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November 11, 1988 - Image 36

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-11-11

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Gaza Refugees

Continued from preceding page

ing, perhaps because they
had the most to lose. "It's all
a matter of money," a military
officer said. "If we had more
money, we could do more."
Sadeh, an ebullient man
who frequently pulled the
telescoping pointer from his
shirt pocket to gesture at the
aerial photos, said $1 billion
would relocate the 45,000
families (he estimated seven
people per family) out of the
camps and into the beginning
of a more tolerable future.
"That does not include the
land. . . But in any case the
land (he would use) is state-
owned," Sadeh said.
"Prime Minister (Yitzhak)
Shamir raised this issue in
front of the Americans re-
cently. I know, from an unof-
ficial source, that the
Americans said 'the problem
is a political one. "
Sadeh is eager to point out
that the refugees' desire to
leave the camps should not be
politicized "because the
refugee camps are not a place
for people to live. The density
there is the highest in the
world. There is no electricity
and water, no infrastruc-
ture . . . . What there is is
Sadeh's empathy seems gen-
uine; he himself once lived in
a refugee camp. His family,
originally from Libya, was
among the 800,000 Jews from
Arab countries (Israel's Sep-
hardim) who fled after 1948.
Three-quarters of them came
to Israel, roughly the number
of Arabs who fled what be-
came Israel.
The resettlement officer
sees the similarities between
his life in the tents, and the
Arab refugees in Gaza. "There
was a water tank. You had to
quickly fill two pails because
there would be no water until
the next day," he recalled.
"Our rich neighbor next door
stole water from the pipe. I
also hooked up to the water
pipe. The refugees here do the
same thing; it's legitimate."
The demographics do not
make Sadeh's job easy. "Sev-
enty percent of the Strip's
residents are under 30 and are
sabras, born in Israel, raised
in . Israel." In fact, Sadeh
notes that "whoever is
known as Ibrahim and works
in Tel Aviv is called Avi
there. He speaks Hebrew.
And that's the intifada,"
Sadeh said.
One needn't look far for
causes of the intifada, accord-
ing to Sadeh. "In Israel, Ibra-
him is master — compared to
his life back home in Gaza. It
does not matter whether he is



The refugee rehabilitation and resettlement program relocates Arabs to this new, neighborhood because "refugee
camps are not a place for people to live."

a waiter or a vendor in a vege-
table market." Nearly all of
Gaza's 90,000 member work-
force is employed inside the
pre-1967 "Green Line."
"A tremendous breach opens
between the generations,"
said Sadeh. The traditional
stable structure is broken.
The "'Ibl Aviv son," seeing six
to eight people living in two
rooms, no privacy for the par-
ents, "runs away quickly. . . .
He sees that the father's way
has not proven itself."
When Sadeh sees Palestin-
ian Arab refugees, he said he
thinks, "I could have been in
their place. But Israel decided
its mission was to rehabilitate
Jewish refugees. This process
of rehabilitating refugees
has not been done by Arab
The Palestinian Liberation
Organization's covenant still
envisions that Arabs who left
in 1948 — or their descend-
ants — must return to their
former homes in Israel. That
is why the PLO still invokes
the rights of repatriation and
self-determination. Sadeh
called it "a finger pointing in
one direction." And so Arab
countries have refused to re-
settle the refugees. "If we
move all the refugees to new
neighborhoods, the fighting
force of the PLO turns out to
be a force without soldiers.
Not because the idea of the
`return' is cancelled, but
because each one has his own
niche," Sadeh said.

"A refugee in camps for 40
years, his house is not his, it's
UNRWA's (U.N. Relief and
Works Agency, which deals
solely with the Palestinian
refugees); he is a guest. But in
a new house (of his own), with
a bit of land, he is the legal

"In Arab society, when the
son gets married, he stays by
the father — the daughter
goes with the husband. When
you give an Arab head of the
household land, he builds a
house with rooms for the
sons." Three thousand refu-
gees left Gaza's Shati camp
under Sadeh's program for a
new neighborhood, Sheik
Rawdwan. "There you can see
houses of six stories, and they
are constantly building more.
In Arab society, a family
without land has no honor."

The acquisition of property
helps develop a sense of be-
longing for the former camp
residents, according to Sadeh.
That does not make them
more moderate toward Israel,
he adds — but does open
them toward negotiations,
since now they have some-
thing of their own on which to
"They are not going to sing
Hatikva. I never expect an
Arab to think like I do," Sadeh
explained. "But I do want
them to talk to me out of a
position of self-respect:'
In addition to the refugees

who have moved from the
camps thanks to his program,
Sadeh said another 6,000
families have relocated from
older parts of the Strip into
the new neighborhoods built
under Israeli supervision.
"People come to me now and
say they are sorry they didn't
do it 10 years ago."
Israel has received plenty
of criticism, especially from
European countries, over its
handling of the territories.
Sadeh said that Jerusalem
has approached European
capitals more than once with
requests that each one "adopt"
a camp and support a pro-
gram to rehabilitate it —
"without our interference. We
never received a response.
What's been done up to now
(to rehabilitate refugees in
Gaza) has been done out of
the (Israeli) Jewish people's
budget. And we have many
other problems (of our own)."
Sadeh was in England this
summer, talking to British
Middle East officials at the
Foreign Ministry when news
of the proposed $30 billion
arms deal to Saudi Arabia
broke. A fraction of that
money, he said, could move
all the refugees in Gaza from
their crowded shacks to com-
fortable new housing.
The human element doesn't
interest European officials,
Sadeh believes. On Dec. 2 —
six days before the uprising
began — the United Kingdom
joined in passing the annual


United Nation's General
Assembly resolution (this
time resolution 42/69/E) con-
demning Israel's resettlement
efforts and demanding that
the refugees be returned to
the camps.
Sadeh has held his present
job since 1972. An observant
Jew who commutes from Tel
Aviv, he said that after morn-
ing prayers he begins work
"as if it is something new. I
seriously believe that what
we're doing here in rehabili-
tating refugees is a small
requirement for the Jewish
people . . . . We have to do
everything so our neighbors
will live in self-respect, and to
build a better world for my
His mission, he said, will
have no end while Israel's
Arab neighbors, in this case
the refugees, remain suscepti-
ble to "breathing the words of
the demagogues."
"I have no doubt that the
problem of the refugees is the
heart of the political prob-
lem," Sadeh said, "but I don't
relate to any particular poli-
tical solution — however, there
won't be a political solution
without a physical solution"
based on housing and private
Sadeh took us to see one of
the new neighborhoods on
our way out of the Strip.
Before leaving, he put on his
holster and pistol.
As we passed along one of
the main streets, a group of
children and adults watched
us from a balcony. One of the
soldiers called a halt and
jumped out. The people on
the balcony might be look-
outs for a potential ambush
further on, he thought.
Those on the balcony scur-
ried inside. A check of the
alleys and sidestreets turned
up no one else — but one of
the soldiers did return with a
Molotov cocktail, a soda bot-
tle two-thirds full of gasoline,
a rag wick and an old-fash-
ioned self-striking wooden
match stuffed into the neck.
A few blocks further was
the neighborhood Sadeh
wanted us to see — a street of
newly-built, freshly painted
apartment blocks much like
those in any urban Israeli
neighborhood, but with the
balcony and window grill-
works and the doorways sug-
gesting Arab motifs. The
street was a few minutes and
a world away from the
camps. ❑

Eric Rozenman edits the weekly
foreign policy newsletter Near

East Report.

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