SIX years after their flight from Palestine, over 880,000 Arab refugees continue to be a problem in the Middle East. Their great sprawling camps are an eyesore which no visitor can bypass if he travels beyond the heart of most of the Arab capitals. In Beirut, refugee encampments are clustered only a ten-minute drive from the hotels and night clubs of the city's "Riviera" area. In Amman and Damascus the unemployed Palestinians can be found squabbling with the natives for every scarce job opening. The burden of them weighs down the economy and social and political structure of every Arab state where they live.

Today, the number of refugees is even greater than it was in 1948. The extension of the Palestine war in that year and early in 1949, and a yearly natural increase of almost 25,000, has more than doubled the population of the camps despite United Nations appropriations of nearly $427,000,000 to liquidate the problem.

The heaviest concentration of refugees is in Jordan where 500,000 of them constitute nearly a third of the population. In the Egyptian-occupied Gaza strip more than 200,000 are crammed into an eight-mile-wide area which is hardly more than one vast refugee camp; they outnumber the natives there four to one. The 100,000 Palestine refugees in Lebanon have increased that country's population by nearly 10 percent. Only in Syria, where they number 85,000, do they fail to create an almost insurmountable social and economic problem.

By a bare statistical estimate the refugees are better off than the majority of citizens in most of the host countries. They have access to complete health services, and a social service network covers a large part of their needs. The incidence of sickness and the death rate figures are lower among them, and their birth rate is higher. Of the children of school age, 45 percent receive free education. Although their food rations are meager--1,600 calories of flour, pulses, sugar and rice per month--they are sufficient to prevent serious malnutrition.

But a trip through the camps is enough to convince an observer that these statistics tell but little of the plight of the refugees. Many who today live in hovels or leaky, torn tents on mud flats or rocky, arid hillsides were middle-class city dwellers who owned their own modest but adequate houses in their native land. Their social life was built on a family system which has been smothered in the overcrowded, sweltering encampments. The self-reliance and individual initiative of former tradesmen and farmers have been drowned in the present boredom and frustration. A professional refugee mentality has begun to grow among those who for nearly seven years have been unable to find any way of existence other than living off handouts from the United Nations. Although only about a third of the refugees live in the tent camps of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, nearly all draw United Nations rations. The economic conditions and morale of all have so deteriorated that a growing number are pressing for entry into the camps where they are guaranteed complete UNRWA sustenance.

Despite UNRWA's excellent record--there is no doubt that it has kept most of the refugees alive for the past five years--the psychological and emotional impact of this long-existing situation greatly endangers Middle East stability and adds to the risks of war in that area. Resident observers believe that the two greatest political influences in the camps are the Communists and the national extremist followers of the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem. Hatred of the British, the Americans, the United Nations and Israel permeates the camps--in that order. Resentment has built refugee tensions into a hysteria which makes it dangerous for Westerners to enter some camps. Failure to settle the problem is still a main obstacle to peace between the Jews and Arabs. It is blocking American technical and economic assistance as well as Allied defense plans in the area. Recognition of these facts has made solution of the problem a main objective of United States policy in the Middle East, and has led the United States to contribute over $153,000,000 as its share of the costs of the United Nations refugee relief and rehabilitation program.


The international efforts on behalf of the refugees have had two foci. On the one hand, beginning in 1948 and continuing to the present, the Conciliation Commission for Palestine (C.C.P.) has endeavored to find a long-term political solution. It has been supported behind the scene in talks by the British and the Americans with both sides. On the other hand, immediate relief operations costing $192,000,000 have kept the refugees alive. When it became obvious to the C.C.P. in 1949 that its political parleys were stalemated, it tried an economic approach linked with projects for Middle East economic reconstruction. So far neither of these efforts has made any appreciable difference in the number and condition of the refugees. The efforts to find an economic solution of the problem they present have been an expensive failure; not more than 3,000 of the 880,000 refugees have been permanently absorbed by the U.N. development program.

The earliest approach in 1948 aimed at the most obvious political solution--repatriation. Count Folke Bernadotte, the United Nations Palestine Mediator, spent much time and effort in attempting to persuade Israel to allow a return of the Arabs en masse. His recommendations were underscored in a United Nations resolution calling upon Israel to permit "those refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors . . . to do so at the earliest practicable date. . ." After the Count failed in his persuasion his work was turned over to the C.C.P. But Israel's insistence that a signed peace with the Arab states was part of the United Nations settlement and Arab demands that repatriation be fulfilled prior to direct peace parleys soon stalemated the efforts of the C.C.P. to solve the refugee problem. The apparent impossibility of simultaneously carrying out the call for peace talks and the repatriation of refugees has kept United Nations efforts to find an end for the Palestine problem turning in a vicious circle ever since. Meanwhile constant border incidents, talk by the Arabs of a "second round" of fighting and then boycott of direct parleys have increased Israel's sense of insecurity to a degree where at present all thought of repatriation has become illusory.

