Last week, a ghoulish spectacle played itself out on the supposed site of an abandoned Arab village in Tel Aviv. Zochrot, a European-funded, radical left organisation, held a conference to realise the Palestinian ‘right of return’ – a ‘right’ Jewish refugees from Arab lands would rather give up. Lyn Julius writing in the Times of Israel explains why Return, even if enshrined in law, is a recipe for mayhem:
Lest you dismiss all this talk of Return as
the fantasies of a tiny minority of Israeli anarchists, let me tell you
the unpalatable truth: a majority of Palestinians polled in 2011 – 89.5 percent – support a ‘right of return’ to Israel proper.
Zochrot did not for a moment pause to ask
itself whether the Palestinians had a legal ‘right of return’. It took
such a right for granted.
A thorough-going study of the Palestinian
Right of Return by Andrew Kent, an Associate Professor at Fordham Law
School, appeared in the University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law in 2012.
Kent examines the legal bases of Return and finds them wanting. He
concludes that even if one assumes one hundred percent Israeli guilt for
the Palestinian exodus, no such ‘right of return’ existed at the time.
Palestinians usually refer to a right enshrined in what Kent calls ‘soft
law’, such as the non-binding UN General Assembly Resolution 194, or
retroactively apply recent legislation.
“Recent treaties, declarations, and state
practice are used to derive a right of return for refugees displaced by
war or other crises, and that right is then retroactively applied by
fifty or sixty years to the conflict in 1947–49, when very different
legal rules applied,” argues Kent.
Kent’s study lists 159 cases of forced
migration, mass expulsion and compulsory transfer. In the 20th century,
population exchange was a favoured way of solving international
disputes. Return has only been applied since the 1990s – in places like
Rwanda, in Serbia, in Iraq. In almost all cases, repatriation occurred
soon after the refugees had fled, not decades later. There were three
exceptions to the rule: refugees were still claiming a right to return
in Cyprus four decades later, Kashmir six decades later, and Palestine,
six decades later.
States have had their own reasons for
repatriating refugees since the 1990s. There are three caveats: the
returning population must have all been citizens of the country they
left – which Palestinians were not. The returning population must not be
so large as to create an unstable ethnic balance: the return of
Palestinian refugees, together with four million descendants who have
inherited refugee status, would soon destabilise Israel. Thirdly,
Professor Kent points out, all instances of refugee return took place
following the signing of peace agreements. (There were three exceptions –
Myanmar, Togo and Mali – all under extenuating circumstances.)
Ironically, the Zochrot conference itself
intimated that Return might not achieve the desired effect. In a session
entitled ‘False Reconciliation’ one Serb speaker said that the Serb
experience with repatriated refugees was disastrous and had to be
suspended. People were being killed in disputes over tenancy rights.
Zochrot is resolute in its absolute conviction
that only one side bears the blame in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The mainly Ashkenazi leftists of this organisation are deaf, dumb and
blind to the injustices inflicted on the other set of refugees –the 870,000 Jews
who left their homes in Arab countries around the same period. (Return
to the countries that persecuted and brutally expelled them is one right
these refugees will be glad to give up.)
When Levana Zamir of the Association of Jews from Egypt in Israel suggested cooperationto fight for the rights of both sets of refugees, the Zochrot conference speakers at first expressed public enthusiasm.
In the coffee break, however, they mumbled their excuses: no cooperation would be forthcoming.
One assumes they would rather stick to their sickening recipe for mayhem and strife.