Brandabur on refugees
Paper for Conference on Post-Conflict Resolution, Cyprus April 29-30, 2004.
Submitted by Dr. A. Clare Brandabur, Do_u_ University, Turkey, Dec. 7, 2004.
Restitution as The Right of Return: Absolute Pre-requisite for Reconciliation
''If you are offering your gift at the altar, thd there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.'' Matthew 5:23-25.
Because my paper addresses the Palestine/Israeli conflict, it envisions the possible means of achieving, though it does not assume, post-conflict resolution. I am convinced that the attempts made to resolve the conflict have failed because they did not seriously address the one condition without which peace is impossible: the recognition of the historic injustice to the Palestinians--that is, the expulsion of the Palestinians and the expropriation of their land involved bin the violent establishment of a Jewish colonial-settler state in Arab Palestine. Having failed to confront this fundamental injustice, proposed solutions naturally failed to redress it. In its conditional acceptance of Israel in 1948, the UN specified that Israel would be recognized as a legitimate state on condition that the Palestinian refugees be allowed to return. In the absence of this restitution of the fundamental injustice, that conditional recognition of Israel should be rescinded. This would bring international pressure to bear on Israel to conform to the requirements of international law in order to regain UN recognition.
As Noam Chomsky has shown (in Pirates and Emperors), the increasingly isolated pariah-pair, Israel and the US, refuse to even report much less to consider, peace proposals made by the Palestinians, though there have been several important initiatives pointedly ignored by the NY Times. But the principal proposal I wish to offer today is that by Palestinian scholar Dr. Salman Abu-Sitta on ''Implementing the Palestinian Right of Return'' (published in The New Indifada, 2002). I have heard Dr. Abu Sitta present his proposal in Amman, Jordan, have seen his projections of demographic maps, and am convinced that his vision offers an astonishly positive and workable solution to the whole problem because it aims precisely at correcting the initial injustice: it offers restitution to those wronged, made homeless and futureless, by their removal from their land and their being cast up at the fringes of empire like throw-away people whose only proper role was to disappear. If a thief has stolen a thousand dollars from a neighbor, in order to be forgiven for his crime, he must first return the stolen money to its rightful owner. If Palestinian resistance keeps Jewish settlers awake at night, that fear can only be removed by restoring the stolen land. Why should people who live on stolen land in stolen houses find it easy to sleep soundly? How can they wish to sleep soundly when those whom they have displaced sleep in cinder-block hovels or prisons, are deprived of land on which to grow their food, are forbidden to travel, are shot at check-points, while razor-wire fences rise around them as their children starve?
What prevents most people in the West from considering this solution is the fear that the Israel which would emerge should the refugees return would not be a ''Jewish'' state. The scenario for the coming ''Jewish'' state (as it is outlined in Jewish Fundamentalism in Israel by the late Israel Shahak and Norton Mezvinsky) suggest that such a racist zenophobic state might not be an idea worth engaging in genocide to obtain. This extreme brand of Jewish fundamentalism subscribed to by the Jewish settler movement posits the absolute superiority of the Jewish soul and body, believed to be divine in origin in contrast to the satanic origin of all non-Jews. It envisions the destruction of all Christian and Islamic buildings and the reconstruction of a Temple on the Haram el-Sharif in which animal sacrifice would be offered. Such a zenophobic atavistic state is contrary to the ideals of a more pluralistic and democratic community which must, if humanity is to survive, be the ideal worthy of our aspirations.
Concerned people (like Edward Said), realizing that progressive colonization of the Occu?pied Territories has gone too far to make a two-state solution viable, have been devoting more and more attention to the possibility of a one-state solution. As the Apartheid Wall rises, plans to expand Jewish settlement on the Occupied Golan Heights proceed apace, and more and more Arab residents of Jerusalem are deprived of residence permits, even members of the Israeli community are becoming convinced that a racist, aparthheid Israel would finally complete the transformation of Israel into a global pariah on a scale to rival Apartheid South Africa. In a small gesture of deference to the World Court at the Hague, though Israel pretends to regard the court as irrelevant and lacking in jursdiction in the case, Sharon has offered to dismantle part of the Wall, though it remains to be seen whether this gesture will take effect in light of the latest suicide bombing.
