Agence France-Presse L’émigration de centaines de milliers de Palestiniens hors de la bande de Gaza ou de la Cisjordanie occupée constituerait l’abandon de leurs terres au profit des Israéliens.
A thousand Palestinians will be able to find refuge in Canada thanks to a program launched Tuesday by Ottawa. While voices are raised against this threshold of 1,000 refugees, described as “arbitrary” and “inhumane,” this exodus remains feared by almost everyone, including the Palestinians themselves. Explanations.
A thousand. Not one more. This is the number of Gazan refugees that Canada will welcome into its territory under an exceptional “temporary public policy”. Several hundred Palestinians with a direct family member residing in Canada, one of the conditions for applying, have already raised their hands to obtain this three-year residence permit.
As soon as this program was announced last December, criticism began to arise. “Compared to the 616,000 Ukrainians who accepted similar visas in 2022, this arbitrary cap [of 1,000 people] is racist and inhumane,” declared, indignant, the organization Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East. In fact, more than 930,000 requests from Ukrainians have been accepted to date by Ottawa, an even greater gap between the two groups of refugees.
“Allowing only 1000 applications in a truly unprecedented situation is unreasonable and, frankly, lacks humanity,” said Devoirthe former Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada for 20 years, Alex Neve, now professor of international law at the University of Ottawa. “And with a definition that excludes important family ties, like uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces and cousins, it’s the epitome of bureaucracy trumping compassion. It is impossible not to draw the conclusion that somehow the lives of Ukrainians are more valuable than the lives of Palestinians. »
Marc Miller, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, was “hesitant” to compare the two policies, each being “unique” in its own way, he said. The two wars are not on equal footing, he argued when announcing the program. Ukraine's government is legitimate, democratic and functional, while Gaza's Hamas is classified as “a terrorist organization” by Ottawa. And then, while fleeing Ukraine is relatively easy, Israel strictly controls entry and exit from Gaza. “The reality is completely different regarding the ability to evacuate these people,” said the minister.
Canada is not alone in limiting its generosity towards Palestinians fleeing war. Neighboring countries are just as hesitant to take care of these hundreds of thousands of Gazans and West Bankers.
The United Arab Emirates considers Hamas a terrorist organization, as does Egypt. Welcoming possible Islamist sympathizers is therefore not attractive. Especially since Egypt already hosts between three and four million refugees from Somalia and Syria with very few resources.
Rich Kuwait has tried this in the past by offering refuge to thousands of educated Palestinians. This productive population benefited the Kuwaitis for years, until the invasion of the country by Saddam Hussein's Iraq in 1990. These Palestinian exiles then applauded the Iraqi dictator, whom they believed to be sympathetic to their cause, which scalded the Kuwaitis. Once the Kuwait War ended, these Palestinians were promptly expelled from the country.
So on for Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. “Each country has its own reservations,” summarizes regional geopolitics specialist Sami Aoun at Devoir. “We support the Palestinian cause. The cause is just. But the behavior of the [Palestinian] leaders is what is scary. »
Exodus as synonymous with defeat
Apart from the security provided by refugee status, the Palestinians themselves would not benefit from an exodus of their population from Gaza, points out Sami Aoun. The emigration of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip or the occupied West Bank would constitute the abandonment of their land for the benefit of the Israelis. “Ukrainians do not fear a population transfer. While here [in Palestine], we fear a transfer of the population,” says Mr. Aoun.
The United States shares this opinion. “Palestinian civilians must be able to return home as soon as conditions permit,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday. “They cannot, they must not be pushed to leave Gaza. »
Israel, for its part, seems determined to expel as many Palestinians as possible from their lands, according to the declarations of the senior leaders of the Hebrew country. National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir openly encouraged “the migration of Gaza residents” as a “solution” to the conflict earlier this year.
This report is supported by the Local Journalism Initiative, funded by the Government of Canada.