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A blueprint for international instability
by Shlomo Avineri
1:15am Wed Aug 20 '03
How to bring more instability to an already frgile situation
> A blueprint for international instability, By Shlomo Avineri
> July 17, 2003
> The Jerusalem Post
> The atmosphere could not have been more tranquil: a former royal castle in
> the rolling hills of the Taunus region near Frankfurt, hosting an annual
> meeting, sponsored by a German foundation, of statesmen and politicians
> Middle Eastern problems. Europeans and Americans, Israelis and Iranians,
> Egyptians and Turks, Palestinians and Tunisians rubbed shoulders.
> This year there was a novelty: representatives from post-Saddam Iraq,
> them an official from the Kurdish Regional Government as well as a
> Shi'ite representative.
> The new situation in Iraq, as well as the Middle East road map, were
> naturally at the center of attention, and were most knowingly addressed on
> night by a senior German government minister, himself deeply involved in
> Middle Eastern affairs, with great sensitivity to Israeli as well as
> concerns. The evening proceeded along the expected trajectory, until a
> academic raised the issue of the right of Palestinian refugees to return
> The senior German minister listened attentively, and then said: "This is
> issue with which we in Germany are familiar; may I ask my German
> the audience to raise their hand if they, or their families, were refugees
> from Eastern Europe?"
> There was a moment of silence - the issue is embarrassing in Germany,
> with political and moral landmines. Slowly, hands were raised: by my
> more than half the Germans present (government officials, journalists,
> businessmen) raised a hand: they, or their families, had been Vertriebene,
> from their ancestral homes in Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and
> after World War II.
> It is estimated that up to 10 million were expelled; with their
> today they make up almost double that number - almost one in four Germans.
> Amid the hush the German senior minister continued: He himself was born in
> Eastern Europe and his family was expelled in the wake of the anti-German
> atmosphere after 1945. "But," he added, "neither I nor any of my
> the right to go back.
> "It is precisely because of that that I can now visit my ancestral
> and talk to the people who live in the house in which I was born - because
> do not feel threatened, because they know I don't want to displace them or
> take their house."
> The minister went on to explain that peace in Europe is today embedded in
> this realization. Had Eastern European countries thought that millions of
> Germans would like to return, "the Iron Curtain would have never come
> It was a highly emotional response, one that Arab representatives chose
> on to ignore. But it was just one more expression of the context in which
> issue of the 1948 Palestinian refugees has to be addressed.
> As the German senior minister reminded the audience, there are numerous
> parallels in recent history to the Palestinian refugee problem. Anyone who
> argues that the 1948 Palestinian refugees have a claim, in principle, to
> Israel, has to confront the question: Why not the millions of German
> post-1945 expellees from Eastern Europe? The German minister supplied the
> Moreover: Had a German government insisted in talks about reunification in
> 1990 that all German expellees from Poland and Czechoslovakia have, in
> principle, a right to return to these countries, it would have been clear
> West Germany had in mind was not reunification, but undoing the
> Nazi Germany's defeat in 1945.
> This is exactly the meaning of the Palestinian demand for the right of
> return. The Palestinians' insistence on it at Camp David and Taba in 2000
> to most Israelis that what they have in mind is not undoing the
> of 1967 - but undoing the consequences of their defeat in 1948.
> At that time, it should be recalled, Palestinian Arabs and four Arab
> of the UN went to war - not only against Israel, but against international
> legitimacy and the UN plan for a two-state solution. There is no other
> member countries going to war against UN decisions; this is what the Arab
> countries - and the Palestinians - did. Obviously they prefer to forget
> Clearly there is a serious humanitarian issue involved. That the
> Palestinians' plight has been compounded by Arab use of the refugees as
> political pawns
> for half a century is a measure of the cynicism and immorality of Arab
> Nonetheless, the humanitarian issue remains - and the German senior
> referred to it explicitly, both with regard to the Palestinians and to the
> German expellees.
> But for him the political consequences were clear: A return of refugees -
> the German as well as the Palestinian case - is a call for instability, if
> The author is professor of political science at the Hebrew University of
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