Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Palestinian Right of Return

Laila El-Haddad, a Palestinian blogger, wrote a post last week titled "Either return..or return", where she basically says there's no other option other than the return of Palestinian refugees. Unfortunately, I have a feeling most Palestinians agree with her. An overwhelming majority of Israelis, myself included, would never let the refugees back into Israel, thus turning Israel into Palestine.

Yes, Israel has some responsibility for the creation of the refugee problem, but so do Arab countries. Over the last six decades, they have made sure the Palestinians would live in the worst conditions in refugee camps, and not be absorbed and given citizenship in the countries in which they currently reside. These countries wish to get rid of the Palestinians, but at the same time they want to still be able to use them to deflect criticism from themselves to the Evil Zionist Entity.

Israel can't recognize the right of return, not even a symbolic one. But as compromise, it can admit partial responsibility for the plight of refugees. It can compensate them and help resettle them in the Palestinian state, and those who decide to stay in their current countries should also be resettled and receive citizenship there (though the Arab states may not agree to that).

But the refugees cannot return to Israel proper. The Palestinians have been educated for the last 58 years to hate the "colonizing Jews". We can coexist wonderfully with the Palestinians who have been citizens of Israel since its establishment, but not with returning refugees. It would be like Kosovo here.

Would the Palestinians ever agree to compensation? I hope so, but I also doubt it. If they don't, this ain't gonna end soon.

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  1. You're asking some pretty one-sided questions here.

    Firstly, that the refugee problem was created by Israel mainly, is not in serious dispute anymore, not even with by "nationalistic" Israeli historians and certainly not by people like Morris, who, incidentally endorse what happened in 1948.

    Blaming the Arab states for not giving the refugees citizenship is really putting the whole argument on its head. Israeli culpability should not be the question here.

    The question here is: what to do? Here I agree to some extent with Chomsky that the right of return may simply be no longer possible and that other solutions may be required.

    In a two-state solution, resettlement and compensation in the new state of Palestine may be the best solution. Rightly you point out that this may not be acceptable to many Palestinians. But do you believe it would be acceptable to most Israelis? Apart from the financial implications, you might end up with a neighbour that is more populated than Israel itself...

    One thing that strikes me of lately is that the Palestinians always get blamed for "not wanting peace". Well, I came here via your comment on Laila's blog and was frankly astounded by the hostility of Israeli and pro-Israel bloggers.

    Surfing the online sections of both Haaretz and The Guardian ("Herr Guardian" or "Sieg Guardian" as many call it), I see literally hundreds of these comments: quite viciously hostile to any Palestinian progress in the case of Haaretz. In the case of the "Nazi Propaganda" that The Guardian is supposed to be (according to Israelis and pro-Israel supporters), I despair of the level of hatred levelled at a paper and country in which real anti-Semitism is very, very marginal and meets with strong internal reactions when detected.

  2. I'm pissed! I wrote you a long reply and when I was about to publish it my computer crashed (must be an antisemitic PC).

    Here's the essence of what I wrote:

    1. You're right that the question of who is responisble for the refugee problem isn't that relevant anymore (though I wasn't saying Israel is without blame).

    2. A more populous Palestine wouldn't really mean a stronger Palestine than Israel, so it wouldn't really be a threat. The population density, though, may be a problem that will threaten Palestinian stability and relations with Israel. That's why some refugees will have to be resettled in Arab countries or elsewhere.

    3. The most vocal Israeli posters and bloggers make us look worse than we really are - not that we're that great to begin with...