Wednesday, December 15, 2021

  • Wednesday, December 15, 2021
  • Elder of Ziyon
Arab fighters with a burning Jewish supply truck on the way to Jerusalem, 1948

Mondoweiss publishes a pro-BDS article by Donna Nevel who is frustrated that South Florida Jewish newspapers. won't publish her anti-Israel op-eds.

Seventy-three years ago this week, on December 11, 1948, U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 made clear that Palestinians had the right to return to their homes and lands from which they had been expelled. Resolution 194 stated that “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.”
Let's summarize the reasons why there is no "right to return."

 UN General Assembly Resolution 194, paragraph 11 states:

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;

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; 

Does Resolution 194 gives a legal basis for the “right of return”?

Firstly, this is a General Assembly resolution, and as such is not international law. It includes many other paragraphs, such as protection and free access to holy places (which Jordan did not respect.)

Secondly, notice that the wording does not use the word “right.” This was a deliberate decision made as the resolution was being drafted– because no such right exists.

Thirdly, the Arabs rejected the resolution at the time. It is a little disingenuous to have them claim that what they strenuously opposed then is international law now.

Fourthly, as Israel argued at the time, the paragraph gives conditions for any return – the Arabs would have to agree to live in peace with their Jewish neighbors, and that has never happened.

Fifthly, the original British draft of the resolution specified Arab refugees. That language was removed, meaning that it refers to both Jewish and Arab refugees being able to return to their homes. That is one reason every Arab nation rejected it. Yet no one who supports “return” says Jews have the right to return to the places they lived across the Green Line.

Finally, according to the International Court of Justice, “international law leaves it to each State to lay down the rules governing the grant of its own nationality.”[1]

Yet even without these points, the document cannot be interpreted to support the mass return of Arabs to Israel. And the proof comes from the UN itself.

In 1950, the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine, which was created by this very same resolution, issued a working paper on interpreting paragraph 11 of UNGA 194.

When interpreting the phrase “to their homes” in “The General Assembly . . . 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,” the UNCCP wrote [emphasis mine]:

There is no doubt that in using this term the General Assembly meant the home of each refugee, i.e. his house or lodging and not his homeland. This is indicated by the fact that two amendments using the term "the areas from which they have come" were rejected. Furthermore by implication it would appear that if the refugees not returning are to be compensated for their property, those returning would reoccupy their homes and be compensated only for losses and damages.[2] 

This means that even for the people who insist that UNGA 194 gives the descendants of Palestinian refugees the “right of return,” they still cannot just move to Israel en masse. Even in 1950, the most generous reading of UNGA 194 said that it only is for those whose original house was still intact. Everyone else would, according to 194, be entitled only to compensation - if 194 had legal validity to begin with. (Israel had offered allowing up to 100,000 Arabs to return to their homes in the 1950s but the Arabs rejected the offer.)

The people claiming that UNGA 194 gives the right for millions of descendants of refugees the right to overrun Israel demographically have no legal leg to stand on.

There is a bigger point, though. The demand for "return" was never based on legality of morality or justice. It was always intended to destroy Israel.

From the start, the Arab world privately admitted that the insistence on this “right of return” was a smokescreen to put a humanitarian sheen on the real purpose.

As early as October, 1949, Egypt’s foreign minister Muhammad Salah al-Din said, “…in demanding the return of the Palestinian refugees, the Arabs mean their return as masters, not slaves; or to put it quite clearly – the intention is the extermination of Israel.[3]

Similarly, in 1960 Egypt’s Nasser said, “If the refugees return to Israel, Israel will cease to exist.”[4]

In 1950, Lebanese weekly As Sayyad suggested that Arab states should recognize Israel in order to ensure the return of the refugees. That way, it added, “we should create a large Arab majority that would serve as the most effective means of reviving the Arab character of Palestine while forming a fifth column for the day of revenge and reckoning.”[5]

Prime Minister of Lebanon Abdullah el-Yafi, stated in 1966, “The day on which the Arabs’ hope for the return of the refugees to Palestine is realized will be the day of Israel’s extermination.”[6]

The people who claim they care about “return” have an agenda which is the opposite of humanitarian. It is an agenda to destroy. And there is no difference in the goals of the Arab leaders then and the BDSers today.

[1] International Court of Justice, Nottebohm Case, Second Phase, Judgement of April 6, 1955

[3] Egyptian Foreign Minister, Salah-el-Din, The Egyptian daily newspaper Al-Misri, Cairo (11 October 1949), quoted from N. Feinberg, Studies in International Law, with a Special Reference to the Arab-Israel Conflict (Jerusalem: Hebrew University, Magnes Press, 1979) 506

[4] Neue Zuercher Zeitung, September 1, 1960, quoted by Terence Prittie in “Curtis, M. Neyer, C. Waxman and A. Pollack (ed.),"The Palestinians: People, History, Politics," 1975.

[5] “Israel Gives Plan on Arab Refugees,” New York Times, November 12, 1953, quoting an Israeli white paper.

[6] Abdullah el-Yafi, Prime Minister of Lebanon, the Lebanese daily newspaper El-Hayat, Beirut (29 April 1966), quoted from N. Feinberg, op. cit.


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