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Media Analyses





Makdisi: Eliminating Jewish State More Important than Creating Palestinian One


Once again, the Los Angeles Times gives a platform to Saree Makdisi, the UCLA comparative literature professor who regularly argues for a "binational state," meaning the dismantlement of the Jewish state. Today he offers up more of the same, opposing the Palestinian statehood bid, because, as he explains ("Palestinians' U.N. gamble could backfire"):

The statehood bid probably will be structured along the lines long discussed as the basis for a two-state solution: territory encompassing the 22% of historical Palestine that remained after hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced from their homes during the creation of Israel in 1948 -- namely the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, which were subsequently captured by Israel in 1967. But that could change who the United Nations considers to be Palestinian and how their rights may be determined, to their profound detriment.

Today, the Palestine Liberation Organization is recognized by the U.N. and most of its member states as the sole legitimate representative of the entire Palestinian people: those living under occupation, those living in Israel and those living in exile or as refugees, who constitute the single largest group of Palestinians. If its place in the international body is taken by a Palestinian state identifying itself with the occupied territories, Palestinians who do not live in those territories — that is, the majority of Palestinians — could lose their representation at the U.N. and be pushed back into the shadowy silence and invisibility from which they fought to emerge in the 1960s. The 1.5 million Palestinians living as second-class citizens of Israel could be left to fend for themselves against legalized discrimination and political repression directed against them as non-Jews in a state whose Jewish identity the Israelis are demanding ever more insistently that the Palestinians acknowledge.

Moreover, an internationally recognized state limited to the shards of Palestine that remained after 1948 would do nothing for the Palestinian right of return to homes and land in what is today Israel, and could in fact gravely threaten the exercise of that right, which is fundamental to the Palestinian cause.

In other words, according to Makdisi, the establishment of a Palestinian state within the West Bank, Gaza, and eastern Jerusalem is unacceptable given that it would leave Israeli cities within Israel's pre-1967 boundaries — Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Beer Sheva, Haifa, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Safed, and more — within Israeli hands.
 
In truth, Makdisi does a service in laying plain his extremist views, which are a fair reflection of the large majority of Palestinians who insist upon the "right of return." In arguing that a future Palestine in the West Bank, Gaza and eastern Jerusalem will not represent all Palestinians living elsewhere, Makdisi apparently discounts the possibility of 1) Palestinians wherever they are coming to live in that future Palestine, and 2) Palestine advocating for Palestinians wherever they may be, much as Israel advocates for Jewish communites internationally. In doing so, he aligns himself with the Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon, who last week told the Daily Star (Lebanon) that Palestinian refugees, even those living within the West Bank and Gaza, would not be given Palestinian citizenship ("Interview: Refugees will not be citizens of new state," Sept. 15, 2011):

The ambassador unequivocally says that Palestinian refugees would not become citizens of the sought for U.N.-recognized Palestinian state, an issue that has been much discussed. “They are Palestinians, that’s their identity,” he says. “But … they are not automatically citizens.”

This would not only apply to refugees in countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Jordan or the other 132 countries where Abdullah says Palestinians reside. Abdullah said that “even Palestinian refugees who are living in [refugee camps] inside the [Palestinian] state, they are still refugees. They will not be considered citizens.”

Abdullah said that the new Palestinian state would “absolutely not” be issuing Palestinian passports to refugees.

Neither this definitional status nor U.N. statehood, Abdullah says, would affect the eventual return of refugees to Palestine. “How the issue of the right of return will be solved I don’t know, it’s too early [to say], but it is a sacred right that has to be dealt with and solved [with] the acceptance of all.” He says statehood “will never affect the right of return for Palestinian refugees.”

Thus, given that the establishment of the state of Palestine will, in the minds of Palestinian leaders, have no bearing on the Palestinian position regarding the "right of return," and Palestinians will continue to insist that refugees and their millions of descendants "return" to homes in areas now part of Israel, it is clear that the founding of a such a Palestinian state will not resolve the conflict. Makdisi says as much: "Palestinians who do live in those territories — that is, the majority of Palestinians — could lose their representation at the U.N. and be pushed back into the shadowy silence and invisibility from which they fought to emerge in the 1960s." Makdisi and his ilk actually fear the possibility of an era in which the need for UNRWA and for special sessions at the United Nations dedicated to demonizing Israel would be obsolete given the existence of a state of Palestine free to welcome all Palestinians (though refusing to do so).

In laying bare his view that nothing short of eliminating Israel would resolve the conflict, Makdisi throws in gross distortions of U.N. Resolution 194, arguing that it "expressly recognizes their right of return to homes in what is now Israel." In reality, the resolution states:

refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date. . . [R]epatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of refugees and payment of compensation [should be facilitated].

As noted in CAMERA's "Backgrounder: The Palestinian Claim to a 'Right of Return'":

Because this only recommends that refugees be permitted to return, it can hardly be characterized as creating a "right." Moreover, the requirement that returnees first accept living "at peace with their neighbors" meant that Palestinian returnees would have to accept Israel's right to exist, something that very few of them, even today, seem truly willing to do. Further, it did not even hint at any return rights for descendants of refugees.

It should be noted that . . . .it placed repatriation, resettlement, and payment of compensation on equal footing. This equal footing was also included in other GA resolutions of that era, such as Resolution 393 of December 2, 1950, which stated that:

. . . without prejudice to the provisions of paragraph 11 of General Assembly resolution 194 . . . the reintegration of the refugees into the economic life of the Near East, either by repatriation or resettlement is essential . . . for the realization of conditions of peace and stability in the area.

Similarly, Resolution 394 of December 14, 1950 called upon:

 . . . the Governments concerned to undertake measures to ensure that refugees, whether repatriated or resettled, will be treated without any discrimination either in law or in fact.

And resolution 513 of January 26, 1952, speaks of "reintegration either by repatriation or resettlement."

Makdisi cynically invokes General Assembly resolutions, and yet has rejected the GA resolutions calling for repatriation and resettlement, not only in Arab countries where many now reside as permananet refugees, but also within the future state of Palestine itself.
 
Moreover, U.N. Resolution 194 was about establishing a Palestine Conciliation Committee, and direct peace talks. (It was only paragraph 11 that addressed refugees.) Yet, over the decades, the Palestinians torpedoed the planned peace conference, refusing to meet with Israel, much less reach a peaceful settlement. Like Makdisi, the Palestinian leadership cherrypicked parts of the resolution, demanding enforcement of one isolated clause, while ignoring the rest.

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