Rabbi Marc Ellis (in Beyond Innocence and Redemption) has made an analogy: just as the Christian community was paralyzed until it could admit and make restitution for their role in the murder and dispossession of European Jews, so now the Jewish/Zionist community worldwide cannot go forward until it recognizes the Palestinian victims of their own genocidal program and renounce it. That change of heart can only be effected if they can finally bring themslves to sacrifice the dubious goal of an embattled ethnically pure Jewish state and settle instead for a peaceful multli-cultural democratic community in which the motive for ''terrorism''/resistance has been resolved by the peaceful return of the Palestinian refugees. In his stirring book, Justice and Only Justice, Palestinian Father Niam Stifan Ateek urges that such restitution is the only road-map to peace. This is the crux of the issue: restitution would remove the principal source of conflict by correcting the monstrous act of injustice inflicted on the Palestinians in 1948 and 1967 which still cries out, not for vengeance, but for resolution.
Dr. Abu Sitta envisions this return of refugees taking place while the Jewish residents of 1948 Israel are still in place. He shows that a high proportion--perhaps as many as 80 percent--of dispossessed Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, could return to their original villages without impinging seriously on Jewish population centers. In the remaining segment--where large Jewish populations now live on land originally belonging to Palestian villages-- negotiations would need to be conducted to find a suitable solution.
Unlike the highly publicized bogeyman of the Palestinians wanting to throw the Jews into the sea (though I'm sure that simple solution has crossed the minds of more than one tortured refugee,) the remarkable generosity and foreward-looking nature of Dr. Abu-Sitta's vision is exemplary. World leaders and especially Israeli and American leaders should take a serious look at this brilliant proposal. In its Solomon-like even-handedness, it allows space both for Jews and Arabs, but the condition for success is a peaceful sharing of the land and its resources rather than apartheid racism and continuing violence. Of course most of the Arab villages have been destroyed or abandoned, but with some of the funding (the US subsidized Israel to the tune of 6 billion dollars just in 2003) going for restitution rather than killing, the Palestinians could rebuild these villages, tend their graveyards, rebuild their mosques, schools and churches, instead of grudgingly accepting conditions of slave labor to build Jewish roads and houses.
Israeli Solution: Genocide
In order to place the issue of the Right of Return in some kind of perspective, it is necessary to establish that this issue is absolutely central both to the original conflict between Israel and the original inhabitants of Palestine, since it was Zionist policy from the start not to llive with the Palestinians, but to remove them by any means necessary. This allows us to approach the problem of the right of return from a realistic histirically valid perspective. To quote the now famous passage from Herzl,
We shall have to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country. Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discretely and circumspectly.(Herzl 1960)
In the same spirit, Joseph Weitz, head of the Jewish Agency's Colonization Department wrote in 1940:
Between ourselves it must be clear that there is no room for both peoples together in this country. We shall not achieve our goal is the Arabs are in this small country. There is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to neighboring countries--all of them. Now one village, not one tribe should be left. (Weitz in Uri Davis and Norton Mezvinski, 1967-1973, p. 21)
Yiitzak Rabin records in his Memoirs walking with David Ben Gurion, who replied, when asked ''What is to be done with the Palestinian population?'' Ben Gurion waved his hand in a gesture which said 'Drive them out!'' (Rabin 1979)
It is no surprise, therefore, that Nur Masalha (in his book Imperial Israel and the Palestinians), finds that the intentions of the Israeli state has always been the ethnic cleansing and/or genocide of the Arab population of Palestine. Masalha recounts the views of Dr. Irving Moskowitz, a Miami-based American Jewish millionaire, who is currently financing the construction of a new Jewish neighborhood being built on Arab land in Ras al-‘Amud in Arab East Jerusalem. Moskowitz wrote as follows in February 1990:
