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A Stateless People
May 19, 2011 3:37 PM   Subscribe

The CBC has launched an interactive web documentary with tonnes of videos that takes users inside Shatila refugee camp (pop. 12,000) in Beirut, where Palestinians have now lived for more than 60 years.
posted by gman (15 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Robert Fisks description of his post-massacre arrival at Shatila for some reason stayed with me.
posted by klue at 3:59 PM on May 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


The sad part is that Palestinians refugees live in camps in a number of Arab nations and are not integrated into those countries. They are a bit like the Japanese interned by the US in WWII, lving among but not a part of the country they are in.

When it was clear that the UN was going to sanction a state for Israel, Arab nations sent some 800,000 Jews out of lands that they had lived in for years, but those refugees were absorbed, mostly in Israel, and often by other nations. There were no camps set up for them nor a need for any.

Given Arab (Muslim) demographics, conditions are likely to continue to worsen as more and more people live in a confined areas. And given the unrest throughout the region, there is not likely to be any desire to integrate refugees into economies at present unable to give employment to its own citizens.
posted by Postroad at 4:13 PM on May 19, 2011


One of the things that I love about the CBC is that, on one hand you have the usual talking-news-heads that repeat ad nauseam the conventional wisdom on the evil seething hoard of Palestinian terrorists, while on the other hand, their journalists do some really valuable work getting know know the complex human reality on the ground.

That and those increasingly bitter and sarcastic sons o' bitches, Neil MacDonald and Terry Milewski.
posted by klanawa at 5:24 PM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


1. Thanks for posting this: some amazing footage.

2. Canadians should note that the Harper government has bragged incessantly that it has severely restricted Canada's contributions to UNRWA, the main Palestinian agency looking after these refugees. In its rush to prove its pro-Israel credentials, it has actually overstated the extent of these restrictions: Minister Vic Toews told a community paper in Manitoba last year that Canada was no longer giving any money to UNRWA, but two months later his Cabinet colleague Bev Oda quietly approved an eight-figure contribution (though all earmarked for food aid, breaking with decades of Canada contributing generously to UNRWA's general operating fund; in typical Oda-esque fashion, no explanation was offered for this change.

3. Not really a fair comparison, Postroad. Israel was purpose-built from the ground up as an immigrant-absorbing country: it was classless, virtually all of its citizens spoke Hebrew with strong foreign accents, the common denominator for the Shephardim and Ashkenazim alike was Judaism, and its society was arguably one of the most meritocratic on the planet, for the simple reason that connections didn't mean anything. You couldn't create better conditions for immigrants. And even then, to this day Shephardim argue that they suffer from discrimination in Israel.

Contrast this to the situation of Israel's Arab neighbours: newly independent on their own soil after hundreds of years of foreign occupation, they were for the most part busy defining what it meant to be Jordanian, Egyptian, Syrian etc. Despite political turmoil, their underlying societies were still stratified, with stagnant economies and uncertain futures. Hardly fertile ground to throw a few hundred thousand obvious foreigners - particularly when all the Arab states were united in saying that they would be able to go home as soon as Israel was defeated.
posted by senor biggles at 5:27 PM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


(sorry, main UN agency, not Palestinian.)
posted by senor biggles at 5:27 PM on May 19, 2011


(and Sephardim, not Shephardim, though I imagine some of them may have been shepherds)
posted by senor biggles at 5:51 PM on May 19, 2011


When it was clear that the UN was going to sanction a state for Israel, Arab nations sent some 800,000 Jews out of lands that they had lived in for years, but those refugees were absorbed, mostly in Israel, and often by other nations. There were no camps set up for them nor a need for any.

Not camps as such but to this day there are moshavim (semi-collective agricultural settlements) dotted around Israel populated entirely by groups of people from this or that Arab country who were bussed there en masse by the Sochnut in the fifties and who have largely been unable to leave. In some cases feuding clans were bussed together to the same settlement. The fallout from this is still being worked through.

it was classless... the common denominator for the Sephardim and Ashkenazim alike was Judaism, and its society was arguably one of the most meritocratic on the planet, for the simple reason that connections didn't mean anything.

That's hilarious, though it is indeed the myth still being peddled by the Jewish Agency. It doesn't take too long talking to actual Israelis to find out what a humungous lie that myth is. It's still a big deal when someone from, say, a Moroccan background gets a big government or army post. It isn't the case that all Ashkenazim in Israel are ruling class, but it is certainly the case that the vast bulk of the ruling class there are Ashkenazim.

I'm not making any of this up. In the early seventies the Mizrachim, inspired by events in the US, had their own Black Panthers movement.

See, for example, The Mizrachi Struggle In Israel by Sami Shalom Chetrit.

