Shameless Hypocricy Watch: Rejecting Israel as a Jewish State / Paul Kujawsky

A single-minded focus on condemning Israel’s status as a Jewish state, when many other countries also have a national religion or ethnic identity, is hypocritical. But there is yet another form of hypocrisy connected with the “Jewish state” issue: rejecting Israel’s Jewish nature while claiming to favor a “two state solution” to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Here’s why: The Palestinians’ real objection to recognizing Israel as the state of the Jewish people is that such recognition would make obvious the absurdity and injustice of the so-called “Palestinian right of return,” i.e., the claim of millions of supposed Arab refugees to have a right to live in Israel.

Preliminarily, they are only “supposed” refugees, because under ordinary international law most of them are not refugees. The majority of them have never lived in what is now Israel. Rather, it is their parents, grandparents or great-grandparents who left Palestine during Israel’s 1948-49 War of Independence. In international law, refugee status is not inheritable—the descendents of refugees are not themselves refugees. Only the Palestinians enjoy an expansive definition of “refugee” that includes offspring born in other lands. As lucidly explained in the legal blog The Volokh Conspiracy:

During the Arab war of aggression, several hundred thousand Arabs left Israel. . . Except for Jordan, none of the Arab countries would grant them citizenship. Instead, the Arab governments decided to make them permanent refugees. . . . Today, many of the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of those Palestinians who left Israel in 1948 still live in refugee camps. They are the only refugee population in the world for whom the United Nations has actively prevented resettlement. . . .
The goal of UNHCR [United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees], in accordance with the 1951 Convention [on Refugees], is to help people stop being refugees. UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Work Agency, the Palestinian “refugee” agency] does just the opposite. For example, the 1951 Refugee Convention defines a "refugee" as a person who "is outside his/her country of nationality or habitual residence; has well-founded fear of persecution because of his/her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail himself/herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution."
The UNCHR definition means that, at the least, a refugee must be someone who has left his "country of nationality or habitual residence." . . . UNHCR’s common-sense definition of "refugee" is designed to identify true refugees, while preventing other people from making false claims about refugee status for political purposes. UNRWA works in exactly the opposite way, awarding refugee status to people who are not real refugees. . . . Similarly, UNRWA pretends that any descendant of a refugee is a refugee. By UNRWA’s theory, if your ancestors fled from someplace 150 years ago, then you are still a refugee. In fact, the descendants of many of the Arabs who chose to leave Israel after 1948 have permanently settled in other countries and become citizens. The largest number settled in Jordan, the only Arab country to grant them citizenship. Many others moved to Europe. Yet UNRWA still issues refugee cards to all of these people, and their children, and their children's children. In contrast, the 1951 Convention does not include any descendants of refugees—let along the third or fourth generation of descendants—as "refugees."
Similarly, the 1951 Convention specifies that if a refugee acquires a new nationality and the protection of a new government (e.g., a refugee from Russia becomes a U.S. citizen), she is no longer a refugee. In contrast, UNRWA claims that a "Palestinian refugee” who becomes a citizen of the United States, France, Jordan, or any other nation is still a "Palestinian refugee” forever—and so are his children, his grandchildren, and his great-grandchildren.

Thus, against logic and international law, there is a swelling, rather than diminishing, number of Palestinian “refugees.” Whether confined to miserable camps in Syria or Lebanon, or having achieved comfort in Jordan or the Gulf states, they assert—and the Palestinian Authority asserts on their behalf—the right to “return” to a land most of them have never set foot in—Israel.

This is war by demographics. If millions of Arabs were to settle in the Jewish state, the Jews could become a minority in their own country, politically dominated by the Palestinians. The result would then not be “two states for two peoples” (the Jews and the Palestinians), but “two states for one people” (the Palestinians).

There is no rational, neutral principle under which the Palestinians are entitled to national self-determination, but the Jews are not. But that would be the result of a Palestinian right of return.

Consequently, when Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas suggests that he is committed to the two-state solution, but at the same time asserts that the Palestinians will not give up the right of return (to Israel, not to the proposed Palestinian state)—he is contradicting himself.

Hamas head Khaled Mashal was more honest, if no less the enemy of peace, when he said: "We also reject the so-called ‘Jewishness’ of Israel, and we warn against any Palestinian or Arab leniency in this regard, because it will mean the denial of the right of six million Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.”

It needs to be understood once and for all that the purported Palestinian right of return is incompatible with a two-state solution; it is incompatible with peace; and those who demand it are not partners for peace, because they still cherish the hope of eliminating Israel.

Paul Kujawsky, LA Middle Eastern Policy Examiner

Paul Kujawsky's parents once were Communists, which tends to prove that insanity is not hereditary. Kujawsky is an attorney and political activist who examines Middle Eastern issues from a classical liberal democratic perspective--respect for the rights of the individual and belief in the...

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