Sunday, January 21, 2007
Another 'Palestinian' MYTH, 'right of return'
...Thus, the accusations that the creation of the State of Israel led to the eradication and dispossession of a Palestinian ‘nation,’ and that Israel continues to obstruct and deny the Palestinian’s right of self-determination, are spurious at best, since, as Robert Spencer, scholar of Islamic history, notes, before the 1967 war when Israel took control of Gaza and the West Bank, no one — including the Palestinians themselves — thought of themselves as a nation, that this “supposed national identity was invented in the 1960s in what turned about to be an extraordinarily successful ploy to adjust the paradigm of the Arab-Israeli conflict with the newly-minted Palestinians as the underdogs.”
Nor was the land that the Palestinian Arabs fled from in what would become Israel ever land to which Palestinian refugees could ever make a legally sound claim. “None of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has ever been ‘Palestinian Land,’” said columnist and historian David Meir-Levi. “Before Israel’s, the last legal sovereignty over these territories was that of the Ottoman Empire. The British Mandate was a temporary care-taker control established by the League of Nations. And from 1948 to 1967, the West Bank was illegally occupied and annexed by Jordan, and the Gaza Strip by Egypt — both in stark defiance of international law, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and UN resolutions 181 and 194.”
There is some irony in the fact that the Palestinians have repeatedly violated both the spirit and intent of 194, that particular UN resolution containing a reference to the concept of ‘return’ to one’s country, although two key points are characteristically ignored by those pointing to this source as justification for their legal claim. First, Resolution 194 was the product of the UN General Assembly and "is an expression of sentiment and carries no binding force whatsoever," meaning that it is meant to make recommendations but not binding law. What it did suggest, however, was that “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which . . . should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”
According to the evaluation of law professor Ruth Lapidoth of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, this language precludes an interpretation of the UN resolution that supports a Palestinian claim for an unqualified right of return as opposed to a suggested one. “Though the Arab states originally rejected the resolution,” she wrote (specifically because it would mean giving implicit recognition of the existence of Israel), “they later relied on it heavily and have considered it as recognition of a wholesale right of repatriation.”
But according to Professor Lapidoth, “this interpretation . . . does not seem warranted: the paragraph does not recognize any ‘right,’ but recommends that the refugees ‘should’ be ‘permitted’ to return. Moreover, that permission is subject to two conditions — that the refugee wishes to return, and that he wishes to live at peace with his neighbors,” something the Arab world, even now, has clearly never seen fit to do. And there is another significant aspect of the “refugee” problem from the 1940s that everyone demanding rights of return and reparations for Palestinian refugees conveniently forgets: some 800,000-900,000 Jews, some of whom had lived in Arab lands for 1,000 years and were fully integrated into those societies, were expelled and all their wealth (estimated to be about ten times that of the Palestinians) confiscated as the nascent Israel was being established. No one now cries over their lost possessions, homes, property, and citizenships.
So for observers like professor Karsh, the recommendations of Resolution 194 "could as readily apply to the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were then being driven from Arab states in revenge for the situation in Palestine," and in fact were meant to, since the refugees mentioned in the resolution are purposely not defined as being either Arab or Jew. In fact, many diplomats and officials had anticipated an exchange of refugees, as has happened successfully in other similar social upheavals, where Palestinian refugees would have been absorbed in Arab states and Jewish refugees would have settled in Israel — exactly what happened to some 600,000 Jewish refugees.
Legal scholars also point out that international law grants the right to leave or return to one’s country only to individuals, not as a collective right as the Palestinians claim. More importantly, no population of refugees has ever presumed that the right of return — if such a right even exists — could be claimed, not only by the original refugees, but also by all of their descendants.