But even if by some miracle there were to be a peaceful settlement of the Jewish-Arab dispute it could no longer realistically include repatriation of more than the merest token number of Arabs. The Palestine they left no longer exists. A completely new social and economic structure has been built upon the ruins of their abandoned towns and villages, their orange groves, orchards and fields, their industrial, rural and urban property. Their flight made possible rapid Jewish immigration which more than doubled Israel's population in the first three years.

Today nearly half the new Jewish immigrants live in homes abandoned by the Arabs. They occupy nearly 400 Arab towns and villages. About a quarter of the buildings now in use in Israel formerly were Arab property. The Arabs left over 10,000 shops and stores in Jewish hands. The Israel Custodian of Absentee Property took over more than 4,000,000 dunams of former Arab land, or nearly 60 percent of the country's cultivable area. This was nearly two and a half times the total Jewish-owned property at the time the state of Israel was established, and includes most of its olive orchards, a large part of its fruit and vegetable crop land and almost half the citrus groves.

Recognition that there was a political stalemate on the repatriation issue occurred by August 1949, when the C.C.P. turned to its new economic approach and established the Economic Survey Mission for the Middle East, under the Chairmanship of Gordon R. Clapp. The Mission, it was hoped, would produce an over-all plan enabling the Arab governments "to overcome economic dislocations created by the hostilities . . . to reintegrate the refugees into the economic life of the area on a self-sustaining basis . . . [and] to promote economic conditions conducive to the maintenance of peace and stability in the area."

When it was ready to report, the Mission's principal recommendations were for an early termination of relief and the substitution of productive employment through works projects which would benefit both the refugees and their host nations. The Mission was not overly optimistic about the results of its survey. As Mr. Clapp said in his final report, the Mission at the beginning had cherished a hope--"a faint hope to be sure"--that several large development projects, based on surveys and reports already made by government missions, private engineers and other experts, could be recommended for immediate exploitation by large capital outlays. He continued: "The Mission's hope has not been realized. The region is not ready, the projects are not ready, the people and Governments are not ready, for large-scale development of the region's basic river systems or major undeveloped land areas. To press forward on such a course is to pursue folly and frustration and thereby delay sound economic growth."

In lieu of major schemes, the Mission proposed a number of short-term pilot demonstration projects that could be commenced without delay or large capital expenditures, could employ a fairly large number of refugees, and if successful, could serve as a base for future larger projects. They included road construction, housing, water conservation, terracing, afforestation and irrigation works near refugee centers in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. To execute these projects the United Nations General Assembly set up UNRWA and authorized it to spend $34,700,000.

The new works program was vigorously planned and pushed by UNRWA during the first year of its operations. But the refugees viewed the projects with suspicion and the Arab governments lent them little coöperation. The refugees feared that success would prejudice their rights to return eventually to Palestine. Of the 878,000 refugees on the Agency's rolls in 1950, the largest number employed was 12,287 in December, and seven months later the figure had dwindled to a mere 812. Although these UNRWA projects primarily benefited the local governments, these contributed almost nothing to their costs. When the work was finished, the refugees returned to their tents and ration lines. None of them was economically integrated. UNRWA reported to the General Assembly that it had "found itself financing and operating labor camps to build public works which the governments themselves would have built the following year." When its public works funds began to run out, UNRWA decided to bring that part of its program to a close. It had created no permanent benefit for the refugees nor financial relief for the United Nations, but had cost five times more than simple relief.

A new start toward an economic solution of the refugee problem was made when the General Assembly established a reintegration fund of $30,000,000 in November 1950. Its purpose was to help the refugees repatriate if the opportunity developed, or to resettle elsewhere if they chose to do so. Jordan agreed to use the fund for a few small projects and Egypt offered to draw on it for a survey of the Sinai desert in the hope that 10,000 refugee families could be settled there if water were found. Both governments consented to this only on assurances that refugee rights to repatriation and compensation were in no way affected.

