This excellent article by Richard Cravatts in the American Thinker debunks the Palestinian moral and legal interpretation for an unqualified 'right of return', still being trumpeted by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. In fact, UN resolution 194, which makes the non-binding suggestion, was originally worded to refer to both Jewish and Arab refugees.
"There is some irony in the fact that the Palestinians have repeatedly violated both the spirit and intent of 194, that particular UN resolution containing a reference to concept of ‘return' to one's country, although two key points are characteristically ignored by those now pointing to this source as justification for their legal claim. First, Resolution 194 was the product of the UN General Assembly and "is an expression of sentiment and carries no binding force whatsoever," meaning that it is meant to make recommendations but not binding law. What it did suggest, however, was that "the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which . . . should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible."
According to the evaluation of law professor Ruth Lapidoth of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, this language precludes an interpretation of the UN resolution that supports a Palestinian claim for an unqualified right of return as opposed to a suggested one. "Though the Arab states originally rejected the resolution," she wrote (specifically because it would mean giving implicit recognition of the existence of Israel), "they later relied on it heavily and have considered it as recognition of a wholesale right of repatriation."
"But according to Professor Lapidoth, "this interpretation . . . does not seem warranted: the paragraph does not recognize any ‘right,' but recommends that the refugees ‘should' be ‘permitted' to return. Moreover, that permission is subject to two conditions -that the refugee wishes to return, and that he wishes to live at peace with his neighbors," something the Arab world, even now, has clearly never seen fit to do. And there is another significant aspect of the "refugee" problem from the 1940s that everyone demanding rights of return and reparations for Palestinian refugees conveniently forgets: some 800,000-900,000 Jews, some of whom had lived in Arab lands for 2000 years and were fully integrated into those societies, were expelled and all their wealth (estimated to be about ten times that of the Palestinians, estimated to be $100 billion) confiscated as the nascent Israel was being established.
So for observers like Professor Karsh, the recommendations of Resolution 194 "could as readily apply to the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were then being driven from Arab states in revenge for the situation in Palestine," and in fact were meant to, since the refugees mentioned in the resolution are purposely not defined as being either Arab or Jew. In fact, many diplomats and officials had anticipated an exchange of refugees, as has happened successfully in other similar social upheavals, where Palestinian refugees would have been absorbed in Arab states and Jewish refugees would have settled in Israel-exactly what happened to some 600,000 Jewish refugees from Arab lands."
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