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Palestinians disavow 'right of return'
'Our leaders exploit us to gain concessions from Israel,' Palestinians tell Ynetnews
A large and growing number of young Palestinians born abroad have no interest in coming to the Palestinian Authority or Israel, Palestinians in London have told Ynetnews.
They expressed anger at Palestinian leaders for continuing to trumpet a "right of return," a call which is neither desirable nor realistic, the men said, adding that the demand is merely an attempt to force concessions out of Israel during peace talks.
Seeking a good standard of living, Palestinians born in Lebanon have left for Europe and North America to escape the state-imposed discrimination placed on them by the Lebanese government which does not grant them citizenship or basic rights, the men say.
"Most Palestinian refugees who live in Lebanon are not concerned about returning to Palestine or to Israel because we have been outside of Palestine for 60 years," Rami Abdel Rahim, a 26 year-old Palestinian living in London, said.
"If we returned to the Palestinian territories, we would feel like second class citizens," he added. "We have different accents. We don't have any homes in West Bank and Gaza. For us, it will be more desirable to live in Arab countries and Europe," he explained.
"No one wants to live there, not because we don't like our country Palestine, but because we can't live there," Rahim added. "If we all went, it would destroy the Palestinian economy. If we got an opportunity to live in Europe, we would enjoy a good standard of life. We can visit Palestine," he said.
"I'm Muslim and I practice my religion and pray every day. I don't feel that talking about where refugees prefer to live will make me a traitor or that I'm working against the Palestinian case," Rahim said. "We want to have an independent Palestinian state, but a lot of refugees will prefer to live in the West if they got that opportunity. Actually, all of the second generation Palestinians born in Lebanese refugee camps don't think about returning to Palestine or living there permanently… from a religious point of view, we have the right to choose what we want if that will make our life better, including living outside of Palestine," he added.
Rahim said Arab and Palestinian leaders continue to talk about a "return" in order to keep the issue alive as a bargaining chip during "final peace negotiations."
"They want more from Israel - more land, and Jerusalem. We know and they knew that we will not be able to return to Israel or Palestinian territories. They are just using this issue to get more compromise," he argued.
"There are thousands of us who share this view," he said. "We want to start a campaign. We have the right to determine our own destination. Not all refugees want to return to Palestine, it's not practical," he added.
Tarek, another Palestinian living in London, agreed. "I don't want to go back," he said, speaking on the phone from London. "I'm ok here. I can work, I have a job, and a house. This is a good, safe place, and I want to stay," Tarek said.
Ali, also a Palestinian who moved to Britain from Lebanon, told Ynetnews of the discriminatory treatment meted out to Palestinians in Lebanon. "Palestinians do not love Lebanon, and Lebanon does not love us," he said. "We have no right to work, or access to schools and hospitals. We get no citizenship or passports. They do not want us in Lebanon," he said. "We don't get citizenship because we are Sunni Muslims, and the Lebanese government does not want there to be more Sunnis than Christians or Shiites," Ali added.
"I love Palestine. But there is no work in Palestine. I've never been there - but I can visit Palestine if I live in Europe," he said.
"The leaders of Palestinian factions in the Lebanese camps are the only ones speaking," Ali said, but added that they were not representative of the views of many Palestinians. "Our leadership is corrupt. There are thousands of Palestinians - I have cousins and friends in Germany, Denmark, Canada, and family in Lebanon - who want to live in Europe. The Palestinian leaders just say what they say because they don't want to admit that the refugees don't want to return," he added.
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