Explaining Refugees

Since the Israeli government is having a very hard time explaining it’s aggressivedefiant and abusive policies abroad, it is losing international public appeal very quickly.

The Israeli ministry of Hasbara (propaganda), recently started a campaign to reach out to Israeli travelers abroad and expatriates, and provide them with resources for “explaining Israel”. They are recruiting citizen ambassadors, if you will. Supposedly, if you are a Hebrew speaker boarding an El Al plane in Israel, they will actually hand you a resource pamphlet that will help you make friends abroad and somehow justify Israel’s abominable behavior.

I finally bit the bullet, and visited the ministry’s resource site.

The first section I perused was titled “Israel Abroad: Myth vs. Reality”.  The first 4 myths were benign, things like “Israel is a large country” or “People only eat falafel and hummus in Israel”. It’s these amusements that get you sucked in, it is also the myths that they highlight in the televised campaign. I scrolled quickly down to find something a bit more controversial than hummus and camel riding.

One supposed myth is that “Israelis don’t really want peace”. First off, by saying Israelis and not Israel, they are off the hook from explaining government policies, and could get away with a vague (and arguable) public sentiment. By following links under that “myth” I got to a page dedicated to the green line. The initial facts were mostly accurate, but then later in the page it digressed into legalistic interpretations of resolution 242 and cherry-picked quotes of Lyndon Johnson.

Did you guys ever wonder what Israel’s official perspective is regarding Palestinian refugees? I know I did. So I was delighted to find a page dedicated to the refugee topic on the site. The refugee issue is seen as a topic with the potential of undermining Israel’s legitimacy, so it is often not touched with a ten foot pole.

Anyway, on the top of the page, they offered the following itemized list:

Arab Refugees: Facts and Figures

  1. 800,000 Arabs lived in pre-state Israel before the war of ’48-’49.
  2. 170,000 Arabs remained after the war.
  3. 100,000 were permitted to return to Israel for family reunification.
  4. 100,000 middle and upper class people were absorbed in their host Arab countries.
  5. 50,000 foreign workers returned to their countries.
  6. 50,000 Bedouins were absorbed by tribes in Jordan and Sinai.
  7. 10,000 – 15,000 were killed in the war of ’48 – ’49.
  8. Total refugees: 320,000.

Wait, what?? If you were reading that like I was and got to item number 8, you probably didn’t understand this as a subtraction exercise either. Did they just take some 8th grader’s homework and post it on the site? UNRWA alone reported aiding 711,000 Palestinian refugees back in 1950, and today has over 4 million beneficiaries – descendants of refugees from 1948.

Also, what is with the 50,000 foreign workers? Who are they talking about?

Before we explain the issue of the refugees of ’48, it’s important you understand this basic fact: Israel’s Arabs from before the war settled in the country as refugees from other Arab countries.

They go on and talk about Egyptian draft dodgers who came in 1831 to Acre, and cite British geographers from the 19th century. I don’t really feel like translating all of this disinformation, sorry.

To the point, I’ll paraphrase Israel’s excuse in a nutshell: We only displaced 340,000 Palestinians. It’s not us who told them to leave, their leaders did. They weren’t really Palestinian anyway.

Good luck with that message, citizen ambassador! I hope you find out sooner rather than later that students on foriegn campuses know full well that you don’t ride camels at home. Growing up in Israel does not provide you with innate historical knowledge, you are confusing that with the indoctrination you received your entire life.

Explaining Refugees

10 thoughts on “Explaining Refugees

  1. Yes, the descendants of “Egyptian draft dodgers who came in 1831 to Acre” do not have a right to stay in Palestine, but Tsarist-Russia draft dodgers who came in 1911 do have that right. Naturally. Because… well, because…. because they’re Jewish.

    Actually, they would be considered descendants of founding pioneers.

  2. Interesting observation. A few days ago a funny video was making the rounds about “Size does not matter” part of that campaign. I had no idea that this was part of a larger campaign that was going to brush off the refugee problem.

