Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul-Gheit hinted recently that Palestinian refugees would receive $50 billion dollars as a compensation for giving up the right of return. The Egyptian official didn’t elaborate or reveal the source of the information. More to the point, he didn’t say where the money would come from or whether the current Palestinian leadership, e.g. the PLO, would accept such a scenario.
The exodus of Palestinians in 1948
The right of return is widely viewed as one of the main national constants of the Palestinian national movement and enjoys a wide consensus among all Palestinians, irrespective of their ideological orientation.
It is considered by many as the essence and soul and heart of the Palestinian problem since the Palestinian cause is all about the extirpation of one people from its ancestral homeland in order to allow for the colonization and settlement of the land of Palestine by another people: the Zionist Jews.
The right of millions of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and villages, most of which were destroyed and nearly obliterated by Israel, is basically a personal right that no political entity has the right to annul or treat it in a compromising manner. Certainly, the Palestinian Authority (PA) or even the entire Arab world has no such right.
The late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat realized this monumental fact very well. This is why he refrained from committing what would have been a historical blunder of giving away or selling out the right of return. Arafat must have anticipated the thundering reaction by the refugees themselves as well as the rest of the Palestinian people to the liquidation of the right of return. Now, his heir, Mahmoud Abbas, seems quite confused and reluctant as to how to deal with this issue.
It is probably true that the return of the refugees would undermine Israel’s "Jewish identity." However, the realization of the repatriation of those refugees wishing to return would also constitute a historical guarantee of a durable peace in Palestine-Israel.
In the final analysis, there can be no real peace without real justice for these refugees, dispersed around the world for more than sixty years, while their homes, land and property were arrogated by another people.
In fact, this is the crux of the matter, since Israel, which can be described rather accurately as a grand project of dispossession (since the Zionist state could never have been created legally, they resorted to stealing and arrogating Palestine).
More to the point, it is abundantly clear that these refugees were violently and ruthlessly uprooted from their homes. They didn’t just leave as Zionist leaders have been claiming.
According to the Israeli writer Illan Pappe, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine was a fulfillment of David Ben Gurion’s statement in 1938 that "I am for compulsory transfer; I don’t see anything immoral in it." Eventually, "plan-D" was the way to do it. It included forcible expulsion of hundreds of thousands of unwanted Palestinians in urban and rural areas, accompanied by an unknown number of other mass slaughters to get it done.
"The goal was simple and straightforward-to create an exclusive Jewish state without an Arab presence by any means including mass murder."
According to Pappe, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine was a calculated act aimed expelling the bulk of Palestinians from their ancestral homeland.
"The ethnic cleansing of Palestine was not an unintended consequence, or fortuitous occurrence, or even a "miracle," as Israel’s first president Chaim Weizmann later proclaimed; it was the result of long and meticulous planning."
Fortunately, some conscientious Jews have acknowledged this fact. For example, Alex Stein, a British Jewish academic wrote several years ago that "why should I, a Jew from North London, be permitted to take up Israeli citizenship, when that right is denied to a Palestinian who languishes in a refugee camp in Lebanon? Especially when I acknowledge that a large majority of those that left in 1948 was ethnically cleansed by Israeli forces."
Nonetheless, it is noticed these days that Zionist leaders, who have nearly abandoned the stale lie that the refugees left voluntarily, are arguing that the return of so many Palestinians to their homes in what is now Israel would turn the "demographic equation upside down."
Well, it should be made absolutely clear that the right of these tormented refugees to return to their homes and land overrides any demographic or political considerations. In the final analysis, their right to return home overrides Israel’s right to be a "Jewish state."
Actually, the international community is under no moral obligation to maintain Israel as a Jewish state than it was to maintain South Africa as an apartheid state ruled by the white minority.
Six decades of homelessness, pain and dispersion should be enough for these miserable people who have inherited misery and suffering generation after generation after generation. Hence, ending this most obscene and sinister scandal wouldn’t be an act of charity to the Palestinian people. It would rather be a belated application of UN resolution 194 which calls for the repatriation of and indemnification for these wronged people
The uprooting of these Palestinians, now numbering more than 5 millions human beings, was a collective act of rape with very few parallels in history. It will remain an act of rape as long as the wrongs done to them are not rectified and corrected.
In this light, the right of return shouldn’t be a subject of dispute and controversy just as the rightful owner’s right to recover his or her stolen property from a thief is not subject of dispute or controversy.
Ultimately, Israel’s "right" to "racial and religious purity," in no way justifies the established right of the Palestinian refugees to return home. This is unless the world has become a jungle where military might rather than human decency is what counts.
Indeed, if the world is a jungle and if ethics and rights are to be determined by brute force, then according to this logic we would have to consider all the abominations that befell Jews in the course of modern history, especially during the Second World War, were "right," "ethical" and justifiable since their occurrence was more or less compatible with the moral and intellectual maxims now readily espoused by Zionism.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN in 1948, states in its Article-13 that "everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country."
Finally, it is vital that the international community, if it is truly interested in resolving the enduring question of Palestine, ought to accentuate the Right of Return because no prospective peace deal between Israel and the PA would work without the repatriation of the refugees to their homes and country.
It is an expression of inhumanity, dishonesty, immorality and racism to deny the refugees this most moral, most human and most legal right. Again, this is not merely a nationalistic right; it is a personal and individual right that no entity or state or organization can cede.
Besides, the Palestinians are simply not willing to sell their ancestral patrimony for money. Indeed, if money were their goal, they would have done it a long time ago, sparing themselves and their children all the pain and suffering.
in occupied Palestine, 8 September 2010.
Khalid Amayreh (b. 1957 Hebron) is a Palestinian journalist based in Dura, the Hebron district. He did his university degrees in the United States: BA in Journalism at University of Oklahoma, 1982; MA in Journalism, University of Southern Illinois, 1983. For a long time, his life was not made any easier by the fact that he was largely confined by the powers that be to his home village of Dura near Hebron.
On his life experience as a Palestinian, see: “Reflections on the 1967-war anniversary”, palestine-info, 5 June, 2008.