Update: Blogger David Schraub has gone back to the original material and concludes that the Foreign Policy journalist who wrote the story - Josh Rogin - made up the bit about the 'right of return', thus worryingly misrepresenting the issue as soon as it has gained prominence. He has emailed Rogin for confirmation. Watch this space.
We must be making progress when a senior White House official airs his views about the 'Jewish refugee issue'. He says that their 'right of return' should be on the table. Unfortunately, Ben Rhodes has got it backwards: Jewish refugees claim no such right, and neither should Palestinians. The Cable has the story:
The right of Jews to return to the Arab and predominantly Muslim countries they fled from or were kicked out of over several decades could be "on the table" as part of the Middle East peace negotiations, according to a senior White House official.
Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security advisor for communications and President Barack Obama's chief speechwriter on foreign policy, talked about what's known as the "Jewish right of return" during an off-the-record conference call with Jewish community leaders on May 20, only one day after Obama's major speech on the Middle East. A recording of the call was provided to The Cable.
In response to a question asking why there is a great deal of focus on the Palestinian refugee issue but almost no focus on the Jews who departed Arab lands, Rhodes declared that the Israelis and Palestinians should negotiate on the Jewish right of return to Arab and Muslim countries and that the United States could play in role in mediating that issue.
Here's the full exchange:
"While Palestinian refugees have concerns that are understandable and need to be dealt with in the peace process, there was no reference in the president's speech to the approximately one million Jewish refugees that emerged from the same Middle East conflict. I'm talking about Jews from Arab and Muslim countries who were forced out of their homelands where they had lived for centuries," said B'nai B'rith International Director of Legislative Affairs Eric Fusfield.
"The international community has never acknowledged their rights and their grievances," Fusfield continued, "[C]an the U.S., as the peace process move forward, play a role in advancing the rights and concerns of these Jewish refugee groups and help ensure that as refugee issues are dealt with... that the focus will not just be on one refugee group but on all refugee groups emerging from the same conflict?"