There's a very simple response to palestinian claims of a "right of return" (ROR) to the pre-1948 homes of their ancestors or themselves in Israel.
That's the answer and that will always be the answer. It's time the rest of the world made this perfectly clear and stopped leaving it to Israel to spell it out, time and time again. Despite the screaming, shrieking, ranting and raving, the claim has no basis, no legitimacy, no historical precedent. And no such "return" is going to happen while the State of Israel still exists.
Those who waffle on this issue, who refuse to come down firmly in rejecting this claim, are as much as admitting that they envision a future for the Middle East that does not include a Jewish State. Those who continue to pretend that there can be a "compromise" on the ROR are either unbelievably naive or outright lying.
But don't take my word for it. The true face of the ROR claim, the assumptions behind it and the goals it seeks to accomplish are clearly and succinctly set forth in this article by Salman Abu Sitta, published in this week's Al-Ahram (Egypt's government sponsored English language newsweekly). Mr. Sitta is an outspoken advocate of the ROR. Some might even call him an extremist, and he most probably is. But on this issue, unfortunately, he simply speaks the "truth," distorted and perverted as it may be, that supplies the rationale for the ROR claim. So listen.
For the Palestinians, the right of return to their pre-1948 homes is sacred. For the international community, the right of return is enshrined in international law, as evidenced by the sustained affirmation of this right by the UN 135 times so far. For planners, the implementation of the right of return is quite feasible according to serious and unchallenged studies in the last decade.
Perhaps but too bad, wrong and wrong.
One of the basic tenets of Zionism involves taking the land of Palestine and getting rid of its people. This tenet was realised by all possible means: expulsion, massacres, closures, house demolitions, starvation, harassment and other means made possible by the great imbalance of power between the occupier and the occupied. This is called "ethnic cleansing" . . ..
This is the underlying assumption upon which the ROR relies. False and fictitious to anyone with even a passing knowledge of recent history, but essential. (One of the key elements of ROR persuasion, by the way, is the deliberate confusion of events that took place in 1948 with actions taken by the IDF since the outbreak of the terror war in 2000. Watch for it.)
The fact remains that there are few Palestinians, probably less than a dozen, who are given prominence in the Western media and audience in diplomatic circles and who are generously funded. They conduct campaigns or surveys under the name of peace and political realism, which, in the final analysis, helps only Israel and its supporters. . . .
Take the case of Sari Nusseibeh who was thrust in the limelight because he forged an alliance with Ami Ayalon, the former director of the notorious Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security organisation that has been responsible for the torture and killing of Palestinian prisoners. Nusseibeh calls for dropping the right of return in favour of a dubious formulation of some entity to be called the "Palestinian State". The fallacy of this argument is clear. It only serves to undermine international law.
So much for Nusseibeh. Fine with me. His "calls for dropping" the ROR are nothing more than a decoy, in my opinion.
Then there is the case of Khalil Shikaki. He rose from oblivion to the prominence of a fancy office in Ramallah by churning out custom-made surveys under imputed professional objectivity. He too is not moved by the fact that his father and brother are still refugees in the foresaken Rafah refugee camp, nor by the fact that the Israelis with whom he dines were the determined killers of his own brother, Fathi.
His recent survey caused an uproar among the refugees and a won wide acclaim in the West.
The survey Abu Sitta is talking about, of course, is the subject of this much-ballyhooed press release, which has erroneously been widely represented as demonstrating that "only 10% of refugees expect 'right of return'." The press release doesn't actually say anything of the kind, and from what I've read about the survey itself, its results were rather grim. But back to Abu Sitta.
Shikaki himself played differently to two audiences. He told Al-Jazeera on 19 July 2003 that over 90 per cent of the refugees insist on the right of return and that his survey was designed to "serve" the Palestinian negotiators. One wonders how? His survey in fact serves to undermine their position if they demand the right of return.
Shikaki told his audience in the US a different story. He told the National Public Radio (NPR) and the Council on Foreign Relations that the right of return is not a big issue in practical terms.
On this item, it appears that Abu Sitta's analysis is all too accurate.
A self-hating Arab like Fouad Ajami has ready access to the US public through the iron curtain of the US media, notorious for its allergy to any criticism of Israeli racist policies or to any clear and factual promotion of the Palestinians' rights. It is no surprise therefore that US newspapers and TV shows welcome Nusseibeh and Shikaki's articles and views. . . .
In the first paragraph [of a 30 July 2003 Wall Street Journal article] Shikaki comes out with the false conclusion that the two-state solution has "logically advocated a division of the people with some becoming Israeli and others Palestinian". What nonsense! The tenuous legal foundation on which Israel based its declaration of "independence" is the Partition Plan of 1947 (UN resolution 181). In chapters two and three this resolution clearly stipulates the protection of the civil, religious and political rights of the Palestinians in the new Israel and the Jews in the new Palestine. Because the Jewish occupants of British Mandatory Palestine were a minority, the new Israel had almost 50 per cent of its population Palestinian, while the new Palestine had almost no Jews. Neither the UN nor international law would ever tolerate, let alone recommend, an ethno-religious racist state to be established under its patronage.
So there we have it. The United Nations never intended to tolerate the creation of a Jewish State in Mandatory Palestine, never could have, never would have. The whole notion is preposterous, illogical "nonsense." The very suggestion is the essence of offense. But wait, there's more.
Shikaki rails at "the Arab countries that did little or nothing about the terrible refugee suffering of more than 50 years", the very same Arab countries he now expects to help Israel by settling the refugees permanently on their land. Why would he expect these states to settle these refugees? To preserve the "Jewish character" of Israel! He does not tell us what is meant by this "Jewish character" of Israel. If it is to maintain a Jewish majority forever, this is a pipe dream. Apart from the fact that the Palestinians today make up about half the population of historic Palestine, the Palestinian citizens of Israel will be a majority in 40 years. Those who accept the traditional meaning of the "Jewish character" are giving a licence to Israel to commit another Nakba, or even genocide, against the Palestinians any moment that Israel decides that the "Jewish character" is threatened.
The international community is against this notion of "Jewish character". It severely criticised it repeatedly. In May 2003, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in paragraph 18 of its Concluding Observations, censured this notion as discriminatory.
And all attempts to obfuscate these simple truths, to concede the imposition of the abomination of "Jewish character" on any part of "Palestine," according to Abu Sitta, will ultimately fail.
All such lucrative and highly-discredited efforts aim to succeed where Israel has failed in the last five decades. The aim is to bring the refugees to despair, forfeit their rights and lay to waste their half-century of sacrifices and determination. Meanwhile, Israel would end up with a huge chunk of real estate free of charge, with owners giving it the seal of legitimacy. The expelled inhabitants of 530 towns and villages will be doomed to exile forever.
I was especially moved by the expression "free of charge." As if all of the Jewish blood spilled in the defense of our one and only homeland has no value, as if the toil and sweat and tears of generations of Jews, let alone the billions of dollars invested and reinvested in this enterprise are nothing. Nothing at all.
Why am I even reproducing this filth? Because I'm hoping that those of you who read it will remember it the next time you hear the EU or the UN or our State Department or our President equivocating about the ROR, refusing to take a stand, implying that an "understanding" is possible.
No. It isn't.
What you see here is what you get. It's a package. Either you accept the legitimacy of the existence of a Jewish State or you accept the legitimacy of a palestinian "right of return" to a land that cannot be permitted to be a Jewish State. There really is no middle ground. And it's time to say so.