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Millions of Arabs claim "Palestinian refugee" status based on their descent from Arabs who fled Israel during the War of Independence. Refugee status is passed on indefinitely, meaning that millions who were born and raised in countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait and Iraq do not hold citizenship in those countries, but are instead considered refugees who must live in camps, awaiting their "return" to Israel.
The camps are run by the United Nations, which provides benefits to refugees through its UNRWA program.
Shiryan, who writes for Al-Hayat and is a senior manager at Al-Arabiya television, said Arab governments that insist on separating refugees from the rest of the populace are engaging in behavior "tantamount to the slow murder of the Palestinians." The camps in which refugees currently live are "like hell," he said.
All countries containing such "refugee" camps must open the camps and allow their residents to work freely and send their children to regular state schools, Shiryan said. He called for a campaign aimed at encouraging the integration of refugees into Arab society.
"These countries must stop treating the Palestinians like a plague, using slogans which, as we all know, have become nothing but empty utterances in a loathsome struggle," he said. "Stop fighting at the expense of the Palestinian people's dignity."
In a subsequent article, Shiryan compared the plight of Arab refugees in Arab countries to that of Jewish refugees in Western nations. Jews from Arab countries who moved to the United States prospered, he said, while Arab refugees continued to suffer.
"The Arabs kept the Palestinians in refugee camps and made them into a people defeated both morally and materially. In contrast, the West welcomed the Jews and made them a leading [force] in science, arts, literature, economics and politics," he wrote.
Following the publication of his articles, Shiryan was accused of promoting Zionist and pro-Western goals. He rejected the accusations, and turned the tables on his attackers, alleging that their mistreatment of refugees is "aimed at getting rid of the Palestinians altogether."