Elias Davidsson, April 1990
The decision of the State of Israel to promote the massive influx of Soviet citizens to the Middle-East has drawn critical responses by many countries, East and West, by the PLO and by the Arab League. While the condemnation of settling Soviet jews in Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 is quasi universal, there is no agreement about the right of Soviet Jews to settle in Israel proper.
A Palestinian nationalist from Jerusalem, Mr. Faisal Husseini, is quoted as saying: “Whoever wants to come to Israel, it is Israel’s problem to absorb, but not in the West Bank, Gaza or East jerusalem. That is where we want to solve the problems of our refugees, our people in the Diaspora”. Mr. Gerard Collins, President-in-Office of the Council of Ministers of the European Community, said in an official statement issued on the 2d of April 1990 that the EC “welcomes the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate to Israe1.”
Such statements are throwing doubts among Israelis, Palestinians and the world community about the relevance of UN Resolutions and the authority of international law as a base for orderly and peaceful resolutions of conflicts.
The legality of Jewish immigration into Israel is questionable for two fundamental reasons:
a. The areas to which most immigrants to Israel are assigned, are, strictly speaking, areas occupied by Israel in 1948, that is outside the boundaries allotted to the Jewish state by UN resolution 181 of 29th of November 1947. These areas – parts of the Galilee and the Negev, Jaffa, Jerusalem, etc – were to be included in the Palestinian Arab state. The only legal base for the State of Israel – and for that matter also the State of Palestine – is UN resolution 181, where the boundaries and the constitutional character of these states are defined. According to UN resolutions, which have not been challenged until today, Israel is legally the Occupying Power of the above areas and the IV. Geneva Convention applies also there. Israel has therefore no right to settle aliens in these areas.
b. When admitted to the United Nations Organization, Israel stated that it would honor and respect its obligations towards the UN Charter and UN resolutions. One of those obligations was to respect the right of return of Palestinian Arabs to their homeland, in accordance with resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948. Israel has not only refused to respect this right but has done everything that it could to undermine the future application of this right, by destroying most of the refugees’ villages, killing returnees and settling Jewish immigrants on refugees’ land.
At his address to the Socialist members of the European Parliament, September 13, 1988, President Arafat said: “International legitimacy is an indivisible whole and no one can choose to accept only what suits him and discard what does not.”
In its “Political Communique” issued also on 15 November 1988, the Palestinian National Council affirmed “the determination of the PLO to arrive at a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict […] in such a manner that safeguards the Palestinian Arab people’s rights to return, to self-determination, and the establishment of their independent national state on national soil.”
The General Assembly of the United Nations has endorsed on Dec. 6, 1989, with an overwhelming majority of 151 states, the principles for a comprehensive peace in Palestine, including the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland, in accordance with UN Resolution 194 and subsequent resolutions.
Both the Israeli government, as a Member State of the United Nations and the PLO, as the sole and legitimate representative of the Palestinian people have to respect international law and resolutions. Neither the PLO nor the international community are empowered to take away an inalienable right possessed by people. The right of return of people to their homeland is by definition an inalienable right which transcends political considerations.
Statements such as quoted above by Faisal Husseini and the European Community are not helpful, for they throw doubt and entertain illusions. The international community cannot and will certainly not accept the disposal of this right for reasons of expediency for it would undermine the respect for the Human Rights Charter and the authority of the United Nations Organization.
In the light of considerations of international law and as a contribution for justice and peace, it might be worthwhile for the international community to consider linking the right of Israel to accept foreign immigrants, Jews or others, to its implementation of UN Resolutions 181 and 194. When Israel accepts to abide by these resolutions, the world community could recognize Israel’s sovereignty in accordance with UN resolutions and the UN Charter and accept Israel’s right to accept immigrants on a non-discriminating basis into its internationally recognized boundaries.
A personal note
I, the author of the above lines, am born in Palestine in 1941 of German Jewish refugees. My life brought me to Iceland, where I have been living for 26 years [Since 2008 I live in Germany]. My concern for my homeland has accompanied me since I left it as a young boy. I believe that peace in my homeland must be based on two key concepts: Justice and reconciliation.
While Palestinians are being kept in exile and in refugee camps and denied their basic right to return to their homeland, there cannot be peace. This is also recognized by the international community, as reflected in UN resolution 44/42 of Dec. 6, 1989. The Israeli Jew, who lives on stolen Palestinian land and who denies by force of arms to his Arab brother the right to return to his homeland, will have to live by the gun, for he will constantly have to be on his guard. The Palestinian Arab, who is refused this basic right, cannot be blamed for forcing his right of return by any means at his disposal. Under the conditions of utter injustice, war is preprogrammed.
For the Palestinian, return means rehabilitating his honor, not seeking revenge. It means the possibility of reconstruction of a society, not the destruction of another. Justice and reconciliation are the most important terms of the peace equation. Return means also acceptance of coexistence between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs under conditions of equality and democracy and is in itself a gesture of reconciliation,
The integration of the Jewish-Israeli community into the Middle-East is predicated upon the application of these terms. Those who are supporting, tacitly or directly, Israeli violations of international law and resolutions, are unwittingly undermining the prospects of peace for the Palestinians and the Israelis.