By Salman Abu-Sitta
March 30, 2007
Why should I, a Jew from north London, be permitted to take up Israeli citizenship, when
that right is denied to a Palestinian who languishes in a refugee camp in Lebanon?
Especially when I acknowledge that a large majority of those that left in 1948 were
ethnically cleansed by Israeli forces.
Those are the words of Alex Stein, writing for Comment is free last week. A
commendable admission of injustice to Palestinians, you would say. But then he derives
conclusions that are contrary to this premise; that the right of a Palestinian to return to
his home is neither sacred, legal nor possible.
This split-personality theme has been infamously adopted by Benny Morris who pored
over hundreds of declassified Israeli files. Morris confirmed in minute detail that, in
1948, Israeli invasion forces committed massacres, expelled Palestinians, destroyed
their villages, looted their property, burnt their crops, poisoned their wells and shot on
the spot any Palestinian who tried to return to his home. Referring to the remaining
minority, Morris then solemnly declared that he was sorry that Ben Gurion “did not finish
Both Alex Stein and Menny Morris escape from the fact, slowly seeping into the western
conscience, that Palestinians were – and are today – subject to the most massive,
comprehensive, meticulously planned and executed and continuous ethnic cleansing
operation in modern history. This has long been denied by Israeli historians. A notable
exception is a brave and honest Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe.
The sensation created by Benny Morris’s revelation about al-Nakba, grudgingly
accepted by some Jews, is a stark measure of how the west was taken in by the Zionist
propaganda for several decades. The Palestinians do not know whether to laugh or cry,
for the “revelations” are only some of what they have been saying all along since 1948.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees gave graphic details of their plight but these were
dismissed by the Zionist Europeans as “a figment of oriental imagination” until an Israeli
historian found damning evidence in Israeli files.
Facts have a way of surfacing. The facts, documented on maps and records, show that
in 1948 Israelis depopulated the Palestinian inhabitants of 675 towns and villages, that
their land represents 93% of Israel’s area; that half of all the refugees have been
expelled in the last six weeks of the British Mandate, before the state of Israel was
declared and before any Arab regular soldier set foot on Palestine to save its people
from the invasion of Jewish European immigrants who had just waded into their shores
to build Israel on the ruins of Palestine.
What is more natural than a person returning to their home? If Stein does not believe
this is “sacred”, he has to ask 6 million Palestinian refugees (two-thirds of all
Palestinians) why are they still determined to fight for their right to return over a period
of six decades and through three generations and many wars. That the right of return
for Palestinians has been affirmed by the UN more than 130 times is enough to put this
matter to rest. No need to spill more ink on that score.
If defeated on both counts, Zionists usually resort to their last defence: that the right of
return is not possible to implement.
In a civilised society, if a crime is committed, its consequences must be reversed. The
criminal should not be rewarded, and his crime should not be forgiven or even
legitimised. The stolen property must be returned. Rights must be reinstated and
reparation paid for material losses.
This is what the international community insisted upon, sometimes using military force,
in implementing the return of refugees to Bosnia, Kosovo, Burundi, Cambodia, East
Timor, Georgia, Guatemala, Mozambique, Ruwanda, South Africa, Tajikistan, Iraq, Kuwait
This is also what the European Jews rightly got when they returned to their former
homes (if they so wished), recovered their property in Europe and received massive
amounts of compensation for their suffering during the second world war, without the
benefit of a single UN resolution.
The pretext that return is not possible because of the influx of Jewish immigrants to
Palestine to replace the expelled Palestinians is not a valid one, morally, legally or
politically. But we are spared the argument on this point. Here we have yet another one
of the misconceptions designed to mislead and misinform the western public. It is not
true that it is physically impossible to implement the right of return.
Palestine is the most documented among conflict-torn countries, certainly much more
than Bosnia and Kosovo. We have complete UN-documented ownership records of
every acre of land. Not a single Israeli Jew has an equivalent title deed after al-Nakba.
We have detailed maps of what every acre was, what it is today and can visualise what
it could/should be in the future.
We have a huge database of millions of Palestinians – where they come from in
Palestine, and where they are residing today, their family structure and their ages.
Today, 90% of them reside within 100 km of their homes, 50% within 40km and many can
actually see their home on the opposite hill.
That is not all. The refugees’ land is still sparsely populated. Eighty per cent of Israeli
Jews still live in the same area they acquired during the Mandate and a little more, but
15% of Israel in total. About 18% of the remaining 20% of the Jews live mostly in half a
dozen originally Palestinian or mixed cities, considerably enlarged. This leaves 2% of
Israeli Jews who are the members of Qibbutz and Moshav.
This small number of population, in addition to the army, use and control 85%-88% of
Israel’s area, which is the patrimony of 6 million Palestinian refugees. To take an
example, all the rural Jews in the southern district from Ashdod (Isdud) to Eilat (Umm
Rashrash) are less in number that one refugee camp in Gaza. Their density is six
persons per square kilometre while that of Gazapopulation – the owners of this very land
– is 6,000 per square kilometre. These owners of the land are held captive by the
occupier in a concentration camp called Gaza.
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