Thursday, October 30, 2008

Israel Diary: Day 4 (Part 2)


As I was saying... We arrived at the United Nations refugee camp in Ramallah at around 11 and met the head of the camp, a very charming Palestinian who was born there and lived there all his life. We talked to him for 45 minutes about the camp and the problems he has. Six thousand people live there. It's certainly not got the worst conditions of the various camps but there's little doubt that housing issues are the main area of concern. He told us he had ten children, earns $800 a month (far higher than most of his compatriots) and they all live in three rooms - one for boys, one for girls and one for him and his wife. We kept asking him what measures could best improve the living conditions for him and the other 6,000 people who live in the camp, but he repeatedly told us that nothing could alter the fact that they are refugees and have been driven out of their homes. Even though he was born there, and his children are third generation, they all still class themselves as refugees even though they have never even seen the place they regard as home. And this is surely the nub of the whole refugee problem. Until there is an acceptance that there is no going back it is difficult to see how life in the West Bank can be normalised. We can throw as much money at the area as we like (and British aid alone is a massive $500 million over three years), it will never solve what the refugees believe to be the main issue.


We were then taken on a tour of the camp. Conditions were not as bad as I was expecting, to be honest and I suspect things are very different elsewhere. Everybody we met was keen to shake our hands - at no time did we feel under threat. Yesterday we were told we would have to stay in the bus as it was too dangerous, but that went by the board. Several passers by told us their stories. We then went to visit an elderly man and his wife in their own home. And as we walked in we could hardly fail to see the massive picture of Saddam Hussein on the wall! The couple had been driven out of their village on the coast in 1954 and had lived in the camp ever since. They have four children, the oldest one being in Gaza. They haven't seen him in ten years as they cannot travel there without a permit. As we left, Nick Boles pointed up to the picture of Saddam and did a throat slitting gesture. The woman found this very funny - luckily!

We then had a late lunch at the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem with the British Consul to the Palestinian Authority, before spending a couple of hours for briefings with two female diplomats from the Israeli foreign ministry.

This evening - the final evening of the trip - we went to a restaurant in Jaffa with two young journalists from Haaretz and another newspaper, the name of which temporarily escapes me.

So that's it. I have to get up at 5.30am to catch the 9.05 El Al flight in the morning. I hope you haven't been too bored by my travel diary. It's been a real eye opener of a trip. Tomorrow I will post something on the lessons I have learned during my trip, and then it will be back to normal blogging.

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

how to improve your living conditions? don't have ten children for a start.

Anonymous said...

"Even though he was born there, and his children are third generation, they all still class themselves as refugees even though they have never even seen the place they regard as home."

I'm sensing a feeling that you don't agree with this, and reading between the lines I detect a degree of condescension ? If YOU cannot see things from THEIR point of view, maybe there, in a nutshell, is why we don't have a solution. So instead of blaming them, maybe the first place to look for a solution is in the old mirror !!

And how on earth are you going to be able to get a 'fair & balanced' view with that neocon crazie Nick Boles in tow, no doubt spinning his line, from what you mention about his 'throat slitting' action.

If neither of you have the wisdom to try and understand WHY they see Saddam Hussein as more aligned to their interests than Bush, maybe we have a long way to go before there is peace in the Middle East.

What on earth would be wrong with joint sovereignty on the West Bank?

Oh, that's it -the Israelis would veto any 'solution' so negotiation never gets the peace train out of the station. I wasn't expecting much from your fact-finding trip, but a 'fig-leaf' effort to try and find even a smidgin of empathy for the Palestinians would be a start, but maybe even that was a bit of a 'high hope'..

Iain Dale said...

How typically ignorant and condescending. You purposely misread what I wrote. I was actually explaining how they see the situation. There was nothing condescending about it at all. We were very moved by what we heard and saw.

But frankly, your comment about Saddam and Bush says everything about you. I need add no more.

Did I say that joint sovereignty would be a bad thing? No. You try to put words into my mouth.

How you can read that post and not find any empathy with the Palestinians is quite beyond me. But you clearly only read the words you think I have written, rather than those which are actually there.

Anonymous said...

"British aid alone is a massive $500 billion over three year."

Slight typo, there.

£300bn?

£100bn a year?

We spend as much on Ramallah as on the NHS?

Benedict White said...

