To be sure, the implementation of this Return Plan shall encounter many difficulties, most are readily solvable. The rewards however far outweigh any cost and sacrifices likely to be made. Indeed the return would discharge the old debt of 53 years of war, strife and suffering and bring an era of permanent peace.
The essential point to remember is that we are here talking about rights, not politics, about inalienable non-negotiable rights, not about political bargaining, about fundamental freedom, not about territory or sovereignty.
The right to return home is akin to the right to live, work, get education, speak and worship freely. The question therefore is not a matter of compromise or political bargaining which does not infringe on basic rights. Political rights may be won or lost, but Inalienable Rights are intrinsic.
Even so, it is possible to argue that the return is practical, possible and politically necessary because it can bring peace and, more importantly, can avert war.
In the domain of practical considerations, it is possible to argue that the return is practical, possible and politically necessary because it can bring peace and, more importantly, can avert war.
First: The problem of water. No matter who will live in Palestine/Israel in the 21st century, there will be a severe water shortage. It has already been shown that Israel has exhausted all available water resources at 2,000 million cubic metres per year, more than two-thirds of it is illegally seized Arab water. With the increase of population, there will be two ways to acquire more water: by war or in peace. If more Jewish immigrants are brought to Israel in the absence of peace, Israel may be tempted to occupy Syria and Lebanon and seize their water resources. We know the folly of this adventure, but some Israeli leaders may not. On the other hand, if the refugees return and true peace based on international law prevails, then all kinds of regional agreements with open borders and free movement may be possible. It is worthwhile noting that neither desalination, treatment of used water or importing water from Turkey will be sufficient to solve the water problem.
Second, Israel’s claim that old boundaries are lost, or that the country is full, has been shown to be patently false. Retaining a Jewish majority at all times and in all places is shown to be a pipe dream. The only way to achieve this Jewish majority at all times is to keep shrinking the land under Jewish possession. That is the price one pays for exclusivity.
With that goes the fanciful idea of a homogenous Jewish society. None other than Sharon admits that immigrants speak 60 languages and come from 130 countries, united only in their enmity of the Arabs, a less than noble objective.
The fanciful idea of a homogenous Jewish society is another myth. None other than Sharon admits that Jewish immigrants in Israel speak 82 languages and come from 102 countries, united only in their enmity of the Arabs, a less than noble objective.
On the practical side, it is shown that there is enough Palestinian labour to complete the refugees’ rehabilitation process. The construction activity will act as a major generator for the economy at least for the first 10 years. Not only can it be funded by reparations, donations and investments, but the absorption of new labour would greatly increase GDP for the new Palestine. Israel is in need of about 500,000 foreign labour; now it employs 300,000 foreign workers.When peace prevails, the labour for building the future is available.
Israel has an ambitious plan for the 21st Century. Israel’s master plan for the year 2020 envisages a GDP of $220 billion, more than double the present. To do that, Israel needs a workforce of 3,200,000, of which only a tiny minority are employed in agriculture (2% or 60,000), almost the same number as of today. Its growth is envisaged in areas other than agriculture, such as industry and infrastructure.
The booming high-tech industry in Israel is part of the globalization process. Almost half of Israel high-tech companies are registered in the US. They could be anywhere, in an industrial park in Haifa or on an aircraft carrier. Globalized high-tech is non-territorial. It does not contradict in any way with the return of the refugees.
The returning labour will be needed to develop the infrastructure in the new country which is both needed when peace prevails.
It is abundantly clear that the ambitious Israeli master plan of 2020 does need the cooperation of its neighbours. All the various scenarios in the plan point out that Israel is bursting and it needs proper channels to release its force. War generals may be tempted to do this by military force which will be disastrous for all concerned. The other alternative would be a true and just peace. Replaying another Oslo will be a disaster. A cornerstone of this peace is the return of the refugees.
When the refugees return, they can revive the agriculture and make use of wasted resources of land and water, which is theirs in the first place. They will augment or replace only 60,000 agricultural labour in Israel, mostly foreign anyway, in addition to only 8,600 kibbutz farmers.
The refugees can generate 1,000,000 workers at the present level of participation, which could be doubled to match Israel’s participation. This will be essential for further development of the infrastructure, trade, hospitality and services which account for 61% of the GDP producing labour for the new Palestine.
Therefore there is no economic reason to deny the right of the refugees to return.
