|Beyond Images - Briefing 2
||Perspectives on the Arab-Israeli Conflict
LAW OF RETURN - Fulfilling a Humanitarian Mission
|London - 5 July 2002
"Israel's law of return
is discriminatory because it gives Jews from anywhere
in the world the right to live in Israel while Palestinians
cannot enter the country".
The Law of Return is Israel's national immigration
Israel is a sovereign nation and a member
of the United Nations. It was re-established in 1948 as the
national home of the Jewish people (see Beyond Images
Briefing 1 - The Unbreakable Bond).
For thousands of years, the Jewish people
had been scattered across the world, but Israel offered them
the opportunity to escape persecution and build a new life.
Following Israel's establishment, thousands of Jews entered
the country, mostly refugees from the Arab world who were
driven out of their countries of origin, without compensation.
Every country is entitled to enact its
own immigration law, and for Israel it was a matter of the
highest national priority that it offers a safe haven for
Jewish refugees who wished to enter the country.
The Law of Return, enacted in 1950, fulfilled
that objective. It is the national immigration law of the
Jewish people. It is as legitimate and justifiable as the
immigration law of any other country.
The Law of Return has made possible the ingathering of millions
of persecuted or dispersed Jews
Millions of Jews have migrated to Israel
under the Law of Return from countries as diverse as Yemen,
Morocco, Russia, Argentina, Australia, the USA, India, Bosnia,
France and Ethiopia.
Thousands of lives have been saved, and
Jewish communities rescued from isolation and persecution,
because of the availability of immigration.
The Palestinians would need an equivalent to the Law
of Return once they achieve self-rule
Ironically, if and when the Palestinian
people achieve self-determination, they would need the equivalent
of such a law to govern the influx of Palestinians.
Such a law would entitle Palestinians living
anywhere in the Arab world, Europe or for that matter anywhere
else, to migrate to the new state. Needless to say, such a
law would give priority rights of entry to Palestinian Arabs,
over any other national or ethnic group.
No-one would think to suggest that such
a Palestinian law was "discriminatory" for giving
priority rights of entry to Palestinians.
It is an inherent part of any immigration
law that it gives precedence to the nationals of the country
It is the absence of peace and normalisation which prevent
Palestinians from returning
Since 1948, there has never been peace
between Israel and the Palestinians. For as long as that continues,
Jews the world over will be able to continue to migrate to
Israel, but Palestinians will not be able to migrate to the
territories over which they aspire to have self-rule.
It is not Israeli "discrimination"
which has created this situation, but the absence of a political
solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, addressing the right
of return, compensation funds and resettlement programmes
in a just and sustainable way.
These issues were raised in Israeli-Palestinians
negotiations during 1999-2001 (which ultimately failed).
While Israel rejected an open-ended "right
of return" by Palestinians into Israel, it made clear
it would support an agreement by which any Palestinian could
readily return to a future Palestinian self-rule entity. A
'law of return' to the Palestinian state would be needed to
There is nothing discriminatory about Israel's
Law of Return. It has enabled Israel to fulfil a humanitarian
mission by offering a home to Jews from around the world.
It is counter-productive for Israel's critics
to condemn a law which the Palestinians will in due course
need to emulate.