Distributed by Katina Productions, 34 Macdougal St., New York, NY 10012-2920
Produced by Pierre Rehov
Directed by Pierre Rehov
DVD, color, 52 min.
Middle Eastern Studies
Reviewed by Michael J. Schau, Seminole Community College, Sanford, FL
Date Entered: 4/1/2005
In 1948 on the day that Israel was declared a state, five Arab armies invaded the new country from all sides. Arab leaders urged the Palestinians to leave to facilitate the passage of the Arab armies and assured them they could return soon, “in a few days or at most weeks”. Things turned out differently. The Arab armies were defeated. Those who left became refugees-people without a country as they still are today. Those who stayed and their children, a fact left unsaid in the film, are full fledged citizens of the State of Israel. The Palestinian who fled were not allowed to settle in the surrounding Arab states but were left in a limbo-like existence.
The corrupt United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) has supported the so-called refugees ever since. This agency has 23,000 employees to care for an estimated 3.9 million Arab refugees compared to the United Nations High Council for Refugees staff of 5,000 to manage relief for nearly 20 million other world refugees!
The Arabs talk of their conditions and hopes from refugee camps (they were camps at one time, now they are cities) in Jordan, Lebanon, the Gaza strip and the West Bank. They describe the pain, poverty, longing for a real home and the nurtured hatred of Israel with which they were raised. Over and over the interviewees not only wanted to return to their home, though all but one was born in the camps, but they want all of Israel as theirs. The Arab “refugees” who fled Israel had little wealth and little history, since most had not come to “Palestine” until Jewish settlers opened economic opportunities in what had been desolate country for centuries. The film shows the desert land they left in 1948 and compares it to the incredible development that has taken place by the Israelis. The fertile and productive land no longer resembles the wasteland they left.
The question is why the refugees still live in a welfare situation in these camps when their old land is no longer there. The director makes the point that the “right of return” idea is kept alive as a bargaining point to get what the Palestinian Authority really wants - all of Israel. The fact is they are in this condition due to UNRWA itself, the failure of the surrounding countries to absorb the population and the corruption of the Palestinian authority.
The failure and corruption of UNRWA is shocking. UNRWA employees have been arrested for terrorist activities. A film clip shows armed Palestinian terrorist using UNRWA vehicles after a shooting. It turned a blind eye to the 100 tunnels found in the 2 years after the Jenin camp raid that were used to smuggle arms from Egypt to the UNRWA camp. Besides not allowing true resettlement of the Palestinian refugees the Arab states that are rich oil producers contribute nothing to the funding of UNRWA. Israel does, but is not given credit for it. The United States funds 25% of its budget. It is reported Arafat diverted $300 million of their money, yet his was the voice that most kept alive the myth of “right of return.” A survey actually showed that 71% of the refugees would rather have compensation than return to their former land.
This excellent, eye-opening film is highly recommended for all audiences.