For the first time in more than half of century, we have a chance to have a Middle East Policy based on the actual realities on the ground and our own interests and values. The cold war and the West’s dependence on Mideast Oil forced us to overlook the fact that underneath a thin veneer of modernity, the area was actually moving backwards towards an imagined Muslim World that never existed. To curry favor with the various states we made alliances with leaders such as Sadat and Mubarak in Egypt who were less than democratic. Monarchs from Morocco to Iran were supported. As we did elsewhere in the world, we adopted alliances based on the enemy of my enemy is my friend policy. Just like our World War II alliance with Stalin’s Russia, we chose what was perceived to be the lesser of evils. Unfortunately, this forced us to overlook things that were abhorrent to Americans and/or policies that would be dangerous to the world. Beyond the basic lack of freedoms, two areas we went along with, much to our future distress, were the endless life of the Palestinian Refugee Camps and the continuing march of Muslims towards extreme forms of their religion.
At the end the 1948 Arab-Israeli Conflict, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) was established to provide relief for 652,000 Arabs that fled the Israeli areas. Today UNRWA provides education, health care and social services to the 5 million Arab refugees in 58 registered camps. Over the same period approx. 850,000 Jews left Arab countries, the vast majority going to Israel. None of these people or their descendents live in refugee camps, even though there were cultural differences between the Jews from the middle east and Africa and other Israelis, they were welcomed and integrated in Israel. Why didn’t the Arab Nations also welcome and integrate their fellow Arabs? Only Jordan granted citizenship to the Arab refugees living there. While Palestinian refugees have worked in other Arab lands such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, Arab League instructions bar Arab States from granting citizenship. Without citizenship, the refugees have been at the mercy of a change of winds in host countries. For instance, Kuwait expelled Palestinian Refugees after the Gulf War. Why wasn’t the fate of these poor trapped people handled differently? Where was the U.S? Instead of helping these people find new homes throughout the Arab World, we were paying the biggest share for UNRWA to maintain these camps. We never put real pressure on the Arabs to do right by their brothers and sisters. And they are their brothers and sisters. Palestine was never a separate Arab Country. It was always a part of a bigger entity. Surely, Palestinian Arabs are closer culturally to others in the Arab League, than the Jewish Middle East and African Refugees that went to Israel. The Arabs other than Jordan shunned their humanitarian responsibilities and we felt it was in our interest to actually support this financially.