[Right-wing Israelis see in the Haredim and Israeli Palestinians, 2 million out of the total 6, an obstacle to the development of Israel. They propose to strengthen the elite part of the society (Ashkenazi) and shake off the burden of weaker segments of society. Their solutions range from penalizing large families, cutting aid and welfare to the infamous “Transfer” plans of Arabs. This is the wholemark of a racist society, bent on planning and executing ethnic cleansing in total contempt of international law. This will have no future.] Having reviewed geographic, agricultural, demographic and economic aspects of the refugees return, we cannot find a logical or practical reason for the denial of the Right of Return.
It is absolutely clear that the only remaining obstacle to permanent peace is Israel’s racist policies. These policies have not been implemented as a single event in 1948, they have been practised ever since. It is a sad reflection on the Israeli state of mind, when the learned professionals of Israel come up with ethnic cleansing or apartheid policies as the only way to ensure their own view of Israel’s future. This is an explosive formula which is likely to bring total destruction of the region.
They will not prevail. The only way for Israelis to live in peace is to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict forever. This can never be without justice. Force is likely to win wars but will never win permanent peace. International law, Israel’s geography and demography will not enable Israel to prevail by force in the long term.
If Israeli leaders (and indeed society) come to their senses, they will realize that the much-coveted ‘peace’ can only be achieved through justice. This then will be peace for all time.
One particularly sad example of such mentality is what the poet Ilan Sheinfeld wrote:
We will not go away. We will not leave this place. Not Jaffa, not Acre, not Nazareth, not Givat Shaml B, which was one Deir Yassin and not Ein Hod, which was one Ein Haud. We will not give you back your land. We will not give back the houses you abandoned in the 1948 war, and we will not grant you your right of return, because your right of return is our eviction. And we no longer have any place to go.” (my italics).
These are honest words in that they describe the Israeli state of mind, and admit the take-over of the Palestinians’ land and homes. The refusal to give them back is based on the fear of ‘eviction’ of Jews in which case, it is claimed, they will have no place to go to.
If there is any conclusion to be drawn from this paper, it is that the return of the refugees does not require ‘eviction’ of the Jews. And, it is the Palestinians who have no where else to go, as has been demonstrated in the last 53 years. It is the Jews, who come from 102 countries, many carry double nationality, are the ones who see in Israel a second home, an insurance against possible bad times.
It is indeed amazing that Israelis, who appeal to the sense of justice in the West for the atonement of past evil deeds and for moral and material compensation for the injustice inflicted upon them should at once resort to pure force and bloodshed in Palestine to deny the right of Palestinians to return to their homes and property. This indeed is and has been a recipe for perpetual war and suffering.
The only way for Israelis to live in peace is to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict forever. This can only be with justice. Force is likely to win wars but will never win permanent peace. International law, Israel’s geography and demography will not enable Israel to prevail by force in the long term. If Israeli leaders and society see their future in a non-military context, they will realize that the much-coveted ‘peace’ can only be achieved through justice. This then will be peace for all time.
The qualifications for a just peace is that Israel must shed its racist policies, must respect and adhere to international law, particularly Human Rights law. The return of the refugees to their homes becomes then a natural corollary. It can come about simply by removing the racist stigma from the Israeli Law of Return, which restricts its applicability to Jews or those who claim to be. It can come about by removing all vestiges of racism, exclusivity and apartheid from Israeli laws. Only then can Israel become a ‘normal’ country and cease to be the pariah of the world.
Israel must then dismantle its weapons of mass destruction as both unnecessary and dangerous. The funds now poured into destructive weapons and military hardware (highest percentage of GDP in the world) could be put into development projects.
The US and Europe must cease, in dealing with the Middle East, to base their policies on pressures from a vociferous minority or on grounds of political expediency. Europe must cease to pay for its guilt in the Second World War by Palestinian lives and blood. Otherwise, Europe will be morally obliged to atone for the same guilt twice. The US must see that its blind support for Israel brought war and destruction to the area and caused serious harm to its own interests.
Europe must cease to pay for its guilt in the Second World War by Palestinian lives and blood. Europe will then be required to atone for the same guilt twice.
This Return Plan is not Utopia. It is practical in absolute terms. All the short-cuts, all the forced solutions, all the military might, all the deception and misinformation campaigns, all the connivance of the politicians, have brought nothing but destruction of life and property. It has deprived the region of the tranquillity it deserves for over half a century. Now it is time to chart a new course, that of international law.
The return of the refugees may be a long way ahead, but it is the only way to reach a lasting peace. Let us make it short.