Iain, "Even though he was born there, and his children are third generation, they all still class themselves as refugees even though they have never even seen the place they regard as home. And this is surely the nub of the whole refugee problem. Until there is an acceptance that there is no going back it is difficult to see how life in the West Bank can be normalised. We can throw as much money at the area as we like (and British aid alone is a massive $500 billion over three years), it will never solve what the refugees believe to be the main issue."

I think you meant £500 million at most across 3 years, as £500 billion is about what the bank bailout has cost us.

However to tip the argument on its head why should someone who has been a "refugee" for 1,500 to 2,000 years be allowed to return home (if they are Jewish) and yet not someone who has only been a refugee for 60 years?

There is I fear always a problem with viewpoints and a failure to even want to consider it from the others point of view. Hamas are a prime example as are Likud it appears which is why Arial Sharon formed Kadima.

You said in an earlier article that "if only they were all like that there would be peace"

I agree, the problem is the refusniks are on all sides. There are plenty of Israeli's in senior positions who are also unreasonable.

if the Arab peace plan was put to a referendum on both sides of the border, it would get between 60 and 70% support across the board, yet for Israel it is not even on the table. Barak Obama has insisted, as has Shas (and also Likud) that Jerusalem is not up for discussion yet this is exactly what is needed.

What hope is there?

On another note about your travels, it is fascinating to feel the hand of God on your shoulder as you absorb thousands of years of history, is it not?

Anoneumouse said...

"We kept asking him what measures could best improve the living conditions for him and the other 6,000 people who live in the camp"

CONDOMS

Iain Dale said...

Oops!

Benedict White said...

Iain "Oops!" Thank God you are not chancellor of the exchequer! Oh, on the other hand perhaps not we do after all have Brown and Darling!

Andy said...

Until there is an acceptance that there is no going back it is difficult to see how life in the West Bank can be normalised.

This is the part that is condescending, Iain. The implicit assumption in the above is that the Israeli position is the correct one, and that Palestinians are just going to have to come to accept it.

Put yourself in their shoes. If a load of Muslims booted you and me out of England, telling us that they deserved to live there because a)God told them it was theirs or b)The holocaust shutupi'mnotlisteninglalalalala, how long do you think it would take you to accept that we all just had to live in Wales now and that was an end to it? Would your (hypothetical, I guess) children grow up hearing you preach tolerance and reconciliation, and that they were Welsh now? Or would they grow up hearing that they were refugees?

Chris Paul said...

Why on earth should anyone accept there's no going back Iain? Would you? You need to look at the essential bargains that are being offered. And evaluate them.

Are Jewish people asked to accept this idea, even if they're many many generations from being born in Israel?

Goose and gander.

mutleythedog said...

I have been worried about you driving Mr D! Also your allergies cannot be good with all that sand.....

Anonymous said...

Hey Iain, how much longer are you going to be in Israel?

I keep logging on hoping for something interesting to read and all I get is this Israel guff.

I bet your traffic figures plummet while you're away.

COME HOME!

G Eagle Esq said...

Sehr geEhrter Iain

Your observations are so interessant

Vielen Dank

G E

captain skint said...

Iain - sounds jolly interesting and very different from the BBC drivel that we're usually drip fed.

It seems that the only way the whole thing can be stabilized is through a series of hypotheticals all facing the right way. An underpinning to the invasion of Iraq was a chance to sort this out - err.. Fail - so perhaps IF the exit strategy can be better managed another opportunity arises.

I note with some moroseness that the Afghan harvest has failed requiring significant food aid - perhaps, again, IF this can be used to persuade the farmers from smack to food .... (smack mainly affecting locals not Europeans).

I'm glad Europe's had its wars and genuinely feel powerless against this imbroglio (& Congo) - as Sassoon said "how can 1 man stop Armageddon?"

Anywho - better than going to Corfu I bet?!?!?

Alcuin said...

... a very charming Palestinian ... told us he had ten children

who he expects the West that he hates to feed, clothe and educate - or rather pay for local hate mongers to educate. Pardon me if I have little sympathy for someone who should not be classed as a refugee in the first case, is sexually incontinent and irresponsible, and who likely smiles at your face while cursing your back. They play us for fools - we feed them, their Arab brothers arm them and push them like pawns into battle. There are more Kalashnikov's in Gaza than people - why would that be? The kindest thing we could do to these people is to cut the cash and let them stand on their own feet - we would also see the true nature of Arab brotherhood.

Lest you be seduced by these people's pleasantries, remember the experience of Mark Seager: "I thought that I'd got to know the Palestinians well. I've made six trips this year and had been going to Ramallah every day for the past 16 days. I thought they were kind, hospitable people. I know they are not all like this and I'm a very forgiving person but I'll never forget this. It was murder of the most barbaric kind. When I think about it, I see that man's head, all smashed. I know that I'll have nightmares for the rest of my life."

