Saturday, November 12, 2011

Architect for Peace - Chapter 4 - The Right of Return

The most contentious point of a Middle East peace is The Right of Return. As I mentioned in the Introduction, Yassir Arafat derailed the 1994 peace negotiations over it. This is an issue that MUST be resolved for any lasting peace to take hold.

The Right of Return has its origins in the 1954 Mid-East war. The Arab countries (Egypt, Syria, others) used propaganda that they would soon annihilate Israel and they told Palestinians living in the path of the invasion to leave their homes before the fighting started – so they wouldn’t get hurt. Thousands of Palestinians heeded the call and left – and then Israel won.

After the war was over, the Palestinians were not allowed to come back to their homes in Israel. "The Return".

This "snub" outraged the Arab countries, and the Palestinians that had left their homes were placed in “Camps”. These were specifically stated as being “temporary” as the Arab countries would not allow the Palestinians to permanently settle in their countries.  This gets to the crux of the Palestinian experience – segregated, discriminated and at the mercy of their “hosts”.

It was wrong for Israel to confiscate the Palestinians property without any compensation. You can understand why the Palestinians would want their property back.

But that was almost 60 years ago, and in the meantime the populations have grown. There is simply no way Israel could accommodate all of the original owners and their (thousands of) dependants. Israel would become a majority Arab country and lose its identity.

You can see that this is a pretty intractable problem – with both sides “in the right”. So how can this be overcome and the peace treaty finally become a reality?

The Right of Return – to Detroit


In order to break the deadlock of the right of return, I propose the Right of Return – to Detroit. This means that Palestinians that have The Right of Return would be given compensation for their confiscated homes, and would be given an equivalent home – in Detroit Michigan.
You must be wondering Why Detroit? So let me explain in greater detail.

The City of Detroit Michigan


Detroit is older than the United States – it just had its 300th birthday. It was founded by the French, later it was captured by the British and eventually it was ceded to the US. It is patterned after Paris with its hub and spoke street layout. It has an area of 140 square miles – which makes it exactly the same size as the Gaza strip. But whereas Gaza has 1.5 million people, Detroit has less than 800,000 (more like 700,000) and it’s dropping.

Therein lies the problem – Gaza and Detroit are the same size, but Detroit has (about) half the population (Detroit had almost 2 million people in 1950). There are over 100,000 empty lots and 30,000+ vacant buildings (which are finally being demolished - albeit very slowly).

Detroit has plenty of land – and desperately needs population (immigrants). Palestinians have plenty of people and they need land. Seems like a great match!

Although there are many cities in this situation, Detroit is special. The Detroit area (already) has the largest Arab/Muslim population outside of the Middle East (and yes, there are Palestinians here). There is a rich mix of Arab Christians (such as Chaldeans) and both Shiite and Suni Muslims. The Middle Eastern people have already chosen Detroit – and Detroit’s future is already intertwined with theirs.

The future of the United States


I think it is obvious to just about everyone that the United States (the “West”) and the Islamic world don’t understand each other. This almost always leads to hatred and conflict – as evidenced by recent terrorism and war. The question is how do we turn this around and become friends?

The answer is Detroit. Detroit won’t just be a destination for immigrants – it is the “great experiment” in living together. Detroit will become the center for Islamic studies in the US (at the local universities). 

But in order for this to become a true exchange of ideas, there needs to be a “feedback loop” so the people in the Middle East can gain exposure to what’s happening in Detroit. I propose that the Palestinians living in Detroit have the option of returning to Palestine and vice versa so that lessons learned could be shared in both places.



The Michigan economy is in a tailspin, it has lost tens of thousands of high-paying manufacturing jobs in the last few years. Its unemployment levels are the worst in the nation. Two of the “Big 3” auto companies went bankrupt and needed government help to stay in business. The population is declining as people move out to find jobs or retire “down south”. Just why do I think adding a million more unemployed Palestinians would help the situation?

First, rebuilding Detroit will take years and require many construction workers. That alone would be enough employment for immigrants – for a while. There would also be ancillary jobs such as teaching Arabic – the US government needs many translators and there are not enough teachers.

Beyond that, there needs to be some sort of trade deal between Palestine and Detroit. I envision Palestinians passing a law that gives preference to imported goods from companies that employ Palestinians. Example: instead of buying European or Japanese automobiles, the Palestinian Government would buy vehicles from (Detroit) American auto companies (assuming they hire Palestinian workers - and they will).



I would like to see the Detroit area become a friend (and family) to the Palestinian people and vice-versa. People should feel safe and welcome in both places. Both areas should prosper as they gain strength from their rebuilding. I will elaborate in later chapters.

The Treaty of Detroit

I also intend to make Detroit the host city for the Middle East Peace conference. The peace treaty will be signed in the City of Detroit - who will lend its name to, The Treaty of Detroit.


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