Monday, September 6, 2010
Guess which is the Lebanese refugee camp and which is the Cairo slum?
The Palestinian Refugee Matsav
There is a very interesting piece in the Huffington Post today about refugee camp design. The author, Jacqueline Novogratz, describes the search for innovations in best practice for temporary shelter for victims of natural and man-made catastrophes.
This article affirmed, of course, that providing accommodation for refugees is surely about creating the best possible conditions for a temporary existence. The key here, and the word that should always accompany refugees, is temporary. The UN's agency, UNHCR, is rather good at handling problems of refugee from initial displacement to ultimate resettlement.
Yet, when it comes to the Palestinian refugee problem, we're talking about the initial 700,000-800,000 who fled, or were forced to flee (numbers of each case are still controversial) and their decedents 62 years later; approximately 4.5 million people. The Arab nations, who lost their war of extermination in 1948 insisted that those refugees be under the care of a brand new agency, UNRWA, devoted solely to them. This, for one reason only: so that they remain refugees never to be absorbed in their host countries and to return to their homes upon the destruction of Israel. Decades passed and the refugees remain unsettled,
Gone, for the most part, are the tent cities of early days. What we have in their place in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Syria, are ramshackle towns not unlike the slums of adjacent cities, but without the infrastructure, services and civil rights of the citizens of those countries.
The injustice visited upon them has been an outrage and, naturally, Israel has gotten all the blame. That the Arab countries (who, by the way, are scandalously cheap when it comes to paying their UNRWA dues) have not borne the shame of this is another example of the parallel universe in which we live.
My point in this show and tell is: Photo 1 is of a Cairo slum, Photo 2 is of a Lebanese refugee camp. The Arab nations have been able to maintain the horrible conditions of Photo No.1 because they've exploited the conditions of Photo No. 2 to convince their citizens that Israel is the source of all their problems.
Photo 3, Balata Refugee Camp adjacent to the town of Nablus in the West Bank. Tragically, although it is right next to the PA's jurisdiction, the people of Balata cannot vote in PA elections, their children are not allowed to go to PA schools and the PA will not provide funds for their infrastructure. All in order to keep the refugee problem a festering sore.