Dismantling the Right of Return

In Frontlines, Politics, Regional Analysis by David Mark

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The Palestinian demand for the “Right of Return” has long been a core belief set to the broader peace narrative in relation to a permanent settlement with Israel.  On the face of it, the demand seems pretty solid, that is of course if one buys into the Palestinian narrative without questioning the very basis of its claims.

Palestinians claim the following:

  • Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country. -Article 13(2), Universal Declaration of Human Rights (10 December 1948).
  • The Geneva Conventions of 1949.
  • The General Assembly, Having considered further the situation in Palestine … Resolves 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, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.” -UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (11 December 1948)
  • United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3236 which “reaffirms also the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return”.
  • Resolution 242 from the UN affirms the necessity for “achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem.”
  • Supporters of the Palestinian right of return maintain that “the right of return for the 1948 Palestinian refugees still exists according to international law. It exists despite the language of the Oslo agreements, insufficient as they are in this regard, and despite the position of the current Israeli government. Palestinian refugees should be free to seek their right to repatriation, regardless of what the PLO acquiesces to, so long as UN Resolution 194 remains in force”.
  • No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country. -Article 12, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights(23 March 1976).

The main crux  behind using many of the above statements lies with attaching the Palestinian Right of Return to something national.

After all, Israel has the Law of Return, which designates any Jew or a person that has 1/4 Jewish ancestry as eligible to return to his/her ancestral homeland.  The Palestinians argue that if a Jew can return after a hiatus of of 1,700 to 2,00 years then they who were here in between should certainly be aloud back.

Essentially speaking the Palestinian claim and statements from international treaties that seem to support it do so because refugees and their return depend on origins within a recognized national entity.

Between the years 1917 and 1948, as the modern Nation States of the Middle East were being created by world powers, no one believed there to be unique nation called Palestine.  In fact all references to Palestine connected the word to Jews and their inalienable rights to form a Nation State their. Why?  Because simply speaking, the current Palestinians had no Nation in the Levant.  This is not to say they were not there, they were or at least a percentage of them were, but they had no previous national claim to the Land.  Some were considered Syrians and other Egyptians, but none of them used the word Palestinian or connected themselves to a distinct national heritage in defining themselves.

Ryan Bellerose, a native Metas from Canada wrote an excellent piece this week refuting Palestinian claims to being indigenous. National indigenous rights are a key component hen tackling issues connected to refugees and this is why Palestinians who formed their collective narrative as an anti-narrative to Israel and Jewish rights there are some forceful in trying to prove that themselves had some sort of national collective experience that was taken from them.  If not, then their claims to deserving a right of return falls through.

One cannot build a national narrative whose sole foundation is the negation of another people’s narrative. That is not a legitimate narrative nor is it something that deserves the right of return.

It is clear that a right of return should belong to the one cultural group that exerted itself time and time again as the national sovereign in the Land of Israel and that is he people of Israel.  It is true individual rights should be given to all persons that live in the Land of Israel.  That does not make them a historically indigenous people nor does it give them the right to claim a return generations later.


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