A Pro-Israeli source in the American Congress leaked lately to the Jewish lobby people that American officials are secretly discussing a new approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict. According to this approach population transfer should be carried out between Israel and its Arab neighbors.’ (Masalha 182)
According to Moskowitz, ‘only one sole option has been left to American policy-makers: to come up with a completely new approach.’ This so-called new approach is euphemistically termed by Moskowitz as ‘population exchange.’ The Moskowitz quotation goes on to envision the relocation of the refugees from ‘Judea and Samaria’ in Jordan as well as Syria and Iraq.’ (pp. 182-183)
Masalha quotes Israeli Meir Lifschitz as saying (in Ha’olam Hazeh, 22 August 1990, reprinted in Moledet, No. 24 (October 1990):
A war against Iraq is a real (religious) duty. If it is possible to make provocation, we must carry this out immediately. Such a golden opportunity in a convenient international situation fall into our hand once every hundred years. . . No one will busy himself with the triviality of transfer which we will carry out in parallel at the same time. . . Who exactly will be interested in the fate of two million Palestinians, who supported the butcher of Baghdad and are settled on the lands of the little king (King Hussein)?’(p. 184)
Masalha's important book demonstrates that ''transfer'' has been the real policy of Israel from the beginning. From Herzl to Ben Gurion to Begin and Sharon, the plan was to expand Jewish settlement into the full dimensions of ''biblical Israel'' by confiscating more and more Arab land, and then transferring all the Arabs in both the 1948 borders (so-called ''Israeli Arabs'') into other areas, including Jordan, Syria, and Iraq. To make this possible, their policy has been to ''make provocation'' for a war against Iraq, to destablize the region and create such havoc that no one will notice a few million Palestinians being disposed of. Clearly, then, the Israeli solution is the expulsion of the Palestinian people both from the Occupied Territories and from 1948 Israel.
Dissenters from Official Israeli Policy
Some Israeli scholars oppose this racist plan, advocating instead some kind of modus vivendi with the Palestinians. Marc Ellis (in Beyond Innocence and Redemption, 85-88) speaks of Simha Flapan (The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities) who was shocked when Begin defended his invasion of Lebanon by citing ''Ben-Gurion's plan to establish a homogeneous Jewish state by dividing Lebanon, setting up a Christian state north of the Litani River, and destroying Arab villages with the border of Israel and expelling their inhabitants during the 1948 war.''(87) Ellis argues that the 1948 war had never been a subject of controversy since Israelis assumed a difference between the ''defensive '' War of Independence and the offensive invasion of Lebanon. Therefore Flapan and other Labour moderates were shocked to hear Begin admit to carrying out a policy essentially in harmony with the ethnic cleansing design of Ben Gurion. Now it became apparent that the posture of pretending to be desirous of peace with the Palestinians had been subterfuge all along. As Roberta Strauss Feuerlicht remarks (The Fate of the Jews), ''Zionists executed the psychological coup of the century by taking Palestine from the Arabs and then pretending Jews were Arab victims.'' (246-7)
To Marc Ellis' great credit, however, he himself has the vision and charity of spirit to see the possibility that the uprising of the Palestinians (he was talking here about the first intifada) could provide for Jewish Israelis an occasion of Grace:
But ultimately the challenge of Jewish dissent during this period is to see the uprising in historical perspective as a continuation of Palestinian suffering rather than something new and unprecedented. Thus the Palestinian uprising provides Jews the possibility for viewing the renewal of Jewish life in Palestine and Israel as a historical event a century in duration and therefore allowing fundamental judgments to be made concerning that history, judgments that can contribute to choices for the future. (Ellis 86)
Such a generous prophetic vision as that of Marc Ellis allows one to hope that an equally generous plan as that of Salman Abu Sitta might startle both peoples into a cessation of hostilities. Violence might be put aside in favor of a great constructive effort to build a truly just relationship, rather than the ugly spectacle of a nation of torturers, bank robbbers, and killers. Is it not obvious that these disedifying practices exhibit the opposite of the ''renewal of Jewish life'' and make Israel a scandal rather than ''a light unto the Gentiles.''
The Official American Solution: Stalemate
In spite of the verbal support for a two-state solution, the real policy of the United States with respect to the Middle East is hypocritical: while repeating the mantra of peaceful co-existence, US diplomats actually work to maintain a stalemate. By pretending that the conflict is just a case of two quarelling neighbors, this verbiage cloaks the real politik: massive military and financial support for Israel and the withdrawal of all protection or assistance for the Palestinians. Israeli policies of ethnic cleansing are actually American-Israeli policies, as Noam Chomsky points oout in a recent New York Times article (February 23, 2004).By supporting the building of the Apartheid Wall, for example, the US endorses the appropriation of thousands of dunum of additional land, locking thousands more Palestinians into enclaves cut off from their cities, universities, markets, hospitals, etc. Chomsky quotes Israeli journalist Amira Hass writing recently in the Israeli Daily Haaretz: ''Hiding behind security rationales and the seemingly neutral bureaucratic language of military orders is the gateway for expulsion.''
Thus by its actions in unquestioning support of Israel, regardless of its most criminal actions against the palestinians, the United States maintains a permanent state of conflict and ethnic cleansing. ''The US real solution is stalemate,'' Chomsky says in Pirates and Emperors. (116) At the advice of Henry Kissinger, the US encouraged Israel's rejection of Sadat's February 1971 offer of a full peace settlement. Chomsky cites numerous peace overtures endorsed by the PLO which were rejected by Israel and not reported in the New York Times, such as the plan proposed by Leonid Brezhnev in April 1981 (22) and an even earlier joint Carter-Brezhnev statement calling for the ''termination of the state of war and establishment of normal peaceful relations'' between Israel and its neighbors. Chomsky continues:
This was endorsed by the PLO, and withdrawn by Carter after a furious reaction by Israel and its American lobby. In January 1976, Jordan, Syria and Egypt supported a proposal for a two-state settlement debated by the Security Council of the United Nations. The resolution incorporated the essential wording of UN 242, the core document of relevant diplomacy, guaranteeing the right of every state in the region ''to live in peace within secure and recognized borders.'' The proposal was endorsed by the PLO; according to Israel's President Chaim Herzog (then UN Ambassador), it was ''prepared'' by the PLO. It was backed by virtually the entire world, and vetoed by the United States. (23)
Chomsky recounts Israel's reaction to the 1976 peace proposal backed by the PLO and the Arab ''confrontation states''. This was to bomb Lebanon killing more than fifty people, and to announce meanwhile that they would not negotiation with any Palestinian about anything. There was no pretense in this case, Chomsky says, that this bombing was in retaliation for anything, unless it could be considered retaliation against the Security Council. Again, following the brutal invasion of Lebanon of 1982, in which some 25,000 Lebanese and Palestinians were killed, most of them civilians, a peace proposal was issued by Yasser Arafat in Apriil-May 1984,
. . .calling for negotiations leading to mutual recognition. The national press refused to publish the facts; the Times even banned letters referring to them, while continuing to denounce the ''extremist'' Arafat for blocking a peaceful settlement.(24-25)
While Americans express approval at the generous offer to withdraw thousands of Jewish settlers from Gaza, they should remember that he apparently plans to relocate them in the Occupied West Bank, and that he will no doubt continue a ''scorched earth' 'policy in Gaza to make sure that the Palestinian fighters should not be allowed to consider this withdrawal a victory. They should remember also that some four hundred wells and reservoirs in Gaza have been destroyed just in the last two years.
The Arab States' Solution
In a brief report published in Haaretz, January 25, 2004, (http://www.haarestz.
com/hasen/spages/386411.html) Correspondent Yoav Stern summarizes the peace initiative of the Arab states, whereby Israel will negotiate a peace agreement with all the Arab states, and not just the Palestinians, and the Arab states would absorb Palestinian refugees.
Stern refers to the Kuwaiti newspaper Al Siyasa (January 24, 2004) which reported that the initiative, led by Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah was presented at the U.S. State Department and is based on an earlier peace initiative approved in a summit heald in Lebanon in 2002. Egypt, Jrdan, Morocco and Qatar are its main supporters. The article stresses that the withdrawal fo the pre-1967 borders is the sine qua non of the plan.
''. . .the initiative, led by Saudi Arabia, would include declarations of peace agreements between all Arab states,' which will bring an end to the conflict betweenIsrael and the Arabs. The states would declare a normalization in their ties with Israel, including the appointment of ambassadors.
''The Arab states will demand that Israel withdraw to its borders prior to the June 1967 war, in other words to leave te Palestinian territories and withdraw from the Golan Heights.''
Stern continues saying that the plan includes a ''creative'' solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees. ''Some two million Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to the new Palestinian state that would be established. More than two million others would be absorbed by other Arab states, and will be compensated for the suffering they had endured.''
''Under the deal, Iraq will also accept Palestinian refugees. Israel will not be required to absorb any Palestinian refugees.''
Meanwhile, a great variety of scholars and political activists have begun to offer solutions to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. The late great scholar Edward Said argued in many of his books and articles that the world must accommodate itself to the reality that Palestine carries the narratives of two people, not just one, and that some way must be found to allow for the peaceful co-existence of both Jews and Arabs, perhaps in a single democratic binational state.
Said also came to realize that by continuing the colonization of the West Bank and Gaza, all the while giving lip service to various US-supported solutions such as the Oslo Accords or the ''Road Map,'' Israel was virtually excluding a two-state solution.
The debate has been phrased as a choice between a ''one state solution or a two-state solution.'' Michael Neumann gave an interesting reply to this dichotomy. In answer to the question ''Do you favor a one-state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict?'' His reply is that he favors both, arguing that, ''given the illegitimacy of the Zionist project, there is certainly a case for a full right of return for all displaced Palestinians and all their descendants, which might in turn require the displacement of Jews now occupying Palestinian land.'' However, this solution is ruled out, according to Neumann, by the inflexible nature of Israel. This does not mean, however, that in his view a single-state solution should be dismissed out of hand. ''. . . It simply means that solution is a very long-term project, depending on basic shifts in the Middle East balance of power as well as, one hopes, an eventual softening of Israeli attitudes.''
Meanwhile, Neumann urges that the intermediate step of a two-state solution in which the Palestinians would settle for a less-than-perfect status until conditions are right for the preferable democratic state with the full right of return for those who wish it. The reason why the present Israeli state would not accept a single-state secular democratic state Neumann says is that it would mean, in Israeli eyes, the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
A one-state solution does not just mean 'abandoning apartheid', as some claim. It means abandoning the core of Zionism, abolishing the sovereignty of Jews over Israel. Israel, the country, might still exist, but the Zionist project would vanish off the face of the earth. (Neumann 2)
The PLan of Dr. Salman Abut Sitta:: Implementing the Right of Return
Dr. Abu Sitta prefaces his plan for implementing the right of return of the Palestinian refugees with a terse review of the Israeli plan to eliminate or ''ethnically cleanse'' the Palestinian people, recounting the thirty-odd military operations all of which involved massacres. Civilians who returned to try to retrieve family members, belongings, of cattle were shot on sight as ''infiltrators,' hundreds of such cases were obseerved by UN truce observers. Dr. Abu Sitta recounts the plunder which took place in the aftermath of military assaults, especially in such cities as Haifa, Jaffa, Lydda, and Jerusalem, and the massive campaign of destruction which lasted over fifteen years and in which 53 percent of the 418 vollages surveyed were totally destroyed, 32 percent substantially destroyed and 12 percent partially destroyed. This campaign of destruction, the author states, was clearly aimed to prevent the return of the refugees.
Soon after the state of Israel was declared (May 14, 1948) and following the protest of UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte, who witnessed, by June 1948, the expulsion of about 500,000 refugees, the Provisional Government of Israel said it could not allow any refugees to return before a peace treaty was signed, on the pretext that these refugees would be a ''security threat.'' Even after the fighting stopped, Israel refused to re-admit the refugees, and it maintains this position in the international arena to this day. It does so even though Israel's admission to the UN in May 19949 was unique in that it is the only UN member whose admittance is ''conditional'' upon return of refugees (Resolution 194) and withdrawal to the lines of the partition plan (Resolution 181). (Abu Sitta 301)
Resettlement Plans (Sumary of Dr. Abu Sitta's plan)
Today, 88 percent of the refugees live in Palestine and environs: 46 percent in British Mandate Palestine, 42 percent in Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon, within a 100-mile radius of Israel. Only 12 p ercent reside further afield, equally divided between Arab and other countries. Their total number, according to 1998 figures, is 4.9 million, of which only 3.6 million are registered with the United Nations Relief and Workds Agency, the official body set up to care for the refugees. More than two-thirds of the Palestinian people are refugees. This situation is unique in modern history.