    Just a few minutes ago I was watching the movie “Defamation” from Yoav Shamir:

    http://74.125.93.132/search?q=cache:TnALmEmkm00J:pulsemedia.org/2010/01/26/yoav-shamirs-defamation/+defamation+yoav+shamir&cd=9&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

    There is a lot of indoctrination going on in these videos, well beyond what I could have ever imagined. At one point they bring students to Poland to learn about the holocaust. In preparation for the trip they tell the students that a secret service agent will be with them, since they are hated abroad.

    Once in Poland, the secret service explains to the kids what to do in case they hear a bomb go off. He makes it sound as if they are visiting a war zone.

    Miguel

    1. Miguel,

      I have seen Defamation a few times, crazy film. He really managed to show the situation in it’s absurdity.
      I saw it once in a documentary festival in Israel, we all laughed a lot during the screening. I saw it a second time here in Seattle, and it was mostly an uncomfortable silence in the audience. Sometimes I am not sure who deals with antisemitism better, but that is a whole topic in itself.

      The “size does not matter” video is some kind of Canadian production, unrelated to this campaign. Although they managed to upset just about everyone with that, not sure what they were thinking.

  3. Size doesn’t matter?

    They were thinking they were s-o c-o-o-l. And somebody else is paying for the whole thing, so who cares.

    More seriously, Israeli mentality and the mentality of Israel-cheerleading Disapora Jews has taken such a sharp turn away from the mentality of the West, especially young people – that they just cannot speak in the same language anymore with anyone except crazy Christian Zionists.

  4. Stuart says:

    It really is an appalling indictment of the Israeli government past and present that a person can be born a refugee, to refugee parents and will bear refugee children, living in a camp without the rights that most citizens of the 21st century enjoy. Nowhere else but Israel – at least in other occupied territories like Kashmir, the people are not criminalised, imprisoned and denied legal and political rights.

    Not to excuse the terrible acts that are terrorism, but you can understand why grown, educated people would imagine that violence is the most positive contribution that they can make to their society’s future.

  5. Vadim P. says:

    Sorry but, stop being an internet hero and look at the reality. You’ve obviously missed.

    Israelis have neatly growing, trees in rows, forests. Why? They made forest in a desert. They turned the land from a malaria-infested sand/swampland into something livable.

    What did the Palestinians do…?

    For all these complaints, one should also consider that many of them sold their land as well. Some of it they lost in wars they started themselves.

    … not like this discussion on nowhere has any importance to anything, of course.

    1. @vadim

      Israelis have neatly growing, trees in rows, forests. Why? They made forest in a desert.

      I am not sure where to begin with this, so I won’t. But I will say that is one of the funnier things I read today, neat forests are definitely symptoms of a superior society.

  6. Some dude says:

    Interesting fact: The North American natives were put in camps over a centure ago. And the whole world is fine with that.

    The Palestinians refugees are about the only ones who are systematically not accepted by their host countries (perpetuating the problem). Millions and millions of people were moved between countries in the 20th century. I mean Poland as a whole was moved west about 200km. But the rest have been resettled. Only the Palestians are still a problem. Why haven’t the been absorbed by the other Arabic countries?

    What I’m trying to say is that this issue isn’t black and white. And everyong is wrong in here. This will go one until one side accepts its loss.

  7. sri ramkrishna says:

    @some dude:
    “Interesting fact: The North American natives were put in camps over a centure ago. And the whole world is fine with that.”

    The world was mostly controlled by colonial powers back then. Most of the world were struggling against their foreign colonial powers so more like “join the club”.

    sri

  8. Vytas says:

    I think this attitude “it’s not black and white” presented in some comments is the biggest problem.
    In Israeli, they just colonized a piece of land, displaced/killed any locals and put Israeli settlements instead (and this practice is being continued). When you do like that, there will always be violent reaction and you can always say, “look, it’s not only black and white”.
    Vadim, would you like if someone invades your own home, kicks you out but plants neat forest there? Good excuse eh?

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