Such assurances were a prerequisite to any successful United Nations operations in the Arab countries. Failure to state them in unequivocal terms was liable to lead to such failures as that of the 1950 UNRWA public works projects. Therefore the General Assembly's resolution establishing the reintegration fund carefully emphasized that it in no way prejudiced these refugee rights. But the Arab governments were not satisfied with the language; they wanted to know more about the terms and conditions of the benefit to the refugees, although such information could hardly be presented until surveys based on agreements with the Arab states had been carried out. They also feared the integration plans might suffer a fate like that of the previous year's work relief program, which led them to ask assurances that any new projects would receive sustained and substantial international support. A paradoxical Arab reaction against assuming any administrative responsibility on the one hand, and on the other, a fear that any program not administered by themselves might be a "bridgehead of Western imperialism," created an additional dilemma for UNRWA.

To break this stalemate the director of UNRWA, John Blandford, made a round of the Arab capitals to explain the plans and ask for help, culminating in parleys with a special committee of the Arab League States at Alexandria. There were hammered out the elements of a new plan which became the basis of the Sixth General Assembly's Palestine refugee resolution. It offered a new three-year program of financial support which the Arab states had requested. Their contribution was to be in the form of land and services. Improvement of refugee living conditions was not to compete or conflict with schemes for improving local conditions. UNRWA must abstain from participation in the political negotiations on the Palestine problem.

To carry out this program the United Nations authorized expenditure of $250,000,000, divided into $50,000,000 for relief and $200,000,000 for reintegration. Relief was to be reduced progressively until it would cost the United Nations only $5,000,000 for the year 1954. Fifty million dollars during the first and third years and $100,000,000 during the second were to be laid out for rehabilitation. A gradual transfer of responsibility for both relief and rehabilitation projects from UNRWA to the Arab states was projected, although they continued to condition their coöperation on an absolute guarantee of the refugees' political rights regarding repatriation and compensation.


The objective of the three year program was to liquidate the financial responsibility of the United Nations in 1954. Actually, not even 3,000 Palestinians have been made self-sufficient to date. Only 10 percent of the $200,000,000 has been used, and the United Nations has had to increase its relief funds. Progress on major development schemes is lacking.

To begin with, the negotiation of program agreements with the Arab governments dragged on far longer than expected; from 7 to 17 months were required to conclude the four agreements signed. The next step was to determine specific projects in the three countries--Jordan, Syria and Egypt--which signed up for major development works. Even in the Sinai desert of Egypt and in the fertile Jordan Valley, where government lands were freely offered, extensive engineering surveys had to be made. Were there sufficient water resources and was the soil suitable for cultivation? Preliminary engineering work, preparation of specifications, drafting of plans and designs, took many more months. At that rate years would pass before the construction of a single large hydroelectric plant with its main and subsidiary irrigation canals. It was estimated that the only major plan which even reached the survey stage, the Yarmuk-Jordan Valley scheme, would require a minimum of five years' work.

The Jordan Valley scheme is the most elaborate and expensive of the four so far worked out in draft. It was intended to absorb some 150,000 refugees after five years of work at a cost of $40,000,000. The plan, which included development of the richest lands of the Hashemite Kingdom through irrigation, was linked with a project for the unified development of the entire Jordan Valley. It called for efficient storage and control of Jordan waters for hydroelectric power and irrigation regardless of international frontiers, and was designed to give maximum benefits with the least cost to people on both sides of the river.

Acceptance by Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Israel of the basic principle of the plan is essential if its full benefits are to be realized. To convince them of its importance President Eisenhower delegated Eric Johnston as his Special Representative to the area. But Mr. Johnston has found that differences between Israel and the Arabs concerning the plan are so great that the implementation of it in the near future does not appear very likely. The Israeli were worried lest the diversion of Jordan water to the Arab states under the plan would interfere with their own development of their sparse desert lands and permanently curtail their settlement projects in the empty but strategic Negev.

The announcement of a unified development scheme gave most of the Arab states an opportunity to stress their old demands. "No Arab nation will coöperate with Israel on anything until Israel executes the resolutions on Palestine passed by the United Nations in 1948," said the Jordan Minister to Washington, Yusuf Haikal. Although some Arabs agreed to the principle of unified Jordan development they continued to insist that they would not deal directly with Israel and would not concede that country's right to use Jordan waters for development of the Negev.

