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Letter to the Editor



To the Editor of Brackety-Ack

I would like to clear up some of the misconceptions about the Palestinians in connection with the controversy at Roanoke College over flying the Palestinian flag. I am the secretary/treasurer of the Hope Fund, which began sponsoring Palestinian students at Roanoke College in August 2001. Our students do well scholastically, but also represent Palestinian society to their classmates. For the past decade Roanoke College has not only had a policy of admitting more Palestinian students, but has also accepted students from many other parts of the globe, because they bring different perspectives to enrich the whole college community. Presently there are six Palestinian students at Roanoke College, most of whom are Hope Fund students. The official Palestinian political entity which the United States and the world recognize is the Palestinian Authority, which, while not a state, governs the West Bank and Gaza in the shadow of the armed might of the Israeli military, the expansion of Israeli settlements, and crushing Israeli restrictions on Palestinian life. Any peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will be between the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority, whose flag is the Palestinian flag being flown at Roanoke College. Between 1947 and 1949 the Israelis expelled the Palestinians, who feared for their lives, from their homeland with no compensation for their property. The Palestinians fled to the surrounding Arab states who were then just emerging from a colonial status. Outside of Jordan the Palestinians have not been absorbed into the structure of Arab society in their host countries. The political order in the Middle East is a delicate balance between different communities who each maintain their own identity. The community, not the individual, is what determines one’s status. Many educated Palestinians emigrated to the United States, Europe, and other countries. Those that settled in other Arab lands did not become citizens of those states. Many Palestinians – particularly the well educated – have found work in the Gulf, but they remain Palestinians and not many are citizens of Gulf countries. If political relations sour between the Arab host country and the Palestini an Authority, all Palestinians in that country can be expelled as what happened with Libya and also with Kuwait during the first Gulf War. Thus Palestinians move around and oftentimes our students were born outside Palestine, but now reside there. Many Palestinians working abroad send money home to their families, who often live in squalid refugee camps. In Lebanon the Palestinians live in their own enclaves called camps, which they administer – not the Lebanese government. Even if they were born in Lebanon, Palestinians are not citizens. In fact they cannot own property and most desirable jobs are denied them. They attend United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) schools and not Lebanese schools. Palestinians do not have Lebanese passports, but instead have a laissez passé document. In the past our students have carried the Lebanese – and not the Palestinian flag – at events at Roanoke College, even though they were not Lebanese citizens. Jordan has given citizenship to some Palestinians from the West Bank, because Jordan once controlled that area, but Jordan ignores Palestinians from former Egyptian controlled Gaza. These are left in squalid, miserable camps . The Egyptians control their border with Gaza and decide which Gazans can cross into Egypt. They do not want a flood of Palestinians. Thus Arab states do not see the Palestinians as their domestic problem. They sympathize and support the Palestinian cause, but not on their turf, since they can upset the political balance in the country as what happened in Lebanon before the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in the early 1980’s. Instead to them it is Israel’s problem, since they were the ones that drove out the Palestinians. So many Palestinians have become a landless and stateless people living in the diaspora. While Palestinian society is fractured between various states, they have maintained their unique identity and long for a return to their homeland. Above all they yearn for justice and a vindication for what happened to them. They want their own identity, dignity and land as symbolized in their flag.

Nancy F. Qubain

Lexington, Virginia