The United Nations Security Council is about to hold yet another debate on the rights of the Palestinian Arabs.
The United Nations Security Council is about to hold yet another debate on the rights of the Palestinian Arabs. How to meet their aspirations for a homeland has been an unsolved problem at the heart of all the attempts of the past thirty years to bring lasting peace to the Middle East. It is four years since their leader Mr. Yasser Arafat, Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, made this appeal on behalf of his people.
SYNOPSIS: About half of the people who regard themselves as Palestinians live in refugee camps either in the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 -- particularly the Gaza Strip -- or in neighbouring countries, They are the people displaced in four Arab-Israeli wars, and their children and grandchildren.
Two countries which received them -- Jordan and Lebanon -- found the Palestinians uneasy guests. In each in turn, Palestinian guerrillas clashed repeatedly with the national armed forces. In Lebanon, they became involved in the tensions already existing between Moslems and Christians, and so helped to inflame the civil war. It was right-wing Lebanese forces that pounded the Tel al-Zaatar Palestinian camp near Beirut into ruins.
The younger generation, many of whom have known no home but a refugee camp, have been brought up expecting to have a fight for a homeland. Many of them have trained for it. There are eight main guerrilla groups under the umbrella of the Palestine National Council, and a few extremist organisations operating independently.
Israel has felt the impact of these guerrilla groups in repeated bomb attacks in its towns and cities, as well as the more spectacular attacks like that on her Olympic team at Munich. Israel has consistently refused to deal with the PLO in any peace negotiations, describing its members as "murderers".
More than a hundred countries do recognise the PLO and Mr. Yasser Arafat's invitation to address the United Nations in 1974 was a major step in that direction. President Jimmy Carter has gone some way towards accepting the main Palestinian demand:
Israel has continued to build new Jewish settlement since last year's peace agreement with Egypt, and has lost some support in the United States as a result. Some of these have been in the occupied territories; others on land inside Israel which the local Arab population consider to be theirs. Arabs living under Israeli rule, like the refugees, regard themselves as Palestinians; and look to the PLO to represent them in any decisions about their future.