In Mr. Johnston's view, the Arab objections could be overcome by negotiating separate agreements between each of the riparian states and the United Nations. But even if such agreements are worked out, the implementation of them will be technically involved among nations still in a state of war, or at best, not on speaking terms. Allocation of water rights, or dredging and construction work in strategically sensitive areas where the river separates Israeli and Syrian troops by only a few feet, will be difficult without coöperation, let alone a complete absence of violent border flare-ups. The difficulty is increased by the fact that Israel refuses to accept international control or supervision.

Added to the political obstacles in the way of the Yarmuk-Jordan scheme are problems inherent in the social and economic structure of the Arab countries. The UNRWA plans call for irrigating 30,000 dunams in Syria and 490,000 in Jordan, although no accurate land tenure surveys of many areas where the bulk of the refugees would be absorbed have been made. In both countries absentee ownership of great estates in the most fertile regions is common. Many of the smaller private farms are so fragmented that despite improvement of irrigation facilities there is little likelihood of increasing agricultural output. Large numbers of peasants live on musha'a (communal owned) land which is periodically redistributed, thus encouraging mining of the soil rather than its conservation. Large-scale development projects in such a setting are hardly likely to benefit more than a handful of individuals with vested interests in the lands affected. Before a plan which is rational in social as well as in engineering terms can be worked out, a change in the distribution of land holding--which in the region means power--must be brought about.

A second major UNRWA development project would help, if successful, to relieve Egypt of the 200,000 refugees locked up in the Gaza strip. Barriers have been raised against their entrance into Egypt herself. Although the Nile Valley is one of the most productive agricultural regions in the world, it is also the most overpopulated. The Egyptian Government's own plans for economic reconstruction call for emigration rather than an increase in population. And without risking their lives by attempting to cross Israel, the Gaza refugees have no way of reaching any other Arab states, which are not eager to receive them anyway.

The only apparent outlet at present for the crowded population in the Gaza area is the UNRWA development and resettlement project in the Sinai desert. Although half a century ago the El Arish scheme for Zionist colonization in that area failed because no water sources were found there, UNRWA invested $100,000 in a new water search. It also failed. But Arab leaders from Palestine insisted that the failure to find water was only a British plot to frustrate part of their plans for concentrating the refugees along the frontiers of Israel in preparation for a reconquest of the "homeland." The Egyptian Government is also eager not to abandon Sinai, for both economic and strategic reasons. If settlement there became possible, it might absorb not only the Gaza refugees but provide an outlet for Egyptian surplus population. Furthermore, settlements in the region could defend it against military thrusts like that in 1948 when Israeli troops almost reached the Suez Canal. With these ends in mind the Egyptian Government signed new UNRWA agreements for engineering and economic surveys of Sinai. The new proposal is that instead of searching for water in the desert, water might be brought there from the Nile. For the past year and a half engineers have been examining the possibility of siphoning sweet water from the Ismailia Canal, which is fed by the Nile, under Suez to the Sinai peninsula. If that could be done, 120,000 dunams could be irrigated for the benefit of 60,000 to 70,000 refugees.

All the Arab refugees could be absorbed in Syria, according to UNRWA technical surveys. That country has a cultivable area of over 14,000,000 acres, of which about 6,000,000 are at present under the plow. Yet Syria has been slow to develop her resources for her own native population, let alone for the Arab refugees. The reasons for this lag are mainly political.

Since the Syrian Republic was established, its governments have been unstable. Four revolutions since the outbreak of the Palestine war have prevented any long-term constructive planning. Although comparative political stability was achieved after the Shishakli coup d'état in November 1951, his régime collapsed in March 1954. The budget had been showing an annual deficit, due largely to military expenditures. Attempts at reform were made through distribution of state-owned land among tenant farmers, establishment of government credit banks, and a progressive income tax; but they were feeble. The coalition government established after Shishakli's downfall has not undertaken any constructive programs. Unsettled conditions of land tenure lege, for example. The day-to-day duties of any career officer are engrossing; details tend to absorb his full energy. As he progresses have also blocked development schemes of either the Syrian Government or the United Nations.

Middle Eastern anti-Westernism has its center in Syria and it breeds continual suspicion against any large-scale projects financed by foreigners. This mistrust prevents Syria from joining the Point Four program, and strengthens her resistance against loans from abroad. It also would preclude a welcome to any large number of Palestinians as immigrants, since there would be question as to their loyalty. For the same reason resettlement of any large number of refugees is impossible since that would be considered tantamount to admission of defeat by Israel.

