Suspend Israeli UN Membership Until ...
The following is a talk given by Michael Warschawski at The Haifa
Conference for the Right of Return (June 20-21, 2008)
A Practical Suggestion on the
Palestinian Right to Return
Before dealing with the topic of the Palestinian refugees and the
Right of Return, I would like to say a few words following the
interesting remarks of my friend Omar Barghouti on the issue of "one
democratic state." In my opinion, the core of our discussions should
not be about solutions and models, but values and rights. In that
perspective, one has to unequivocally reject the very idea (and
existence) of a Jewish state, whatever will be its borders. For a
Jewish state (in the demographic sense of the concept) necessarily
implies the drive for exclusion and expulsion. Any ethnic (or
confessional) state considers the non-dominant ethnicity as a threat,
and aspires to its disappearance through more or less violent means.
As former Yugoslavia and Rwanda have tragically shown, ethnic states
are always both the cause and the result of mass-expulsions and
massacres, and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1947-1949 is one
among many examples of that historical phenomenon.
Our conception of democracy is based on a state of and for all its
citizens (and refugees), with no discrimination based on ethnic,
national or religious belonging, a state where all the cultural or
national groups comprising its society are treated in an equal manner.
Ultimately, a Jewish state is also a tragedy for the Israeli Jews, as
it implies a closed society, doomed to decline as all closed
societies throughout history. The development of civilizations has
always been the result of openness, inter-and multi-culturalism and
exchange. Moreover, the drive to maintain the "ethnic purity" of its
state renders the Israeli society a paranoid entity. Fighting
the "Jewish State" conception and institutions is a duty, independent
of the political structure of the solution we defend.
Let's address the issue of the Right of Return, the core issue of the
so-called Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In the last decade, a new approach to deal with the issue of
Palestinian refugees has been suggested, primarily by the Zionist
Left. It is a sort of compromise based on the separation between the
Right of Return and the actual return of refugees. According to
this "compromise," Israel will repent its sins of 1948 and formally
recognize the Right of Return of the Refugees, and, in exchange, the
Palestinians will renounce their Right of Return. What a deal!
This compromise is obviously unacceptable, including from a mere
juridical point of view: the right of a refugee to return home is non-
negotiable, individual and heritable, quite similar to property
rights under capitalism. Neither the PLO nor the United Nations can
bargain away the individual rights of the Palestinian refugees.
The immorality of a deal in which Israel will recognize a right in
exchange for the renouncement by the victims to implement that right
is so blatant that the US mediators have required a "symbolic
implementation" (of a few thousand old people) that Israel will be
able to describe as "humanitarian family reunification."
But-and this is not less important-such a deal is not good for the
Israelis either. The existence of the Palestinian refugees is the
core factor in the Israeli mental disorder and neurosis of Israeli
society's collective psyche. Consciously or not, Israeli society is
haunted by the ghosts of the Naqba, and the brutality-domestic
violence as well as the violence directed toward its Arab
surroundings-of Israeli behavior, is the result of a permanent fear.
Not the fear of the Arab armies, nor the fear of the alleged Iranian
nuclear armament, but the fear of the ghosts of 1948, the refugees.
Deals can work on diplomatic arrangements, but they will never work
on the sub-conscious. This is precisely why the return of the
Palestinian refugees-or their possibility to return, if they so wish-
is the only way to liberate Israeli society from its structural
anxiety, because only such a return-and not a fictional "recognition
of the right of return without return"-will end the existence of the
Palestinian refugee as a refugee. As long as there will be even one
single refugee, Israeli society will continue to be haunted by guilt
To conclude, I have a practical suggestion. In order to be accepted
as a member state in the United Nations, in 1949, Israel was required
to endorse General Assembly Resolution 194, which recognizes the
right of return of the Palestinian refugees and commits itself to the
return of all "the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live
at peace with their neighbours" (700,000 in total at the time), to
its sovereign territory.
Israel accepted, was made a member state and immediately after
announced it has no intention of implementing the UN resolution. The
Palestinian national movement and the international solidarity
movement should initiate a long-term campaign for the suspension of
Israeli membership in the United Nations until Israel complies with
its formal commitment concerning the return of the refugees. Such a
campaign will again put the refugee issue in its legitimate place, at
the core of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute and the heart of its
a Project of
The Middle East Crisis Committee, P.O. Box 3626, Woodbridge, CT
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