By mrs. Darwish, who grew up in Gaza City and Cairo, the author, most
recently, of “Cruel and Usual Punishment”.
March 18, 2009.
International donors pledged almost $4.5 billion in aid for Gaza earlier this
month. It has been very painful for me to witness over the past few years the
deteriorating humanitarian situation in that narrow strip where I lived as a child
in the 1950s.
The media tend to attribute Gaza’s decline solely to Israeli military and
economic actions against Hamas. But such a myopic analysis ignores the
problem’s root cause: 60 years of Arab policy aimed at cementing the
Palestinian people’s status as stateless refugees in order to use their suffering
as a weapon against Israel.
I experienced the early results of this policy. Egypt, which then controlled the
territory, conducted guerrilla-style operations against Israel from Gaza. My
father commanded these operations, carried out by Palestinian fedayeen, Arabic
for “self-sacrifice.” Back then, Gaza was already the front line of the Arab jihad
against Israel. My father was assassinated by Israeli forces in 1956.
It was in those years that the Arab League started its Palestinian refugee policy.
Arab countries implemented special laws designed to make it impossible to
integrate the Palestinian refugees from the 1948 Arab war against Israel. Even
descendants of Palestinian refugees who are born in another Arab country and
live there their entire lives can never gain that country’s passport. Even if they
marry a citizen of an Arab country, they cannot become citizens of their
spouse’s country. They must remain “Palestinian” even though they may have
never set foot in the West Bank or Gaza.
This policy of forcing a Palestinian identity on these people for eternity and
condemning them to a miserable life in a refugee camp was designed to
perpetuate and exacerbate the Palestinian refugee crisis.
So was the Arab policy of overpopulating Gaza. The United Nations Relief and
Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, whose main political
support comes from Arab countries, encourages high birth rates by rewarding
families with many children. Yasser Arafat said the Palestinian woman’s womb
was his best weapon.
Arab countries always push for classifying as many Palestinians as possible as
“refugees.” As a result, about one-third of the Palestinians in Gaza still live in
refugee camps. For 60 years, Palestinians have been used and abused by Arab
regimes and Palestinian terrorists in their fight against Israel.
Now it is Hamas, an Islamist terror organization supported by Iran, which is
using and abusing Palestinians for this purpose. While Hamas leaders hid in the
well-stocked bunkers and tunnels they prepared before they provoked Israel
into attacking them, Palestinian civilians were exposed and caught in the deadly
crossfire between Hamas and Israeli soldiers.
As a result of 60 years of this Arab policy, Gaza has become a prison camp for
1.5 million Palestinians. Both Israel and Egypt are fearful of terrorist infiltration
from Gaza — all the more so since Hamas took over — and have always
maintained tight controls over their borders with Gaza. The Palestinians
continue to endure hardships because Gaza continues to serve as the launching
pad for terror attacks against Israeli citizens. Those attacks come in the form of
Hamas missiles that indiscriminately target Israeli kindergartens, homes and
And Hamas continued these attacks more than two years after Israel withdrew
from Gaza in the hope that this step would begin the process of building a
Palestinian state, eventually leading to a peaceful, two-state solution to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. There was no “cycle of violence” then, no
justification for anything other than peace and prosperity. But instead, Hamas
chose Islamic jihad. Gazans’ and Israelis’ hopes have been met with misery for
Palestinians and missiles for Israelis.
Hamas, an Iran proxy, has become a danger not only to Israel, but also to
Palestinians as well as to neighboring Arab states, who fear the spread of
radical Islam could destabilize their countries.
Arabs claim they love the Palestinian people, but they seem more interested in
sacrificing them. If they really loved their Palestinian brethren, they’d pressure
Hamas to stop firing missiles at Israel. In the longer term, the Arab world must
end the Palestinians’ refugee status and thereby their desire to harm Israel. It’s
time for the 22 Arab countries to open their borders and absorb the Palestinians
of Gaza who wish to start a new life. It is time for the Arab world to truly help
the Palestinians, not use them.