Sunday, December 12, 2010

It's The Right of Return, Stupid*

The one thing we must all remember and re-infuse into the mainstream 'conversation': for the Palestinians, the Right of Return is unconditional.

Erekat forthright about Right of Return. Why now?

Read this from Saeb Erekat in the Guardian and wonder what conditions facilitated his remarks at this time. "Today, Palestinian refugees constitute more than 7 million people worldwide – 70% of the entire Palestinian population. Disregarding their legitimate legal rights enshrined in international law, their understandable grievances accrued over prolonged displacement, and their aspirations to return to their homeland, would certainly make any peace deal signed with Israel completely untenable.

"In accordance with past Israeli-Arab agreements based on UN resolutions – most significantly the Egypt-Israeli Camp David Accords based on UN resolution 242's formula of land-for-peace – resolution 194 must provide the basis for a settlement to the refugee issue.
"Return and restitution as the remedy of choice has a strong international precedent. For example, in the context of the Dayton Accords, concluded under the auspices of the United States, the return of Bosnian refugees to their homes and restitution of their property was considered a "non-negotiable" right that was critical to crafting a durable solution. American leaders such as Madeleine Albright, then the secretary of state, openly called on Bosnian Muslim refugees to return en masse to their former places of residence.
In Bosnia and in Palestine, the return of refugees has been considered absolutely necessary for the stability of peace. Any deal that does not respect the rights of refugees has been viewed as bearing the seed of its inevitable failure."
Extraordinary that 1) Erekat should place the number of refugees to be repatriated to Israel at 7 million, and 2) that he uses a comparison with the repatriation of Bosnians who numbered at 700,000 (ha! the number of original Palestinian refugees) to substantiate the Palestinian demands. Had there been a Dayton Accords in 1948, the Arabs would have boycotted them just as they refused to negotiate with Israel.
Jonathan D Halevi, in an extraordinary report, "The Palestinian Refugees on the Day After "Independence", details how the Palestinians have never -- despite the West's refusal to admit it -- let go of the Right of Return of all the refugees and their descendents. Erekat, as the head Palestinian negotiator, Mahmood Abas and Salaam Fayaad have all asserted the indivisibility of this demand and for some reason, no one has taken it seriously. Except, that is, for those in the Palestinian solidarity community who are very comfortable with the proposed annihaliation of Israel should the refugees and their children, grand children and great grand children return. This report is worth reading because, among other things, it confirms that the Arab states will absolutely refuse to accommodate peace accords by granting their refugees full rights -- with the full blessing of the Palestinians.

Benny Morris, in his recent Tablet article, agrees: "The key to understanding Fatah objectives today lies in its leaders’ stance on resolving the refugee problem. Contrary to what many Western commentators and analysts have chosen to believe, the Palestinian stress on the importance of the refugees is not a tactical matter—a way to gain further leverage in negotiations. The Palestinian leadership is unanimous and resolute in insisting that the problem’s solution lies in the “Right of Return”: Israel, and the world, must accept the principle of repatriation and eventually facilitate repatriation. The idea that the refugees must return to their homes has been the ethos, the be-all and end-all of Palestinian politics and policy, since 1948. No Palestinian leader can or will ever abandon this principle, on pain of assassination, and none has. 

"(For Western journalistic consumption, Yasser Arafat once vaguely wrote that the Palestinians would take account of Israeli demographic sensibilities when it came to implementing refugee repatriation; and more recently, Abbas was reportedly willing, in his secret 2008 negotiations with then-Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, to countenance less than full refugee repatriation in the initial phases of a deal. But in their public utterances during the past two years, Abbas and his colleagues have been rock-solid in their advocacy of an unrestricted “Right of Return”—and why not take them at their word?)"

* An excellent blog post on CIFwatch elaborates on the Right of Return delusion.


  1. I just found your blog. I love your title: "Reclaiming the pro-Israel position back from the Right to counter demonization by the Left." You are doing important work. Chazak v'amatz.



Comments are moderated so kindly keep it clean and respectful. All racisms -- including anti-Muslim hate speech -- will be denied a place here, as well as terms like Nazi used to designate anyone other than an actual living or past member of a Nazi or neo-Nazi organization.