Prof. Sari Nusseibeh recently gave a lecture at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem during which he reportedly exhorted the Palestinian leadership to cede the right of return of Palestinian refugees who were deported from their homeland by the Zionist state of Israel in 1948.
He, addressing a overwhelmingly right-wing Jewish audience, explained that Israel would never accept the repatriation of a significant number of refugees as this would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
Furthermore, Nusseibeh argued that the Palestinians were being inconsistent in demanding a state of their own in “occupied territories,” and at the same time insisting that the refugees be repatriated to their original towns and villages in what is now Israel.
Nobody, of course, would want to restrict Nusseibeh’s freedom of expression. He is a free man, and he can tell his Zionist friends whatever they want to hear from a Palestinian.
And what they want to hear is amply clear and needs no further clarification.
The Zionists want the Palestinian people to finally declare that they have no rights or further claims to Palestine and that the Jewish terrorists were actually doing the right thing in 1948 when they, at gunpoint, expelled the bulk of the indigenous Palestinians from their ancestral homeland.
I don’t know if Nusseibeh believes that the refugees, especially those still languishing in squalid camps in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, should just forget about the right of return and eat out their 53-year-old anger just in order to enable the Zionists to have an all-Jewish state in Palestine. (Who says their goals stop at Palestine?)
However, an objective examination of Nusseibeh’s views leaves no doubt as to what he is really aiming at: The liquidation of the Palestinian cause.
To begin with, his argument that the Palestinians can’t have a state, presumably on parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and at the same time seek to solve the refugee problem at Israel’s expense, is spurious and scandalous, and misleading.
First of all, the contemplated Palestinian state on the west Bank and Gaza would be established on less that 21% of mandatory Palestine, supposing Israel would agree to fully pull out of the occupied territories of 1967.
This means that Israel, with a population of around six million, would retain at least 79% of Palestine, and without any obligation to admit a significant number of refugees, whereas the burgeoning and tiny Palestinian “state” with only 21% of Palestine would be burdened with additional millions of refugees. (There are already more than a million refugees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip). Now, would an arrangement as such be fair? Would it a true prescription for a lasting peace in Palestine?
Hence, the argument that the perceivably nonviable and even insignificant Palestinian “state” should absorb all those dispossessed refugees is illogical. Indeed, such a prospect would only doom that state and its congested inhabitants to perpetual misery and poverty, by any standard a prescription for continued instability and violence.
So, the truth of the matter, is that Israel, with its comparatively huge territory, is more able to receive and settle those tormented refugees who, in the final analysis, want nothing but to go home.
Nusseibeh and his Israeli friends may retort by arguing that admitting (the right word is repatriating) a significant number of refugees would undermine the identity of Israel as a Jewish state.
This is not necessarily true in light of the unceasing stream of Jewish immigrants into Palestine, and given the prospect that the refugees, supposing they, or a significant number of them, are repatriated, wouldn’t come in a single huge exodus, for practical political, economic and logistical considerations.
Moreover, and this brings us to the second point, it is non of the refugees fault if the Jewish identity of the Israeli state would be undermined.
The refugees and their ancestors have an absolute, inalienable, and personal right to return to their homes and villages in their ancestral fatherland in accordance with UN resolution 194, as well as all other conceivable laws and norms, man-made or God-made.
The right of return is a personal as well a collective right, and no body, including Yasser Arafat and Sari Nusseibeh, has any right or authority to compromise or sign away.
Such a perfidious signature, even if done in an impressive ceremony at the White House lawn , with celebrities from all over the world invited to witness the big lie , wouldn’t be worthless.
It is really disquieting how Mr. Nusseibeh, who can’t even sign a simple document on behalf of his own wife or son, grants himself the right to sign away the ancestral patrimony of the Palestinian people.
Mr. Nusseibeh and those who think like him may feel depressed, despaired, and defeated. They may feel that the Palestinians should agree to take something lest they lose everything, because “something is better than nothing). Feelings as such are normal among people who don’t place the conflict over Palestine in its proper historical context, people who are bereft of the faith in the justice of their cause.
In any case, Nusseibeh, would be well-advised not to exceed his bounds. He is the scion of a prominent Palestinian family. The motherland expects him to be more faithful.