The (status quo) of the Palestinian refugees and their attitude towards proposed solutions

A survey conducted by Powart Marx in Al-Jalazon refugee camp near Ramallah city, which was published in 1994 by novelist Najeh Jarrar in his book entitled “Palestinian Refugees”, revealed that the Palestinian refugee is working arduously to emancipate himself from the miserable living conditions inside the camps and to eliminate the title “refugees”. In spite of his unfortunate condition, the Palestinian refugee refused all forms of rehabilitation programs sponsored by UNRWA.
This rejection emanates from his adamant belief in keeping the relief card since it stands as the only proof to his real identity and consequently his right of return to his own country. Field studies prepared by the Palestinian Academic Society for International Affairs at two refugee camps in Balata and El-Far’ai near Nablus city resulted in the same conclusions. In comparing their pre - 1948 status, the majority of Palestinian refugees were land owners.
At that time, 84.8 percent of the refugees were land owners, 64.4 percent raised cattle, 18.2 percent had real estate properties, and only 7.6 percent were non-owners, presently about 76.8 percent of the refugees do not posses any property, 0.7 percent have agricultural lands, and 13.8 percent run small shops inside the camps. This comparison highlights the plight of the refugee to insist on his right of return.

Jerry Afinson published a comprehensive study in 1992 about Palestinian refugees in the West Bank. The writer stated, “the economic conditions of Palestinian refugees living in the West Bank is worse than the other segments of society in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. About 60% of the refugees at these camps are below the poverty line”. The monthly income for a family bread winner in the camp averaged from the zero point to 200 dinars. This means that over 53% of the Palestinian in these camps are living below the poverty line.
Figures indicate that the economic situation for the refugees living in these camps is much worse when compared to other Palestinians living not far away from the area. This may be attributed to their big loss in the 1948 and the 1967 wars. Field surveys also revealed that 32.6 percent of the population of Balata and El Far’a camps prefer to abandon these camps while 38.4 percent voted to stay there in spite of their miserable conditions.
A separate study indicated that 31.9 percent refused to leave camps even if their economic situation considerably improved. About 21.7 percent gave no reply. It is clearly evident that 58% want to stay in refugee camps for purely nationalist reasons. They conceive that the extension of their camps implies the end of their national cause. Hence, any workable solution for the problem of refugees should take into account the national factor. This conclusion reflects the commitment of the refugees to deepen their roots in Palestine and confirms that their presence inside camps in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, and Syria is temporary.
Regarding their attitudes towards a peaceful solution to their problem, about 31.6 percent advocate the return of all Palestinian lands, and 4.6 percent favors the return of refugees. However, 8.6 percent support a fair compensation for the refugees and 3.4 percent call for improving the standard of living inside the camps. However 48.3 percent favor the establishment of a Palestinian State in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Those who favor the settlement of Palestinians in Arab countries as a solution to the problem of refugees constituted only 0.6 percent .

In view of the above facts and figures it is now apparent that the Palestinian refugee is deeply rooted to his land, a land he was forced to abandon, to a life of living in camps. The lack of land ownership has made feel inferior to inhabitants of nearby cities and towns. The Palestinian refugee expresses the love and longing for his nation through his positive contribution in the socio-political arena. The Palestinian refugee has demonstrated through more four decades of Israeli occupation his unshakable conviction in achieving his legitimate rights. The solid resistance of the Palestinian refugee has prompted the Israeli military authorities to diversify their techniques of encountering resistance , including the perpetration of mass massacres against Palestinians at Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps in Lebanon in Sept. 1982.