The question of the refugees, off the table during the Oslo years, has reasserted itself. Few Palestinians I spoke to believe they will return to their ancestral homes in Israel, but the right of return, inscribed in UN Resolution 194, is considered sacred, and the passions it stirs are more intense than ever. Several Palestinians told me they had no desire to return, but none would say it on record: ‘giving up the right of return’ – before Israel has even recognised it – is regarded by many as treason. ‘The right of return is a right,’ a friend in Nablus whose family is originally from Haifa explained, ‘so give me my right, and then let me decide how to implement it. I have made a life for myself in Nablus, and I don’t plan to return to Haifa, but I would like to take my children there. I am not talking about throwing the Jews into the sea.’ For many, perhaps most Palestinians, the right of return is now less about physical repatriation than about Israeli acknowledgment of the crimes of the Nakba and about reparations – and, just as important, about the restoration of their freedom of movement inside the entire country, regardless of whether it is called Israel or Palestine.
The idea of return is, of course, connected to nostalgia for the Palestine lost in 1948, and sharpened by Israel’s refusal to allow for the creation of a state on the 1967 lines. Gideon Levy, the columnist for Haaretz who has reported from the Occupied Territories for three decades, puts it very well: ‘If you don’t have hope, you go backwards in time and you start dreaming, even dreaming about something that isn’t a personal memory of yours.’ But in the Palestinian imagination the idea of return has always been not so much about reclaiming the past as redeeming it. It is about culture and honour as much as about politics, and to question it – or to appear to renege on it, as the Palestinian negotiators were revealed to be doing by al-Jazeera’s leaked Palestine Papers – is to question, even to deny, Palestinian identity.
On those remarks:
No Change in the Palestinian Position on the Right of Return, Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi, November 5, 2012, Jerusalem Issue Briefs, Vol. 12, No. 25
-Claims that Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas – in an interview with Israel’s Channel 2 TV on Nov. 2, 2012 – had apparently relinquished the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees are baseless in light of the clarifications provided by Abbas himself, in which he called the return a “sacred right” and affirmed his full commitment to the basic Palestinian positions.
-The gap between Israel and the Palestinians on the refugee question is unbridgeable. For the Palestinians, the right of return is a taboo matter that cannot be questioned. The formulation “a just and agreed solution based on Resolution 194″ does not imply a readiness for a possible Palestinian compromise. “Agreed” means compelling Israel to agree to implement the Palestinian demands for “justice.”...