Shishakli did modify his policy of self-sufficiency for Syria in September 1950 to the extent of agreeing to accept UNRWA's help in absorbing the 85,000 refugees already in the country. However, the strength of public opinion prevented any official announcement of the agreement for many months, and no progress was made in carrying it out. Under the new agreement with UNRWA, $30,000,000 was to be reserved for an integrated program of technical training and education, and the development of industry, commerce and agriculture. The total sum was to have been absorbed by June 1954, but by that date only $500,000 had been spent. The Syrian Government's part of the agreement was to provide public lands, but by early 1954 only two small areas had been contributed, one of 1,700 dunams near Homs and a second of 160,000 dunams near Damascus. Only 20 families could be resettled on the first, while the second consisted of a tract of marginal land on the outskirts of the Damascus oasis, of which only 10,000 dunams can be cultivated. Most of the soil contains quantities of salt and alkali which would have to be washed out at great cost to be suitable for agriculture. Eleven wells have been drilled at a cost of $88,000 in a search for irrigation water, but only one is producing enough to be of practical use.

The cost of developing these lands for the few refugee families which could settle them is five times what it would be in other areas which the Syrian Government has withheld from UNRWA. Areas more suitable for agriculture were found in the north and northeast of the country; opportunities exist there on land in the state domain not only for major development schemes but also for many cheaper and quicker projects involving only minor pumping from the Euphrates. But there the Syrian Government has refused to permit refugee settlement.

Political considerations make any refugee resettlement in Lebanon impossible. Despite the designation of the Litani River area as a site for one of the four pilot projects proposed by the Clapp Mission, all United Nations development plans there in connection with the refugees were abandoned. Lebanon's attitude toward the refugees is so unaccommodating that not only are they refused citizenship but even the right to work. Fears of upsetting the tenuous balance of the country's communal system cause this lack of hospitality.

According to official estimates, Christians constitute a slender majority of about 53 percent of Lebanon's population. But no accurate census has been made for many years, and it is common knowledge that today Moslems outnumber the Christians. Nevertheless, political and social life continues to operate as though Lebanon were a Christian republic. The system of proportional representation in the executive and legislative branches of the government is based on the inflexible official estimates which are presumed to be static. Since 90 percent of the Palestine refugees in Lebanon are Moslems, granting them citizenship would overturn the official figures along with the whole structure of government.


Assuming that the major development programs of UNRWA should succeed, they would absorb no more than 320,000 refugees. No plans have yet been considered for the remaining 550,000. Present proposals contemplate parallel development programs undertaken with aid such as that offered by F.O.A., the Export-Import Bank, the International Bank, the British Middle East Office, the United Nations Technical Assistance Board and self-help from the nations concerned. No visible progress in absorbing refugees has been made through the help of any of these agencies as of the present writing.

No Arab government would dare to initiate a resettlement project of its own. The very idea is associated by nationalists with defeat by Israel and with "Western imperialism." Israel's desire to see the refugees absorbed in the Arab states is in itself enough to rouse strenuous opposition. The Arab retort is to demand repatriation and to point out the absence even of adequate Israeli offers of compensation for the hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of Arab properties now in Jewish hands.

Although three governments did sign agreements with UNRWA, it should not be imagined that their official attitude toward resettlement has been modified. According to the Agency's acting Director this was merely "an indication that they appreciate that the facilities offered to the refugees are no more than temporary, and that the acceptance by a refugee of a house and an opportunity to resume a normal life does not in any way affect or reduce his right to repatriation or compensation when the time comes." The frequent manifestos submitted by refugee organizations rejecting UNRWA resettlement schemes ignore or widely misunderstand this basic principle. Refugee opposition, with which local opinion tends to sympathize, is "a formidable obstacle which must be overcome if tangible progress is to be achieved in implementing the . . . three year plan." UNRWA alone cannot do much to change refugee attitudes, still less that of the local population. Such a change would require the combined efforts of the Arab governments in full and unqualified support of the Agency. But no Arab government now feels strong enough to take on such a great political liability.

"The outlook is not, however, entirely dark," according to UNRWA officials. They report that individual refugees, when offered opportunities to take advantage of minor projects, are ready and willing to abandon the enervating life of the camps. Some have even approached the Agency asking for a chance to become self-supporting.

