The Palestine refugees would not disappear into thin air, the representative of Lebanon stated, urging that they be given the right to return. That right was acknowledged in the Magna Carta in 1215 and codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. However, implementing international humanitarian law and resolutions seemed to be inconvenient for Israel, but acting according to law and normality was not a matter subject to convenience.
The Magna Carta? This was a new one on me.
Since Lebanese representatives to the UN tend to simply parrot talking points, I found the likely source for this idea that the Magna Carta discusses a "right to return" all the way back from 1979.
It was mentioned in a document prepared for the UN's "Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People." And the text there shows that duplicity by the "pro-Palestinian" crowd is hardly a recent phenomenon.
The document, called "An international law analysis of the major United Nations resolutions concerning the Palestine question" by William Thomas Mallison and Sally V. Mallison, states:
Historically, the right of return was so universally accepted and practiced that it was not deemed necessary to prescribe or codify it in a formal manner. In 1215, at a time when rights were being questioned in England, the Magna Carta was agreed to by King John. It provided that: "It shall be lawful in the future for anyone... to leave our kingdom and to return, safe and secure by land and water..."
So let's look at the Magna Carta, and see what is hidden behind the ellipses.
42. In the future it shall be lawful for any man to leave and return to our kingdom unharmed and without fear, by land or water, preserving his allegiance to us, except in time of war, for some short period, for the common benefit of the realm. People that have been imprisoned or outlawed in accordance with the law of the land, people from a country that is at war with us, and merchants - who shall be dealt with as stated above - are excepted from this provision.Ah, so it only applies to people who are citizens of the country they left! And it clearly does not apply to members of a entity that is hostile to the country.This is hardly a universal "right of return," and the authors of this paper knowingly quoted only a small excerpt to promote a ridiculous assertion - one that is now confidently shouted at the UN.
It also obviously doesn't apply to descendants.
1979 anti-Israel writers were no less deceptive than their more modern counterparts.
What about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights?
Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.But this also only applies to citizens or nationals of that country. The text was meant primarily to stop nations from preventing nationals from leaving, and the "return" clause was only added to strengthen the right of citizens to leave. See CAMERA's analysis. Regrettably, the 1963 UN document that is the source for this is not online as far as I can tell.
(UPDATE: Ian found it online, with free registration from Calameo. Ingles' entire monograph is suffused with references to the right of return of nationals. Several times during his discussion he refers to "the right of a national to return to his country." In addition he discusses the matter of how countries may strip nationality from those who leave their country over a long period of time; again the point being that he is only speaking of nationals of the country in the context of return. Beyond that, the language added to the UDHR for "return" being only to strengthen the right to leave was added by Lebanon:
The Lebanese amendment was to add, at the end of paragraph 2, the words
"and to return to his country".
In submitting his amendment, the representative of Lebanon pointed out that
the text under discussion:
"... was intended to cover all movements inside and outside of a given
State. According to that article, any person had the right to leave any
country, including his own. The ideal would be that any person should be
able to enter any country he might choose, but account had to be taken of
actual facts. The minimum requirement was that any person should be able
to return to his country. If that right were recognized, the right to leave a
country, already sanctioned in the article, would be strengthened by the
assurance of the right to return. Such was the object of his amendment."
And, again, it clearly does not include descendants of those who left. That is an innovation that is uniquely applied to Palestinian Arabs, with legal arguments that are at least as specious as these are.