by Khaled Abu Toameh
December 23, 2011 at 5:00 am
In recent months, Egyptian authorities have finally began granting Egyptian citizenship to children born to Egyptian mothers and Palestinian fathers.
So far, according to Palestinian sources, more than 500 children have been issued Egyptian passports that enable them legally to live and work in Egypt without having to worry about being detained or deported. The Palestinian population in Egypt is estimated at approximately 100,000.
Egypt is only one of several Arab countries that have always subjected Palestinians to apartheid systems and discriminatory laws.
With the exception of Jordan, the Arab countries have refused to grant their citizenship to Palestinians. Arab governments claimed that this measure was aimed at "protecting the Palestinian identity" of the Palestinians so that one day they would be able to return to their original homes inside Israel.
In most Arab countries, Palestinians are banned from purchasing houses or lands. They are also denied many jobs in the private and public sectors.
This has been happening at a time when Arab citizens of Israel are free to purchase houses in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem and in Tel Aviv, Haifa and Upper Nazareth.
It is easier for an Arab to buy an apartment in the Jerusalem neighborhoods of French Hill, Pisgat Ze'ev and Armon Hanatziv than in Kuwait, Doha, Beirut or Bahrain.
It is no secret that most, if not all, Arab governments would love to see the Palestinians living in their countries leave, and the sooner the better.
The Egyptians, who have long been claiming to defend Palestinians and their cause, were the first to get rid of refugee camps. For years, many Lebanese have been dying to get rid of the 450,000 Palestinian refugees living in their country. Similarly, the Jordanians are not going to shed a tear if the millions of Palestinians living in the kingdom wake up one morning and leave.
After the establishment of Israel in 1948, several thousand Palestinians fled to Egypt. But King Farouq was not happy with the presence of Palestinians in his country and the three refugee camps that were established in Egypt for Palestinians were dismantled.
The Egyptians expelled many Palestinians to the Gaza Strip, which was still under Egyptian sovereignty. But those who were allowed to stay in Egypt were required to have an Egyptian "guarantor."
Former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser further eased restrictions on the Palestinians, allowing them to study in public schools and universities.
However, the new policy did not change the Nationality Law denying Egyptian citizenship to children of mixed Palestinian-Egyptian marriages.
Now the new government in Egypt has amended the Nationality Law so that children of Egyptian mothers and Palestinian fathers will be able to get Egyptian citizenship.
This step should be followed by other measures to fully integrate Palestinian refugees in Egyptian and other Arab societies. There is no reason why Palestinians living and working in the Arab world should be denied basic rights, such as owning a house or sending their children to public schools.