Palestinians Leaving the West Bank and Gaza
by Daniel Pipes
"What the Israelis were unable to do – try to push the Palestinian out of the country – the internal strife is achieving," observes Birzeit University pollster Nader Said, who has monitored emigration attitudes among Palestinians for 12 years. Without getting into the accuracy of the first half of that statement, about Israel, the second part is true and worth noting. The disaster that is Hamas is causing Palestinians, who have among the most exaggerated of ties to the land, to up and out.
Joshua Mitnick of the Christian Science Monitor details the changes in "Fallout of Hamas's rule spurs Palestinian desire to flee." Nader Said says that the percentage of Palestinians willing to relocate used to hover under 20 percent. That figure reached 32 percent in September 2006. The percentage among 20- and 30-year olds jumps to 44 percent. And among males in that age category, it surges to over 50 percent.
Beyond the numbers, there's been a change in attitudes.
Comment: The law of unintended consequences is at work in the Palestinian Authority, as elsewhere in the world. Who knew that Israel's allowing a terrorist organization to run for elections would lead to the depopulating of the Palestinian Authority? (October 24, 2006)
Nov. 20, 2006 update: More evidence of the same pattern in The Globe and Mail, where Mark MacKinnon reports from Ramallah on "Heavy-hearted Palestinians taking their chances abroad: Thousands leave the territories to escape politics and poverty—many bound for Canada." More than 10,000 Palestinians have left the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the past four months and 45,000 additional emigration requests are being evaluated by foreign states.
Nov. 27, 2006 update: As though nothing is happening, Hamas leaders responded with the same old formulations to Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert's offer to withdraw from large parts of the West Bank and engage in negotiations in exchange for Palestinians giving up their claim of a "right of return" to Israeli territory. Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad called the offer "a conspiracy, especially since Olmert is trying to bypass the core of the Palestinian cause, namely the right of return for the refugees." Musa Abu Marzouk of Hamas replied that "The Palestinian people will never give up this sacred right. Our people have been fighting for 58 years to achieve the right of return for all those who were expelled from their homeland. We reject any deal that does not recognize the right of return." For good measure, Fatah also turned down the offer. Abdullah Abdullah of Fatah on the West Bank said that "The right of return cannot be ignored or surrendered."
Dec. 9, 2006 update: Sarah El Deeb provides more information on this exodus for the Associated Press in "More Palestinians Flee Homelands."
Of particular interest are the two destinations of choice, Canada and Cuba:
Comment: The article also includes this throw-away line: "Emigration from Gaza, in particular, has picked up. Life in the fenced-in strip has become increasingly difficult following Israel's pullout last year." Combined with the point about life under Hamas rule being unbearable, this suggests that, ironically, the dual Israeli folly of permitting a terrorist organization to win an election and withdraw unilaterally from Gaza has inadvertently led to the reduction in the number of its enemies.
July 12, 2010 update: A poll conducted by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion finds that, in theory anyway, Palestinians have gone back to their disapproval of emigration:
14) Do you think that the Palestinians must renounce their right of home return, which Israel will never accept, in exchange for having an independent Palestinian state and the conclusion of a peace deal with Israel?
15) If the Palestinian leadership would waive the right of home return in exchange for a financial compensation, would you accept or refuse that?
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