Such small-scale successes have occurred mostly in Jordan. There, as part of an $11,000,000 agreement aimed at making approximately 5,000 refugee families self-supporting, two small agricultural projects were carried out on state lands. One, at Marj Naja in the Jordan Valley, cost about $100,000. There some 40 families are cultivating 800 dunams with water from wells developed by the Agency. Houses, tools, agricultural equipment and livestock were provided to assist the project. The second, near Jenin, is on rain-fed land, and therefore cost only about $17,000. It has succeeded in making 100 refugees self-sufficient.

Part of the $11,000,000 was used to establish a series of small agricultural settlements along the Israel frontier. By June 1954, 263 families whose land was on the Israel side of the border had been settled. The crazy-quilt pattern of border adjustments fixed by the Israel-Jordan Armistice Agreement in 1949 cut about 100,000 Palestine Arab farmers off from their lands, abandoning them in Jordan villages with no means of livelihood. These people, who from the rocky hills watch new Jewish immigrants work the fields in the plain which formerly were theirs, constitute the main group of "infiltrators" who create the strings of incidents like those which led to Kibiya. Groups of them nightly cross the borders to try to reap crops on their former lands, to steal irrigation pipe, or to take vengeance for a family member who may have been a casualty in some previous infiltration escapade. It is hoped that UNRWA resettlement of these landless infiltrators, although they are not all refugees according to the strict definition of the term, will help ease the friction between Israel and Jordan. So far four new border settlements have been set up, and several more are planned with UNRWA funds.

In Amman, the capital of Jordan, an urban housing project costing $68,000 was also financed under the same agreement. Fifty dwellings were completed on the outskirts of the city late in 1952 for 250 refugees who had already found employment. The provision of a house at a nominal charge enabled them to become completely self-supporting. The agreement also made possible the employment of another 800 refugees and their dependents through establishment of the Jordan Development Bank. It began with an authorized capital of $1,400,000, of which 80 percent was contributed by UNRWA, 10 percent by the Government of Jordan, and 10 percent by other subscribers. The Bank's articles of association stipulate that 80 percent of the loans issued must benefit the refugees directly. By June 1953 the Bank's loans amounted to $621,000, a little over half of it for agriculture and most of the rest for industrial development.

What has been the reason for the success of these small projects in comparison with the lack of success so far of the large scale development schemes? The psychological factor is perhaps the most important. In small projects the individual refugee can see the actual house he will live in, the plot of land he is to cultivate or the handloom he will operate. The dangers and possible insecurity awaiting a person removed from the ration rolls or from a camp to a specific farm or industrial plant where chances of making a living are clearly visible are far less than those which might be in store for a mass of people who will be moved to some outlying region where no one knows who will live in what houses or farm what kind of land. The Palestine Arab will gladly surrender the security offered by UNRWA relief for that of a definite and tangible alternative which is within the realm of his experience. But nearly all would prefer to remain professional refugees rather than gamble on an experiment beyond their ken.

The Arab governments and refugee leaders can afford to lend their support to small projects or at least not sabotage them. They are not stigmatized with the political tag of "resettlement" which in nearly all Arab minds is synonymous with defeat by Israel and abandonment of the hope of repatriation to the homeland. Small projects are largely self-sustaining and do not require inter-regional coöperation--as does the Jordan-Yarmuk scheme--either between an Arab state and Israel or between competitive Arab neighbors. Neither is a long term infusion of foreign capital and experts required to see such projects through. Cooperation is therefore not a political liability.

Finally, small projects are not based on immense plans to which the region is not yet socially adjustable. There is no need for the responsible administrative machinery (non-existent in any Middle East nation) required to run a major river development. In the case of small projects, moreover, the social structure of the nation--its land tenure and distribution of economic power--does not have to be changed to guarantee minimum benefits to the refugees.

The Clapp Mission's warning that "The region is not ready, the projects are not ready, the people and Governments are not ready . . ." should be borne in mind. Even should the large-scale development plans eventually come to fruition their capacity to absorb refugees would still be limited and some supplementary means of integrating the refugees would be required ultimately.

Small-scale projects do offer some hope, albeit over a long period of time, for solving the refugee dilemma. Although to date they have absorbed fewer than the natural increase of the refugee population, their freedom from political difficulties seems to indicate that they could be more widely encouraged. Such support would not imply abandonment of the major schemes for development or render useless the work which has been done on them. When the time comes and the Middle East is ready for regional development, the small projects which meanwhile will gradually have assimilated many refugees can be integrated into an over-all plan.

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  • DON PERETZ, former correspondent for American periodicals in the Middle East, recently returned from a year and a half spent in the area under a Ford Foundation grant
  • More By Don Peretz