FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Palestinians and the Right of Return

by ISSAM MUFID NASHASHIBI

Last Friday Palestinian Minister for Planning and International Cooperation, Nabil Shaath, told reporters in Beirut that “politically, the only solution is through the right to return,” and that “there is place for all the Palestinians of Lebanon in Gaza, Tulkarm or Qalqilya, but their homes are elsewhere.”

Shaath’s statement may mollify his Lebanese and Palestinian audience by saying what they wanted to hear.

That brought out Israel’s ire and an almost immediate reaction to it by Nabil Amr, Palestinian Information Minister that a ‘pragmatic solution’ in negotiations with Israel will have to be found. “The right of return issue will be solved only in agreement with Israel. We will not harm the Jewish character of the state of Israel and the solution will therefore be pragmatic,” Amr said to Israeli Army radio.

What Amr may be referring to is the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) solution for the Palestinian refugees which was developed by Donna Arzt in her 1996 CFR-published book “Refugees into Citizens: Palestinians and the End of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.” In it, Ms. Arzt proposes that Palestinians be “absorbed” by the states in which they reside, except for a maximum of 75,000 refugees from Lebanon to return to Israel if they can prove that they resided there before 1948, still have close relatives living in Israel and agree to live there in peace: i.e. a few senior citizen who would not reproduce and die within twenty years.

The book claims that Israel would accept this “symbolic” return without having to admit responsibility for the refugee problem because it will be positioned as part of a “regional absorption” effort while giving the Arab states the political cover to assert that Israel has already complied with UN resolution 194.

CFR’s Richard W. Murphy, found “empirical” evidence to support this solution and thus enthusiastically endorsed a recent opinion survey, conducted by Khalil Shikaki, on the Palestinian right of return claiming that only 10% of the refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria would return to Israel.

Shikaki’s survey seems to be the latest attempt at managing the expectations of Palestinians about their right of return; a basic human right guaranteed by international law and UN resolution 194 that Israel had accepted as a condition of its entry in the UN.

This expectation management effort appears to be aimed at recovering from the failure of the two most recent similar projects, which are the Ayalon-Nusseibeh agreement, and a 2001 survey of Palestinian refugee attitudes on permanent status by Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information (IPCRI).

In late 2001, the former head of the infamous Israeli secret police, Ami Ayalon, and Sari Nusseibeh, the past Palestinian Authority representative in Jerusalem agreed to, and promoted, the notion that a two state solution denies Palestinians the right to return to their homes within Israel. Understandably, this individual agreement met refugee opposition and failed to manage their expectations.

The IPCRI venture did not hide its objective to “manage the expectations of Palestinian refugees.” IPCRI undertook a yearlong initiative including “48 Town Meetings in nine refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza.” Instead of “managing” refugee expectations, the August 2001 survey results showed overwhelming support for international legitimacy as the basis for negotiating the refugee problem and that ‘compensation’ is not a substitute for the right of return.

As public opinions on such a basic issue do not normally change to the extreme opposite in such a short time and without a major political shock to society, Shikaki’s poll results are therefore rendered very unconvincing. No wonder Palestinian refugee groups, including 95 refugee groups in Lebanon, rejected the survey results vociferously.

As an individual who has commissioned and designed market research surveys, it is obvious to me that the purported poll outcome is a direct result of questions that were composed to guide the respondent’s answers towards a specific outcome.

In defending his methodology, Mr. Shikaki opined that although the respondents were not restricted to the survey’s prepared answers, they nevertheless chose to stay with the pre-arranged answers, which did not offer the right of return to Israel as an option. He should be the first to know that people who chose to “cooperate” with a survey tend to respond to questions and are not inclined to provide “creative” answers, especially where declaring a politically charged opinion may lead to an indictment for incitement.

Another indicator of the pre-judged survey outcome is that the poll ignores the opinions of diaspora Palestinians not living in refugee camps because the survey assumed they “self-absorbed” in the societies in which they reside and would not wish to return.

To the Arab media, Mr. Shikaki justified his survey design because it strictly measures refugee reactions to the January 2001 tentative “Taba Agreement.” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. An agreement that, like Arzt’s CFR solution, pays lip service to UN resolution 194 by calling for Palestinian refugees to return to a Palestinian state, while a nominal few return to Israel.

