Return will not solve the refugee problem

 A recent call by the US ambassador the the UN, Nikki Haley, for an ‘examination’ of the Palestinian ‘right of return’ bodes an historic cut-off of US funding to UNWRA, the agency sustaining the Palestinian ‘refugees’. This is a timely opportunity to re-post an extract from this article by Lyn Julius in Jewish News. She argues for recognition of an exchange of refugee populations, not a Right of Return.

Nikki Haley (Photo: Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

According to Adi Schwartz, author of a new book with Einat Wilf called The War for Return(Hebrew)
, the problem at the heart of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is that
‘Gaza’s inhabitants do not view that piece of land as their home, but
rather as a transit camp they will inhabit until the day they can return
to what they believe is their home. Because of this, they will far
prefer to invest their efforts and resources in returning to their
“true” home – by force if necessary – than in cultivating the temporary
one where they currently reside.’

The idea that the refugees should return to Israel, and not to
Palestine, runs counter to the two-state solution. What is the point of
establishing a Palestinian state if the Palestinian refugees still cling
to their ultimate objective of returning to Israel?

Apart from the fact that it would soon turn Israel into a
majority-Arab state, little thought is given to the mayhem that such a
return would produce. Refugee questions after such a long lapse of time
have not been solved by return. The great majority of Palestinian
refugees today never lived in the homes that they are programmed to
‘return’ to. Most might no longer exist. In 2010 the European Court of
Human Rights ruled against Greek Cypriots who demanded to return to
their properties in the northern part of the island now under
Turkish-Cypriot control. As so much time had elapsed since 1974 when the
Turks invaded the island, the Court ruled, in the words of Tel Aviv
professor Asher Susser, that ‘it was necessary to ensure that the
redress offered for these old injuries did not create disproportionate
new wrongs’. If this was true for Cyprus since 1974 it is all the more
true for Palestine since 1948. But the issue of the Palestinian refugees
needs to be seen alongside the parallel plight of the Jewish refugees,
who fled Arab countries for Israel in roughly equal numbers at about the
same time. A permanent exchange of refugee populations occurred. The
last thing the Jews want is a ‘right of return’ to countries which
remain as hostile and antisemitic as the day the refugees fled.

As long as the Right of Return is the cornerstone of the
Palestinians’ strategy, the 650,000 Jewish refugees who fled from Arab
lands to Israel remain its antidote. Yet the issue of the Jewish
refugees is either denied or ignored. When Jewish and Palestinian
‘narratives’ are juxtaposed, the Jewish refugees remain invisible. When
Fisk goes hunting for original Palestinian homes and the locks which fit
the Palestinian keys, invariably he finds a Jew from Poland or Romania
now occupying the Arab home, never a Jew from Yemen or Iraq. In other
words, Jews did not come to Israel because they were fleeing Arab and
Muslim antisemitism.The innocent Palestinian is ‘paying the price of the
Nazi Holocaust’ – a European crime.

Do the Palestinians really believe that they will return, 70 years
after the fact? Even Robert Fisk is doubtful. But the two-state solution
is now dead, he claims without a hint of irony, because of Israeli

It seems that the Palestinian strategy is, with the help of
anti-Zionist Jews, to radicalise Arab Israeli youth (sorry – the
Palestinian citizens of Israel). Their greatest hope is to raise an
insurgency of enraged Arabs within the Green Line. The far-left website
972 features Udna (The Return):
this is is a subversive organisation, advocating certain war and
turmoil, not peace, based on nostalgia for places that no longer exist
and are only a few kilometers from where these young Arab Israelis live
now. The young are not told any context: their villages were destroyed
in a war which their side started and lost. (The Druze and several
Bedouin clans in the Galil did not have their villages destroyed,
because they did not take up arms in the 1948 war). And as usual for
972, the stories of Jews expelled from Arab lands
– half the Jews of Israel – their former homes, their glorious synagogues, their seized land and property – is totally ignored. Another far-left anti-Zionist organisation called Zochrot,
supported by EU bodies and churches, holds conferences actively
preparing for the day when the Palestinian refugees will return. Zochrot
considers the Jews from Arab countries only relevant in their role as
victims of the ‘European, colonial’ state of Israel. There is never any
discussion of compensation or even recognition of the injustice done to
Jewish refugees and their descendants – now half the Jews of Israel.

Other internationally-funded Israeli organisations working for the
Palestinian Right of Return include the Coalition of Women for Peace,
Gush Shalom, the Alternative Information centre, Adalah, Mossava and

Thus these organisations work against peace and reconciliation, not to further it.

Lyn Julius is the author of ‘Uprooted: How 3,000 years of Jewish civilisation in the Arab world vanished overnight’ (Vallentine Mitchell)

Read post in full 

Is a historic decision on UNWRA imminent? 

Why are Palestinian refugees different from all other refugees?

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