Editorial - Putting The Record Straight

by Joseph Hunting

From time to time the media highlight the plight of the Palestinian peoples and the whole situation has now become so distorted that the true facts are rarely presented.

During the war waged against Israel in 1948 by five hostile countries, about 600,000 Arabs living in Israel left their homes as the result of propaganda that they would be slaughtered along with the Israelis if they remained. One cannot blame them for their decision to leave under the circumstances.

About the same time some 850,000 Jews either left or were driven out of Arab countries. Although its economy was strained to the limit the newly-born state of Israel opened its doors to the thousands who came destitute of worldly possessions.

They were housed at first in tents and conditions were far from ideal. But they were eventually integrated and resettled.

On the other hand the displaced Arabs were never integrated into surrounding Arab countries. Instead they were kept in abject squalor in makeshift refugee camps to be used as a propaganda weapon against Israel.

By comparison Israel has announced a programme to rehouse 250,000 Arab refugees still in camps in the Gaza and West Bank areas. This is all the more remarkable as Israel is in no position to finance such an extensive programme and Arab countries will not contribute.

It is not generally known that the West Bank Arab population has benefited greatly since 1967. In education alone there has been a marked improvement under Israeli administration. For instance in 1967-68 there were 91,591 girls enrolled in various schools. The number rose to 184,946 in 1980-81. The curriculum is linked to Arabic Matriculation and the textbooks are those recommended by Jordan.

Unlike the surrounding Arab states, on the West Bank there is freedom of movement, freedom to conduct a peaceful demonstration, freedom of religion, freedom to administer Islamic holy places, freedom to strike and freedom to appeal against what they feel is unfair treatment by the Israeli administration.

Water purification, sewerage and waste disposal have improved the general health of the area. The infant mortality rate has halved since 1967.

Israel has done much to improve the life of the West Bank peoples and so we give credit where credit is due.