Contradicting himself, Mr. Shikaki wrote in a July 30, 2003 Wall Street Journal opinion that his survey indicates that Palestinians reject the right of return to their homes in Israel and “favor identity over land and legacy.” His conclusion is based on a false premise that a two state solution “logically” implies “a division of the people [of mandatory Palestine] with some becoming Israeli and others Palestinian.”

The Shikaki survey is the latest inherently racist effort at rejecting Palestinian rights in favor of an exclusively Jewish state. It is destined to join its predecessors, including denying the existence of Palestine or the Palestinians. The demise of the right of return will prove to be, like the premature report of Mark Twain’s death, exaggerated.

ISSAM MUFID NASHASHIBI, US Director of Deir Yassin Remembered , is a Palestinian-American freelance writer on Israel/Palestine issues who can be reached at inashashibi@hotmail.com

 

February 10, 2016
Rob Hager
How Hillary Clinton Co-opted the Term “Progressive”
Lawrence Ware
If You Hate Cam Newton, It’s Probably Because He’s Black
Jesse Jackson
Starving Government Creates Disasters Like Flint
Bill Laurance
A Last Chance for the World’s Forests?
Gary Corseri
ABC’s of the US Empire
Chris Martenson
The Return of Crisis: Everywhere Banks are in Deep Trouble
Frances Madeson
The Pain of the Earth: an Interview With Duane “Chili” Yazzie
Binoy Kampmark
The New Hampshire Distortion: The Primaries Begin
Andrew Raposa
Portugal: Europe’s Weak Link?
Binoy Kampmark
The New Hampshire Distortion: the Primaries Begin
Wahid Azal
Dugin’s Occult Fascism and the hijacking of Left Anti-Imperialism and Muslim Anti-Salafism
February 09, 2016
Andrew Levine
Hillary Says the Darndest Things
Paul Street
Kill King Capital
Ben Burgis
Lesser Evil Voting and Hillary Clinton’s War on the Poor
Paul Craig Roberts
Are the Payroll Jobs Reports Merely Propaganda Statements?
Fran Quigley
How Corporations Killed Medicine
Ted Rall
How Bernie Can Pay for His Agenda: Slash the Military
Neve Gordon
Israeli Labor Party Adopts the Apartheid Mantra
Kristin Kolb
The “Great” Bear Rainforest Agreement? A Love Affair, Deferred
Joseph Natoli
Politics and Techno-Consciousness
Hrishikesh Joshi
Selective Attention to Diversity: the Case of Cruz and Rubio
Stavros Mavroudeas
Why Syriza is Sinking in Greece
David Macaray
Attention Peyton Manning: Leave Football and Concentrate on Pizza
Arvin Paranjpe
Opening Your Heart
Kathleen Wallace
Boys, Hell, and the Politics of Vagina Voting
Brian Foley
Interview With a Bernie Broad: We Need to Start Focusing on Positions and Stop Relying on Sexism
February 08, 2016
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Privatization: the Atlanticist Tactic to Attack Russia
Mumia Abu-Jamal
Water War Against the Poor: Flint and the Crimes of Capital
John V. Walsh
Did Hillary’s Machine Rig Iowa? The Highly Improbable Iowa Coin Tosses
Vincent Emanuele
The Curse and Failure of Identity Politics
Eliza A. Webb
Hillary Clinton’s Populist Charade
Uri Avnery
Optimism of the Will
Roy Eidelson Trudy Bond, Stephen Soldz, Steven Reisner, Jean Maria Arrigo, Brad Olson, and Bryant Welch
Preserve Do-No-Harm for Military Psychologists: Coalition Responds to Department of Defense Letter to the APA
Patrick Cockburn
Oil Prices and ISIS Ruin Kurdish Dreams of Riches
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange, the UN and Meanings of Arbitrary Detention
Shamus Cooke
The Labor Movement’s Pearl Harbor Moment
W. T. Whitney
Cuba, War and Ana Belen Montes
Jim Goodman
Congress Must Kill the Trans Pacific Partnership
Peter White
Meeting John Ross
Colin Todhunter
Organic Agriculture, Capitalism and the Parallel World of the Pro-GMO Evangelist
Ralph Nader
They’re Just Not Answering!
Cesar Chelala
Beware of the Harm on Eyes Digital Devices Can Cause
Weekend Edition
February 5-7, 2016
Jeffrey St. Clair
When Chivalry Fails: St. Bernard and the Machine
Leonard Peltier
My 40 Years in Prison
John Pilger
Freeing Julian Assange: the Final Chapter
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail