OpinionMiddle East

Palestinians suffer the greatest oppression at the hands of fellow Arabs

Western news media focuses on the alleged offenses of Israel, ignoring the real cruelty endured by Palestinians in Arab regions.

Arab Israelis shop at the Arab-owned King Store supermarket chain in Beersheva, July 27, 2015. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
Arab Israelis shop at the Arab-owned King Store supermarket chain in Beersheva, July 27, 2015. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90.
James Sinkinson
James Sinkinson
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.

Palestinians 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.

Palestinians 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 Palestinians have been consigned to refugee status in Syria since they emigrated there upon Israel’s independence. Another nearly half a million Palestinians 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 2 million Palestinian residents are registered as refugees, more than 600,000 do not hold citizenship and about 370,000 live in Jordanian refugee camps.

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

Palestinians 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 Palestinians, 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 Palestinians in Arab countries. Similarly, Western media show almost no interest in the impressive economic and professional accomplishments of Israel’s Arab citizens.

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

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

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

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

In Jordan, where Palestinians 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 Palestinians during the 1970-71 Black September rebellion.

As a justification for excluding Palestinians from participation in Arab societies, leaders of Arab nations have disingenuously claimed they want the Palestinians 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 people occurs when they are ruled by Palestinian masters—namely leaders of the P.A. 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 Palestinians face severe economic inequality. In Lebanon, Palestinians 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, Palestinians 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 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 Palestinians 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 Palestinians independence between 1948 and 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 Palestinians 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 people 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 people would do best to expose Arab rulers who are overwhelmingly responsible for the Palestinians’ plight. Indeed, their first target should be those most immediately responsible—the disgraceful Palestinian leaders themselves.

In short, the real persecution of Palestinians 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 Palestinians 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.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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