Israel abuses refugees? Look closer at the rest of the world

January 14, 2016  

Again and again, Israel has been attacked for its treatment of Palestinian refugees, from the War of Independence up to today.

However, a new study is showing that the same countries which attack and criticize Israel for its actions, treat their own refugees worse than Israel does the Palestinians. This conclusion comes from examining other countries’ relations to refugees from various conflicts.

The study was carried out by Lior Ben Haim, from the Institute for Zionist Strategies. He spoke with Arutz Sheva about the surprising data that his research revealed, data which the State of Israel, for some reason, has not chosen to use in order to fend off attacks.

First, Ben Haim spoke about what motivated him to research the subject – claims that were published around the world and in Israel, stating that Israel does not treat refugees as it is required by international law and norms.

“We decided to investigate the issues,” he said. He further noted that, while numerous legal experts declaring that Israel treats refugees reasonable, their arguments have not been strong enough to stop the propaganda circulating against Israel.

Ben Haim and his assistants began by looking at the countries that are loudest in denouncing Israel, to see whether they themselves uphold the standards they demand from the Jewish State.

The research looked into the law on abandoned property that was passed in the 50s and the current law on abandoned property from 1973. According to Ben Haim, “For 25 years, until ’75, you could receive compensation for land that demonstrably belonged to you. The State of Israel had entire sections of the Defense Ministry and the Justice Ministry dedicated to finding these people and compensating them for their land, in order to prove that this land now belongs to the state, as is legally acceptable.

“There is no comparison to this in the world. Nowhere – not in Germany, not in the US, not in Russia, and not in France or other countries. Most countries that offered an option for compensation due to different conflicts gave between three and six months, or three years at most; only short periods of times and they would not search out the people in order to compensate them.

“This law also applied to Jews who bought land during the Ottoman rule and did not know where the land was located. The state searched for the land on their behalf and paid them according to the general accepted values. There was no discrimination or failure to comply with international standards.”

Ben Haim added that the State of Israel’s public relations conduct fits a country that is not convinced of its justifications and does not know how it wants to present itself to the world. And when Israel does not present itself confidently, it cannot ask other countries to believe it.

“This is also the argument that we hear from international officials who say that we Israelis tell ourselves that we’re wrong. We have been caught up in the statements of our enemies without checking the facts. Our research took the statements seriously and we checked them in order to know if we are wrong.”

According to him, all of the digging and checking showed that Israel does not act abusively towards refugees, particularly when compared with the rest of the world.

Ben Haim further added that there are two categories of refugees in the world: Palestinian refugees and all others. The different criteria causes the Palestinian issue to remain and even get stronger. A Jew who comes from Morocco is a refugee, Ben Haim says, but he does not pass on his refugee status. At the same time, the UNRWA’s criteria ensures that Palestinians inherit their status as refugees. This is how the number of refugees around the world is shrinking, while the number of Palestinian refugees only grows.

Ben Haim agrees with the determination that making the UNRWA accept the general guidelines for international refugees would leave no more than a few dozen refugees, if any. Even so, those few have long been living under conditions that are not considered applicable to refugees.

“From a procedural standpoint, the UN Refugee Convention was written in 1951 and took effect in ’54, and it applied to refugees from World War II. In ’67 an expanded protocol was added, allowing whoever wants to join the Convention to do so, despite having been made refugees from other incidents. In ’68 Israel asked to join the Convention, as it had in ’54, but it was then justified because there were refugees here from Europe, and in ’68 the world refuses to accept us into the Convention.We wanted things to be official but the world wanted to maintain the double standard – one for the rest of the world and one for judging Jews. “

Ben Haim notes that the way Arab countries perpetuate the refugee problem, by refusing to give Palestinians citizenship, is only done in order to maintain the struggle with Israel.

Despite their relationship with Israel, Ben Haim notes, the other advanced Western nations have not provided any compensation to refugees that came about after their conflicts.

“The Allies, including Britain, France, the US and so on, after winning World War II, took 12 to 16 million Germans, not necessarily Nazis, and, over the years until ’51, regularly deported them to German. It was effectively ethnic cleansing, and two million people died during these deportations – families, children, and adults. The standards were that, if you were a historical German, they didn’t care about your rights because you belonged to the collective problem.”

Ben Haim continued and explained that the US apologized for its actions in the 90s, but only for harming individual people and not for the act itself. “This they did in the 90s, after the Soviet Union no longer existed and there was no geopolitical tension, and it was possible to talk about individual refugees and their rights after the occupation was completed. The conversation moved from counting to the public discourse.

“In ’89 and ’91, the US offered compensation to Japan, due to their trade agreement,” Ben Haim added, noting that the US’s economic interests were the only reason for the money, and that the Italians and Germans never dared to ask for any.

In the position paper that was issued under the auspices of the Institute for Zionist Strategy, Ben Haim presents several reasonable points for the State of Israel to use in response to international criticism. Now there only remains for someone in the Prime Minister’s office or the Foreign Ministry to examine the findings and to implement the suggestions.

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