The proximity of the refugees and their unquenched desire to return explains the feverish Israeliattempts to bring in as many immigrants as possible from such diverse places as Ethiopia and Russia, just to fill the depopulated Palestinian locations. There are over three dozen such schemes--Israeli inspired and based on several false premises regarding the Palestinian people. 1) that the Palestinians are not a distinct people, 2) that they could and should live anywhere else, 3) that they have no rights to qualify them for return, 4) that their return is not physically possible, or 5) that their return is not desirable because it would threaten the ''Jewish character'' of Israel.
The latest edition of these schemes is a proposal made by Donna Arzt (Dr. Abu Sitta refers here to a book entitled Refugees into Citizens: Palestinians and the End of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (New York 1997) Although dressed in humanitarian garb, it is essentially a continuation of the ethnic-cleansing plan executed by Ben-Gurion, Weitzman, and Ariel Sharon. The plan calls for the transfer of 1.5 millin refugees to various parts of the world and the forced exile of several million others under a scheme of threats, coercion and bribiery. Former US President Bill Clinton's proposals, ''bridging'' or otherwise, at the final-status talks at Camp David in the summer of 2000 play the same theme with minor variations. All such schemes have failed, and they will continue to fail. Therefore, it becomes increasingly necessary to go back to basics and find creative solutions. First we must refute the Israeli taboo that the right of return is not possible.
Why Should the Refugees Return?
1) First it is perfectly legal in accordance with international law. UN Resolution 194 has been affirmed 135 times between 1948 and 2000.
2) The right of return is sacred to all Palestinians. 3) There is no acceptable reason why they should not return. The Israelis oppose return on the grounds that it will pollute the ''Jewish character'' of Israel and causeoutward emigration of Jews. They say it is impossible because the refugees villages have been largely destroyed and property boundaries lost. None of these claims stand serious scrutinyç
The Demographic Case
It is often claimed that there is no room in Israel for the refugees' return. Even if this were true, it would not diminish the fundamental right. In fact, it is not true. Previous studies on the subject can be summarized as follows:
It is possible to divide Israel's forty-six natural regions into 3 groups.
A) Group A, 1,628 square kilometers, has a Jewish population of jost over 3 million (67 percent of Israel's total Jewish population). this area is, roughly, the land acquired by Jews during the period of the British Mandate. Most Jewish settlement after the creation of the state centered around this earlier domicile.
B) Group B, 1,628 square kilomoetres, is almost the same size but not the same location of the land owned by the Palestinians who remained in Israel after the 1948 war (since 1948, Israel has confiscated two-thirds of the property of its Palestinian citizens). In group B there are 436,000 Jews, or 9.6 percent of all the Jews in Israel, along with 92,000 of Israel's Palestinian citizens. Thus, 77 percent of Jews live in 15 percent of Israel's area.
C) That leaves group C, 17,381 square kilometers, located in two large blocks, corresponding roughly to the Northern and Southern Districts as per Palestine and Israel's administrative divisions. This is the land and heritage of about 5 million refugees who were expelled from their homes in 1948 and their descendants. About a million Jews live in group C, but 80 percent of them live either in cities that were o riginally Palestinian and are now mixed, or in a number of small new ''development towns.'' These development towns, heavily populated by Sephardic Jews, or Mizrahi, are generally impoverished, with the highest unemployment rates and the lowest annual incomes in Israel; they are living proof of the country's ethnic segregation and discriminatory policies.
This leaves 200,000 rural Jews who exploit vast areas of refugee land (the remainder of the land is used for military purposes and afforestation). Most of these rural Jews (160,000) are residents of the moshavim (cooperative farms) and kibbutzim (collective farms). The kibbutz, which used to be the flagship of Zionism, is now dying out. Today only 8.6000 kibbutzniks live on agriculture, assisted by tens of thousands of hired laborers from Thailand, an ironic subversion of Zionist doctrine, which prohibited the employment of non-Jewish (especially Palestinian) labor.
