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Risking Israel's ire, US takes 1,350 Palestinian refugees

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The resettlement of Iraqi Palestinians is "an important gesture for the United States to demonstrate that we're not heartless," says Alon Ben-Meir, a professor of international relations and Middle Eastern studies at New York University.

But some critics say the State Department is sloughing off its problems onto American cities, especially since in this case the Palestinians were sympathizers of Hussein, who was deposed by the US.

"This is politically a real hot potato," says Mark Krikorian, director of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, adding, "[A]merica has become a dumping ground for the State Department's problems – they're tossing their problems over their head into Harrisburg, Pa., or Omaha, Neb."

Saddam's guests

Palestinian refugees came to Iraq in successive waves over several decades, first in 1948, then in 1967, and in 1991. They were treated well under Hussein but were also used to attack Israeli policies, and their presence was resented by many Iraqis.

After Hussein was deposed in 2003, many of these Palestinians were driven out of their homes and now live "at the mercy of the weather" in rough camps along the Syrian and Jordanian border, says Mr. Ben-Meir. The number of Palestinians in Iraq has fallen from around 34,000 to an estimated 15,000, with about 2,773 living in camps, according to the State Department.

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