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The right of return for Jewish refugees

Israeli voices are calling for the right of return for Jewish people to their "historic homeland" and say that the time has come for them to return and be compensated for their suffering throughout the ages. They also say that the despair and misery suffered by the Jews, as well as the massacres and pogroms, particularly in Europe and Russia, have made the Jewish people the most challenged and tried of all, and so they must be looked upon with sympathy and mercy.

Such people believe that it is their right to restore their lost land, reclaim their former glory and rebuild their kingdom in the Promised Land. This was chosen for them by God, says the Jewish narrative, and was blessed by Prophet Jacob (known as Israel), who gained this blessing from God for himself and his people, and who was promised that they would live in the Holy Land and would not be deprived of this blessing; they would not have any enemies in this land that would be their country, the home of their temple and their kingdom in which they would feel safe and live peacefully. However, this was all promised on the condition that they would be strong and protect the land and be a "light unto the nations".

Israelis today believe that they have grown stronger and that they are unbeatable; it is easy for them to declare their ambitions, announce their goals and take the necessary measures to migrate from all over the world to the Promised Land, even though they lost the land because they failed to meet the conditions of God's promise. Nevertheless, they are convinced that they have the "right to return" to this land whenever they wish and no one has the right to protest or prevent them from doing so.

These are not the ideas of right-wing Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman alone; he is not the only delusional individual in Israel, despite being the boldest and least diplomatic in voicing his extremist views. However, he is clear and frank and speaks in the name of many Jews, both in occupied historic Palestine and abroad. He speaks on their behalf and expresses their positions in demanding that the world support their ambitions, believe in their desires, enable him and his people to realise their goals, and confront those who protest against their migration and deny their ownership of the land. Lieberman believes that the Jews are the rightful owners of the whole land and sanctities.

The Arabs must know that the Israelis will not only be satisfied with Palestinian recognition of the alleged Jewish nature of the state, but will also demand that the Arab countries compensate the Jewish people who left Arab countries to live there. They will soon find themselves required by the world and before international judicial bodies and international law institutions to compensate the Arab Jews for their suffering, property and rights they abandoned in order to move to Israel since 1948. The Arabs will be held morally responsible for the Jewish people who later became soldiers in the Israeli army and participated in killing and torturing of their Arab fellow citizens.

An official Israeli document estimates the number of Jews who left Arab countries at 800,000; it is claimed that they meet the legal definition of refugees, and the document describes Jews who left the Arab world in the period between November 1947 and 1968 as such.

Moreover, the document also says that these Jews left a lot of their possessions in Arab and Islamic countries, and were forced to leave. The value of the possessions lost by Palestinian refugees is estimated at around $450 million at the time that the ethnic cleansing started in 1948, with a current value of about $3.9 billion; the claimed equivalent figures for the Jews from Arab countries are $700 million and $6 billion.

I am not surprised that the demand to recognise the Jewishness of Israel is being brought up now, as it is an ideological and religious demand before a political or national one. Israel wants explicit, public and official recognition by the Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims in order to legitimise the state and preserve the right of the Jews to "return" to Palestine and live there. At the same time, the Israelis want to strip Palestinian Christians and Muslims of their right to their land and deny that Palestine is their homeland and the first direction of prayer for the Muslims. Instead, they want the Arabs and Muslims to admit that Palestine is the Jewish homeland and the site of their temple, and that it is the land of the Israelite kings and prophets.

Our greatest crime would be to listen to them, express a willingness to come to an understanding, or sit with them at the negotiations table to reach a middle-ground solution or acceptable "peace" formula. In doing so, we would be agreeing to their claims, accepting their myths and failing to protest against their plans to expel the Arabs and achieve the "transfer" of all of the remaining Palestinians from historic Palestine. That is what would happen if the Palestinian leadership recognises Israel as the "Jewish state", and accepts that the land belongs to the Jewish people and only the Jewish people, as the Zionists assert. At that point, we could not protest if the Israelis expel anyone who is not Jewish from the land or demand that they leave.

The Palestinians must be careful not to make such a move or even think about it. The Arabs must preserve the Palestinians' right to the land and prevent them from becoming weak. They must not allow the Israelis to infringe on the rights of the Palestinians or push them into a corner and force their opinion on them. Palestine is a religious endowment for the Muslims, and an Arab and Muslim issue, so it is incumbent on all Arabs and Muslims to reject Israeli pressure on this matter.

Accepting Israeli demands as legitimate would be treachery on a national scale as well as blasphemy and a major crime. It would sell Palestine and the Palestinians and relinquish their legitimate claim to the land. It would also be a betrayal of the past generations who gave their lives and sacrificed for the sake of Palestine.

The author is a Palestinian writer. This is a translation of the Arabic text published by Quds net on 17 February, 2014

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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