Abe Bird said...

Second Anonymous from the top;

"What on earth would be wrong with joint sovereignty on the West Bank?"

That's was one of the ideas raised by the Israelis in the 90th but the Arab Palestinian rejected it utterly. The notion doesn't meet the Arab's basic goal to create one "Big Palestine" sprawled from the Arabian Desert to the sea shore with the Jordan River in between.

judith said...

Heavens, never thought I'd find myself agreeing with Chris Paul - first time for everything!

captain skint said...

Alcuin

Calm doy boy. Trust me, calm down. You need not shout so loud. Look after your mum lad.

dick the prick said...

Bloody constraint.

Anonymous said...

Did you feel no sense of disgust or shame that the United Nations have been running refugee camps in Palestine for so long? Meanwhile senior members of UNWRA have become rich on this institutionalized ethnic cleansing and thus have little incentive to make any progress. (And please don't make the anti-Jewish comments again. This is about the Palestinians!) I really think you have lost the plot on this one Iain. You should stick to domestic (UK) topics where you are on somewhat safer ground.

Jon said...

What this shows is that the Middle East needs a Conservative government in Britain just as much as the British people do.

Brown, and Blair before him, have been shown to be a combination of both clueless and hopelessly one-sided in their efforts towards the Middle East.

Fortunately, in David Cameron, we will soon have a British Prime Minister who understands the dynamics of the Middle East, is respected and who knows exactly what needs to be done and how it will be achieved.

The people of the Middle East thirst for a Conservative government in Britain - soon, thankfully, they will have it.

Draperwatch said...

The Labour trolls are out in force today, Iain!

Fortunately most people can see through Dolly Draper and his pathetic Labour minions.

Anonymous said...

QUOTE
Even though he was born there, and his children are third generation, they all still class themselves as refugees even though they have never even seen the place they regard as home.
UNQUOTE

Iain, could explain please why you think it's okay for Jewish people after thousands of years to have a right of return, but Palestinian people who've been expelled within living memory don't get this right.

norman said...

"That's was one of the ideas raised by the Israelis in the 90th but the Arab Palestinian rejected it utterly. The notion doesn't meet the Arab's basic goal to create one "Big Palestine" sprawled from the Arabian Desert to the sea shore with the Jordan River in between"

I repeat here again what Abba Eban said 'The Palestinians have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity'. I am not Jewish, but say this. The Palestinians homeland was what it is now Jordan.
With Hamas wrecking havoc in Gaza, it is not clear where the peace process will go. The West including America is set to weaken the only democracy in Middle East. Has any one found out where Arafat hid his millions?

Islamic families are large and some one said the way the Israeli palestinians multiplying through large families of double digit children numbers, they would outnumber the Jews in decades in Israel.

The Daily Pundit said...

Not bored at all. Enjoyed reading about the trip.

Dale for Shadow Chancellor!

Anonymous said...

... "Islamic families are large and some one said the way the Israeli palestinians multiplying through large families of double digit children numbers, they would outnumber the Jews in decades in Israel."

But isn't this true of the orthodox spectrum of Jewish families in Israel as well. And with the same aims. There was a story last year in UK paper (forget which one) about the high birth rate of orthodox families; leading to their likely becoming the majority of UK Jews within two generations.

Anonymous said...

Flushed with success from your Israel/Palestine peace tour, how about stopping off in Congo on your way home. Your old pal Miliband seems to thing that the UK has some bizarre neo-colonial role to serve there. Perhaps you could make a start ...

ruth kelly's plaything said...

Thanks, Iain; useful insights I'd never get otherwise (ditto from comments posters, too).

Afraid that my sympathy is qualified by one simple fact. The Arab oilmen could have sorted out the poverty decades ago, but prefer a running propaganda sore to solidarity with their brothers.

Mind you, gotta feel sorry for anyone to whose backyard Bliar has transferred his determination to effect 'change' (as if it were good in itself).

Anonymous said...

"he repeatedly told us that nothing could alter the fact that they are refugees and have been driven out of their homes"


Nothing can alter the fact that they are not refugees and they were not driven out.


"Until there is an acceptance that there is no going back it is difficult to see how life in the West Bank can be normalised"

Exactly why the Arabs ensure these people stay in the camps aka terrorist training grounds.