"How could it be possible that for the past 61 years Palestinians are trapped in these camps," complained Mahmoud al-Jomaa, who chairs an organisation that provides health programmes for children.
What hurts the most for the refugees is the feeling that they have been forgotten by the world - and particularly by other Arabs.
"Seven million Jews worry about the fate of Gilad Shalit, while 300 million Arabs couldn't care less what happens to hundreds of thousands of Palestinians," said Walid Taha, who lives in the Shatila camp in Beirut.
In fact, the bulk of UNRWA's funding comes from western donors with only a small proportion from the Arab states:
According to an Oct. 2009 feature in The Independent:
UNRWA's grant of refugee status to the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the original Palestinian refugees according to the principle of patrilineal descent, with no limit on the generations that can obtain refugee status, has made it easy for host countries to flout their obligations under international law.
According to Article 34 of the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, "The Contracting States shall as far as possible facilitate the assimilation and naturalisation of refugees," and must "make every effort to expedite naturalisation proceedings" – the opposite of what happened to the Palestinians in every Arab country in which they settled, save Jordan.
Indeed, the article states:
In 2001, Palestinians in Lebanon were stripped of the right to own property, or to pass on the property that they already owned to their children – and banned from working as doctors, lawyers, pharmacists or in 20 other professions.
Even the Palestinian refugee community in Jordan, historically the most welcoming Arab state, has reason to feel insecure in the face of official threats to revoke their citizenship. The systematic refusal of Arab governments to grant basic human rights to Palestinians who are born and die in their countries – combined with periodic mass expulsions of entire Palestinian communities – recalls the treatment of Jews in medieval Europe.
In addition, the Palestinian Authority has not been at the forefront in helping relocate the residents of refugee camps into permanent housing facilities.
Arabs have to share responsibility for the refugee issues since they rejected the 1947 partition plan and and launched a war of destruction. Had they, like Israel, accepted the partition, there would have been no war and no refugees.
We congratulate the Daily Telegraph and Independent for going beyond the standard reporting on Palestinian refugees. Perhaps it is time for Karen AbuZayd to take a more sophisticated examination (including some self-examination) regarding the Palestinian refugee problem. Simply blaming Israel and "occupation" is simplistic and does little to resolve the issue.