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Sunday, October 23, 2011

The part of UNGA 194 that the Arabs ignore

Palestinian Arabs and their supporters never cease to point to UN General Assembly Resolution 194 as proof that there is a legal "right to return" for Palestinian Arab refugees of 1948 and their descendants. There are lots of arguments proving that this is invalid - not the least being that UNGA resolutions are not legally binding as well as the conditional nature of the text.

But, astoundingly,  the very same paragraph in UNGA 194 also demands the resettlement of Arab refugees in Arab states!

The part of 194 that is always quoted is this one:
Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours 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;
But the second clause of the same paragraph says this:
Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations;
The Conciliation Commission definitely interpreted this clause as meaning resettlement in Arab countries.

During the Paris Conference in 1951 (UN document A/1985), the Commission emphasized that taking the "return" portion of UNGA 194 in isolation is not what the resolution intended:
In the Chairman's statement it was noted that experience had shown that concentration on one or the other isolated paragraph of the resolution out of context had not helped in the promotion of peace in Palestine. All the elements were necessary, but they were useful only if linked together according to an over-all plan. For example, the resolution instructed the Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and rehabilitation of refugees, and that instruction had not been forgotten by the Commission when it drafted the proposals for the conference.
And what was meant by "resettlement"?
The solution of the refugee problem proposed by the Commission envisaged the repatriation and integration of some of the refugees in Israel and the resettlement of others in Arab countries.
Keep in mind that Israel offered to accept a portion of the refugees at the time, in full compliance with the resolution, but in context of the other parts of the resolution that were necessary to ensure a full peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

So while it is true that UNGA 194 has no relevance today, those who insist that it is still the basis for the "right of return" need to explain why Arab states have been ignoring its other requirement, that Palestinian Arab refugees who desire to live in Arab countries be allowed to be resettled there.

Their failure to do so is yet another example of Arab hypocrisy.