economic opportunity endemic to the region.

Palestinian Arabs living under the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip don’t fare better—they endure the same political abuses and economic depression found in other Middle East dictatorships.

Ironically, despite regular press attacks on Israel for its treatment of Palestinian Arabs, the best place in the Middle East to be an Arab of Palestinian descent is Israel. Indeed, Arab Israelis are first-class citizens who enjoy broad civil rights, equal to those in Western countries. Likewise, Arab Israelis can take full advantage of one of the world’s strongest economies and highest standards of living.

The shame is that Western media coverage obsessively focuses on alleged offenses of the Jewish state, while ignoring the cruel, inequitable treatment almost universally suffered by Palestinian Arabs in Arab countries. Similarly, Western media show almost no interest in the impressive economic and professional accomplishments of Israel’s Arab citizens.

Palestinian Arabs have been disenfranchised or banished in many Arab nations. Arab countries, with the exception of Jordan, have refused to give Palestinian Arabs citizenship, depriving them of many rights and privileges that nationals enjoy. They are instead treated for decades as foreigners who can be expelled at will.

Accordingly, Arab states have orchestrated mass expulsions of Palestinian Arabs. The largest of these took place following the 1991 Gulf War, when Kuwait expelled some 200,000 Palestinian Arabs because PLO chairman Yasser Arafat supported Saddam Hussein’s invasion of their country.

Both Jordan and Lebanon have expelled Palestinian Arab guerrillas for bad behavior at various times.

Despite such deportations, no protest movements ever arose to defend these Palestinian Arabs.

In Jordan, where Palestinian Arabs comprise the majority of the population, the Jordanian parliament is rigged to deny them democratic power. The Hashemite rulers—installed by the British—also slaughtered an estimated 15,000 of them during the 1970-71 Black September rebellion.

As a justification for excluding Palestinian Arabs from participation in Arab societies, leaders of Arab nations have disingenuously claimed they want the Palestinian Arabs living among them someday to return to their “homes in Israel.”

Again, no international outcry has ever been mounted to condemn this refusal to resettle their Arab Palestinian brethren.

Perhaps the worst treatment of the Palestinian Arabs occurs where they are ruled by Palestinian masters—namely leaders of the PA in Judea and Samaria (aka the 'West Bank') and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Both ruling groups are dictatorships, which have canceled elections since 2006. PA President Mahmoud Abbas is now in the 18th year of his four-year term. Both dictatorships have full administrative and civil control over their citizens, yet both deny them civil liberties, such as free speech, freedom of assembly, rule of law and the right to vote.

In addition, the Palestinian Arabs face severe economic inequality. In Lebanon, Palestinian Arabs like 25-year-old Nirmeen Hazineh live in slumlike refugee camps surrounded by segregation walls and barbed wire. Hazineh is a sociology graduate, but is not allowed to work in that field.

Indeed, Palestinian Arabs living in Lebanon are banned from 39 professions, including areas of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy and law. They are also prohibited from owning property. The poverty rate among Lebanese Palestinians is 93%.

Yet, media criticism of Lebanon for its unjust rule over Palestinians of Arab descent is virtually non-existent.

The same can be said for the Hamas dictatorship in the Gaza Strip, where 65% of the population lives below the poverty line and 60% of the workforce is unemployed.

None of this has stopped Hamas from confiscating foreign aid intended to improve the lives of ordinary Gazans. Hamas also heavily taxes its impoverished population and uses most of its funds to enrich its leaders and buy weapons to launch terror attacks on Israel.

Clearly, the greatest enemies of the Palestinian Arabs are their Arab brethren. While the media, NGOs and politicians constantly clamor for Israel to stop its “occupation,” never did they agitate for Jordan to give the Palestinian Arabs independence between 1948-1967, when the Hashemites occupied that territory.

In fact, when Jordan lost “the West Bank,” after its failed invasion of Israel in 1967, the Arab nation promptly canceled Jordanian citizenship for all Palestinian Arabs living there, making them again stateless.

Of course, it’s axiomatic that the press and antisemites have no true concern for the plight of the Palestinian Arabs unless they can attack Israel. If the Jews can’t be named and blamed, there’s no story, no motivation, no sympathy.

Likewise, mainstream journalists have little interest in the inspiring achievements of Arab Israelis. Don’t hold your breath for stories about Israel’s Arab citizens dominating medical professions in Israel, or Arab Israelis’ home-ownership rate exceeding that of Jewish Israelis. Unlikely you’ll see features on Israel’s Arab citizens reaching high ranks in the Israel Defense Forces or having more freedoms than their counterparts anywhere in the Middle East.

Above all, journalists or others dedicated to helping the Palestinian Arabs would do best to expose Arab rulers who are overwhelmingly responsible for the their plight. Indeed, their first target should be those most immediately responsible—the disgraceful Palestinian Arab leaders themselves.

In short, the real persecution of Palestinian Arabs is executed at the hands of fellow Arabs—not Israel. Indeed, it is Israel, and only Israel, that provides its Arab citizens the freedoms and opportunities that Palestinian Arabs living under the rule of Arab dictators can only dream of.

James Sinkinson is president of Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME), which publishes educational messages to correct lies and misperceptions about Israel and its relationship to the United States. This article is reposted from FLAME.