Thursday, October 22, 2009

Mythbusting #2: What’s wrong with the “right of return,” and why Palestinian devotion to it is a barrier to peace.

There are two sticky issues in every Israeli-Palestinian negotiation that has never been resolved, and which neither side has shown a willingness to back down. These are the Palestinian demand for a “right of return” and the status of Jerusalem. In my conversations on the Huffington Post, quite a few of the people there think that Israel should grant it in the form the Palestinians want (i.e. “everyone who is a Palestinian gets to come”) their reasoning being that it is “right” and “just.” I’m going to explain in this post why it isn’t either.

First of all, let’s start with the fact that the Palestinian demand for a “right of return” has no basis in either human rights language or international law. Palestinians and their supporters refer to this excerpt from UN Resolution 184:
"refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so"

Leaving aside whether or not the Palestinians really are willing to leave at peace with the Jews as citizens of Israel, the next question becomes “what is a refugee?” The Palestinians claim that everyone who identifies as a Palestinian, regardless of age or place of residency, is refugee and is entitled to a “right of return” to their homeland. Is this backed up in international law? It is not:

The UNRWA defines a Palestine refugee as a person "whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948 and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict," Citation

This is of course problematic because a Palestinian who had moved there less than five years ago has now gained an “inalienable right” to his “ancestral homeland,” but we’re not going to nitpick. The point is that only Palestinians who are (at this point) 60 years old are legally refugees entitled to a right of return. Their descendants, who make up more than 85% of the Palestinian population, are entitled to nothing. And yet they are the ones calling louder than anyone else to end their fraudulent refugee status and to be granted their “right” to return to their “homeland.” I’m willing to accept that the Palestinians see Israel as their ideological homeland, but legally it is not.

Now you are probably asking, “If only the older Palestinians are entitled to a right of return, then why doesn’t Israel let just them in and not their descendants? Surely they would want to be reunited with their families who are now Israeli citizens."

The short answer is that Israel tried but (as usual) the Arab leadership decided to screw over their own people in favor of a political gain. They would not accept the return of refugees if it meant that Israel continued to exist as a Jewish state:


“It is well-known and understood that the Arabs, in demanding the return of the refugees to Palestine, mean their return as masters of the Homeland and not as slaves. With a greater clarity, they mean the liquidation of the State of Israel” Egyptian Foreign Minister Muhammad Salah al-Din (Al-Misri, October 11, 1949).


This viewpoint hasn’t changed in recent years. The Palestinian leadership has made it clear: Either everyone goes or no one goes. So no one goes. And they blame Israel for this. The Palestinians have made an insistence on a non-existent “right of return” an insatiable demand that they will never (and some may say can never) back down from. They have chosen the one demand that Israel can never allow as the hill to die on, and the peace process always dies there. And always will, so long as the Palestinians continue to make it a prerequisite for peace.

So now that we have made it clear that the Palestinians are not entitled to a right of return, you might be asking “Why doesn’t Israel just give it to them? Even if they aren’t entitled to it under law, isn’t it better than continuous fighting?”

Well, Matt is going to post more about the one-state “solution” in a future post, but suffice to say: Granting all the Palestinians Israeli citizenship would give them all the power over their Jewish. And historically, when Arabs have had power over Jews, it hasn’t gone well for the Jews. And Israel’s government is not going to throw the existence of their country on the mercy of their archenemies simply because some people on the internet think it’s the right thing to do. No country would. The Palestinians need to build their own nation, not try and force their way into someone else’s.

No comments:

Post a Comment