- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 30, 2008


There were three errors in Wednesday’s column “The Gaza quandary” (Commentary).

1) Claude Salhani writes that “if the last 60 years of occupation has proven one thing in this eternal cycle of violence and counter-violence, it is that the occupation does not make Israel any safer.”

Israel has not occupied the Gaza Strip for the last 60 years. It took control of the strip from Egyptian occupation in 1967, and withdrew completely in 2005. Since then, Gaza has been ruled by the Palestinian Authority, as first led by Fatah and now Hamas. Israel occupied the Gaza Strip for 38 years, not 60.

2) Mr. Salhani states that there are “1.5 million Palestinian refugees” in the Gaza Strip.

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency - which deals with Palestinian Arab refugees and their descendants - as of June 30, 2008, there were 1,059,584 people registered as refugees in the Gaza Strip, of whom only 492,299 actually resided in refugee camps. That is, a majority of the registered refugees are settled residents of the Gaza Strip. Also, one-third of all Palestinian Arabs in Gaza never were refugees, although Mr. Salhani includes them in his total.

It should be noted that UNRWA has acknowledged in the past that its figures are probably inflated; that Arabs could claim refugee status if they had lived in what became Israel for as little as two years; and that only for Palestinian Arabs, among all post-World War II refugee groups, are descendants counted as “refugees.” The number of actual Arab refugees in 1948 was no more than 650,000, the majority of whom are no longer living.

3) Mr. Salhani writes that the problems of the Gaza Strip are “compounded by an Israeli blockade.”

The blockade, such as it is - with periodic openings of transit points for shipments of food, medicine and other humanitarian aid, supply of fuel, and thousands of Gazans entering Israel for medical treatment - is both Israeli and Egyptian. Egyptian and Palestinian authorities were to control the Rafah border crossing from the strip into Egypt after Israel’s autumn 2005 withdrawal. When Hamas ousted Fatah in the 2007 “five-day war,” Egypt closed the Rafah crossing as Israel closed the transit points under its control.


Washington director

Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in



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