U.S. Leaders Present Program to Settle Palestine Refugees
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U.S. Leaders Present Program to Settle Palestine Refugees

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Declaring that Israel cannot reabsorb the Arab refugees who left Palestine and that Iraq and Syria and Jordan could absorb them all, a group of 19 distinguished American church and civic leaders submitted a memorandum to the United Nations General Assembly, now in session in Paris, proposing a $800,000,000 program to re-settle the Palestine refugees and to develop natural resources in the Middle East over the next five years.

The memorandum also urges the United Nations once again to call upon Arab states and Israel to negotiate a peace settlement. It emphasizes that “the resettlement of the Arab refugees is a formidable undertaking, but it is much simpler to resettle them in Arab lands where identity of language, tradition and culture exists, than to return them as an alien minority in Israel where new homes and livelihood would have to be provided in any event.”

The memorandum asks that $300,000,000 should be applied immediately to the resettlement of the Arab refugees, and that $500,000,000 should be used to develop the natural resources of the Arab states. The 19 signatories suggest the establishment of a U.N. Resettlement Agency to carry out the work of resettlement, and a Resources Development Commission, operating on a five-year plan basis to supervise the development program. Envisaged is a series of projects similar to the Tennessee Valley Authority to harness the water and power resources of the Jordan River, serving Jordan and Israel; of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, serving Iraq and Syria; and of the Litani River in Lebanon.

The Arab states, Israel and the international community are each asked to assume and discharge a portion of the responsibility. The Arab states–principally Iraq, Syria and Jordan–by assigning tracts of land “now unpopulated or under-populated, which are capable of being developed, to support a substantial population,” with a specific designation of land to each Arab refugee family to be settled; Israel, by paying a “fair amount” into a resettlement fund by way of compensation for abandoned Arab land in Israel; the international community, by subscribing the largest part of the funds required, both for resettlement and development.


In explanation of its view that Israel cannot re-absorb the Arab refugee population, the document points out that since 1948, Israel has absorbed a Jewish refugee population about equivalent in numbers to the Arab refugee population; and that, moreover, half of these immigrants are unanticipated refugees in flight from persecution in the Arab states. On some 700,000 Jewish refugees, Israel and six voluntary agencies in three years have already spent over $800,000,000, the memorandum says.

“Today, Israel is confronted with the immediate problem of receiving 700,000 to 1,000,000 Jews of North Africa and the Arab countries, and offering them homes and rehabilitation, “the document continues. “Should Israel fail, the responsibility for these Jews would fall upon the international community. “Were Israel compelled also to re-absorb the Palestine Arabs, it would mean completely dislocating the economy of the state and, indeed, threatening its very existence.”

Signatories to this proposal constitute a cross-section of religious, labor, educational and liberal leadership. They include: Sumner Welles, Dr. Dewey Anderson, Dr. Henry A. Atkinson, Dr. Donald B. Cloward, Dr. Frederick May Elliott, the Rt. Rev. Charles Kendal Gilbert, Earl G. Harrison, the Very Rev. Ivan Lee Holt, Miss Freda Kirchwey, Dr. Kenneth Scott Latourette, Archibald Macleish, Dr. Daniel L. Marsh, the Rt. Rev. Norman B. Nash, Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr, James G. Patton, Jacob S. Potofsky, Dr. James T. Shotwell and Dr. Russel H. Stafford.

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