(The oppression of the Mizrachim pales into insignificance compared to the oppression of the Palestinians, of course, but that doesn't mean we should go along with the Zionist ruling class myth and pretend it completely doesn't exist.)
posted by motty at 6:50 PM on May 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


All good points, Motty, and I do know that the egalitarian nature of early Israeli society is a stock founding myth. It still doesn't change the point I was trying to make, that Palestinians living in Arab states had the deck stacked against them in all kinds of ways that simply didn't apply in Israel. I always find it a terribly cheap shot to say "well, why don't the Arab countries just absorb their fellow Arabs", as if it were that easy and as if doing so would eliminate the conflict, and as if their failure to follow this fatuous advice somehow absolves Israel and the Western world from having to try.
posted by senor biggles at 7:06 PM on May 19, 2011


Absolutely, Senor Biggles, the Palestinians have had the deck stacked against them in all kinds of ways. But I do find the real story of the Mizrahim in Israel incredibly instructive. The lies I was told about them growing up as a nice Jewish boy from North-West London in a Zionist youth group turn out to mirror shallowly the lies I was told about the Palestinians themselves.

All those lies emanate from the same source, and are predicated on a bet that you won't actually show up in the place, learn the language, and start talking to people to find out what is really going on. Of course the Arab countries can't 'just absorb their fellow Arabs'; in a similiar way, the Ashkenazi elite run Israel has still not really managed to 'absorb' its fellow Jews, at least, not the ones whose skin is too dark and who speak with the wrong foreign accent, and you would have thought their task would have been a lot easier.

Turns out the short-termist solution is to sell Big Lies about that and everything else worldwide rather than actually try to solve the problem.
posted by motty at 8:20 PM on May 19, 2011


Canadians should note that the Harper government has bragged incessantly that it has severely restricted Canada's contributions to UNRWA

Good. The UNRWA never should have been allowed to exist. All refugees except for Palestinians are served by the UNHCR, a separate agency with separate policies, ones that actually make sense. If a war renders you a refugee, the UNHCR will help you get back on your feet, and will try to restore you to your home. But if that is not possible, or delayed, the UNHCR's concentrate on finding you a new place. And your status as a refugee is not heritable. The UNRWA, however, as a matter of policy, never so much as speaks of permanent resettlement. And, refugee status under UNRWA passes on to children. Which is a nice way to make sure this conflict will continue to fester for generations to come. The UNRWA is a kitten that ought to be drowned.
posted by ocschwar at 8:31 PM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Of course the Arab countries can't 'just absorb their fellow Arabs'; in a similiar way, the Ashkenazi elite run Israel has still not really managed to 'absorb' its fellow Jews, at least, not the ones whose skin is too dark and who speak with the wrong foreign accent, and you would have thought their task would have been a lot easier.

Palestinian refugees live in "refugee camps" made of cinder block homes. Mizrahi Jews live in "towns" made up of cinder block homes. That is one difference, and it is a huge one.

Another is that Palestinian refugees are prevented by legal provisions in their host countries from being absorbed.

Mizrahi Jews are only hampered by the financial losses they suffered, and by the unfortunate truth that clout and connections are a scarce commodity, and they have yet to accumulate theirs in Israel. That said, intermarriage between Mizrahim and Ashkenazim is very common in Israel, and the distinction between the two fades away with every new child born there.
posted by ocschwar at 8:38 PM on May 19, 2011


Israel was purpose-built from the ground up as an immigrant-absorbing country: it was classless, virtually all of its citizens spoke Hebrew with strong foreign accents, the common denominator for the Shephardim and Ashkenazim alike was Judaism, and its society was arguably one of the most meritocratic on the planet, for the simple reason that connections didn't mean anything. You couldn't create better conditions for immigrants. And even then, to this day Shephardim argue that they suffer from discrimination in Israel.


That's because meritocracy is a a figment of man's imagination, and Israel was far from it. Israel was, and to some degree still is, a socialist bureaucratic state, and in such a state, connections are everything. The most important factor frustrating the ambitions of Mizrahim in Israel is that they had no connections when they arrived. The state never actively discriminated against them. In fact, Zionism holds that Sephardi culture is more authentically Jewish than Ashkenazi culture, which is why "proper" Hebrew is pronounced in the Ashkenazi way. But connections are important. And the Mizrahim didn't have any. And we are still sorting it out.
posted by ocschwar at 8:51 PM on May 19, 2011


er, in the Sephardi way. Can't brain today. I have the dumb...
posted by ocschwar at 8:52 PM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


As heart-breaking as this is, I am thankful that you've posted this.
posted by PepperMax at 8:33 AM on May 20, 2011


Even in Canadian English, the metaphorical use of tons is written thus. It isn’t 1,000kg.
posted by joeclark at 8:50 AM on May 20, 2011


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