Thus the rights of 5 million refugees are pitted against the prejudices of 8,600 kibbutzniks.
To illustrate the point further, consider this scenario: If/when the registered refugees in Lebanon (362,ooo) return to their homes in Galilee (still largely Arab) and the registered refugees in Gaza (759,000) return to their homes in the Southern District (now largely empty; rural Jewish density is 6 persons per square kilometer, compared with 5,5000 persons per square kilometer in Gaza), there will be negligible effect on Jewish density in group A and Jews will retain numerical majority in A, B, and C
The number of Russian immigrants is equal to the number of refugees from Lebanon and Gaza combined. If the Russians had not immigrated and these 1 million refugees had been allowed to return home, Israel would have its present density. Instad, immigrants were admitted to Israel while the rightful owners of the land have not been allowed to return to their homes.
Restoration of Palestinian Villages
Another Israeli claim is that all village traces are lost and have been built over by housing for new immigrants. Again, even if this were true, it would not undermine the right of return: property robbery does not grant a title deed. However, the claim is false.
In Figures II and III on pages 306-7, all the existing built-up areas in Israel today have been plotted and superimposed on them are the sites of 530 towns and villages depopulated by the Israelis in 1948. The striking result is that the sites of the absolute majority of such villages are still vacant All village sites, except one each in the subdistricts of Safad, Acre, Tiberias and Nazareth, are vacant. . . . .
However, well over 90 percent of the refugees could return to empty sites. Of the small number of affected village sites, 75 percent are located on land totally owned by Aras and 25 percent on Palestinians land in which Jews have a share. Only 27 percent of the villages affected by new Israeli construction have a p resent population of more than 10,000. The rest are much smaller.
The accommodation of the returning refugees from the affected villages is fairly simple, at least from an operational point of view; they could retain the property rights and grant a forty-nine year lease to existing occupants, most of which are institutions. Meanwhile, they could rent or build housing for themselves in the vicinity.
In the interest of time, I have made photocopies of the entire article. Dr. Abu Sitta discusses the problems of agriculture and water rights, showing that Palestinian farmers have been able to produce the famous Jaffa oranges, grapes, and olives far more economically than the intensive irrigation dependent Israeli land use. In addition he disposes of the ''Jewish character'' argument by quoting the noted jurists Thomas and Sally Mallison who pointed out that the term '' the Jewish character'' is really a euphemism for the Zionist discriminatory statutes of the State of Israel which violate the human rights provisions of the Partition Resolution . . . The United Nations is under no more of a legal obligation to maintain Zionism in Israel than it is to maintain apartheid in the Republic of South Africa.'' The US State Department (and President Bush's recent capitulation to Ariel Sharon may have vitiated this statement) rejected any special meaning for the Jewish citizens of Israel by stating that it ''does not recognize the legal-political relationship based on the religious identitification of American citizens . . . . Accordingly it should be clear that the Department of State does not regard the 'Jewish people' concept as a concept of international law.'
Conclusion: When I heard Dr Abu Sitta present this proposal in Amman several years ago, I was astonished at its naturalness. It would solve so many problems, especially it would assuage the outrage of the Palestinian people who have for over fifty years suffered the cruelties of dispossession and homelessness, poverty, hunger, humiliation, hopelessness--This is the real solution to the problem of terrorism.
I think the Jewish character of Israel would be infinitely more acceptable, more winning of sympathy on a global scale, if the Jewish state were seen as facing the injustice they have committed against the Palestinian people, making restitution, and recognizing that (as Roberta Strauss Feuerlicht says) being Jewish should mean being just, not being guilty of genocide. The most breathtaking part of Dr. Abu Sitta's proposal is that it could be implemented NOW. Both Israelis and Palestinians agree that there can be no peace without a resolution of the refugee problem, Abu Sitta says, adding that there would be room for the returning refugees in a land that is relatively underpopulated today, . . . .such a peaceful resolution should be highly desirable. ''In its absorption capacity, it should give priority to those who are lawfully qualified to return, not those who bring seeds of confilct and war. Priority should be given to those who own, not those who conquer.
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