Plight of refugees is key to resolving Palestinian-Israeli conflict: Christian Aid
The plight of Palestinian refugees must be urgently addressed if peace between Israel and the Palestinians is ever to become a reality, warns Christian Aid in a new report.
The development agency says that confining the refugee question to the margins of peace negotiations or to be left to the final stages of any agreement, is a failed policy.
‘For Palestinians, the peace process must end the injustice and ordeal of forced displacement that they continue to experience’, says the report, Locked Out: Palestinian Refugees and the Key to Peace.
At the same time, ‘Israelis require assurance that such a process would not mean the end of Israel as a secure state for Jews.’
The report, launched to mark World Refugee Day, reflects Christian Aid’s mission to alleviate poverty – a daily reality for many refugees - through tackling the systems that perpetuate it.
On the basis of their status as refugees, it says, Palestinians are ‘frequently subject to legal, political and socio-economic discrimination.’
The report adds: ‘The continued exclusion of Palestinian refugees from any peace process, along with the systematic denial of their rights, is ensuring that a viable solution to the conflict remains out of reach.
‘As can be seen from the cases of other marginalised or persecuted groups in history, identity is not easily broken and its common bond rarely weakened.
‘Palestinian refugees do not want to be regarded as passive, hapless victims; neither do they want to exist on humanitarian assistance. They want recognition of their identity, of their rights and also of the vibrant and critical contribution they can and should make to unlocking the impasse.’
During the Arab-Israeli war that preceded the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, approximately 750,000 Palestinians either fled, or were forced to flee, their homes.
Many sought sanctuary in neighbouring countries with today some 4.8m Palestinians registered as refugees in the Middle East, one of the world’s largest refugee populations.
The report identifies as a key obstacle to progress the refusal of Israel to accept responsibility for the displacement of Palestinians from the former British Mandate of Palestine.
Report author, William Bell, Christian Aid’s Policy and Advocacy Officer for Israel and the Palestinians, said: ‘Recognising the rights of refugees along with Israel as a secure state for Jews is critical to unlocking the conflict.
‘With vastly increased numbers of refugees still living in poverty, often without hope and at a time of political upheaval across the region, the need to address their situation is perhaps more pressing than ever.’
The report says the way forward ‘requires a long-term, just and peaceful solution that guarantees a viable future for both Palestinians and Israelis.
‘This calls for a radical shift from the current political stalemate to one where Palestinians, Israelis and the international community have the political will and create the space necessary to take bold steps towards peace.’
Christian Aid calls on the UK government to actively promote recognition of refugee rights as a part of comprehensive and viable solution to the conflict. It should play a leading role in the EU in developing practical policies to resolve matters, and support the international community in determining what the cost of resolving the refugee issue would be.
The international community should ‘establish a workable and effective mechanism to examine repatriation, resettlement and compensation issues for refugees in detail.’