Statement on the Nakba and the Right of Return
International Nakba Day, May 15, 2007
The Nakba is the story of the Palestinian tragedy: the destruction of communities, civilization, culture and identity, the expulsion and the killing that took place in 1948. It is a story that constitutes the past and present of the Palestinian people and shapes a large part of Palestinian identity. Yet in many respects the Nakba is also the story of Jews who live in Israel. A story that is not easy to cope with, a story that raises difficult questions about the possibilities of life together in the space that is today the state of Israel.
It is almost impossible to speak about the Nakba without speaking about taking responsibility and repairing the historical injustice that was committed against the Palestinian people. Such repair must begin first and foremost with the recognition of the right of Palestinians to return.
What is the right of return? The right of return is the personal right of every refugee who was expelled from the country, and their descendants, to return to their place of origin, based on international law and UN Resolution 194 passed on December 11, 1948. It is also the collective right of whole communities to return and live as a community, as a group, to carry out a social framework in shared spaces such as cultural centers, religious places, schools, recreational areas. The right of return is an individual and collective right.
Who is considered a refugee? A question that frequently arises is: how many generations of descendants will be considered candidates for return? The most moral and logical answer is that the refugees will cease to be refugees when they are given the opportunity to choose whether or not to return. The right of return does not mean only physical return, but the option to make an unhindered choice — the ability to choose that makes a person free.
What about Jews in Israel? Acknowledgment and implementation of the right of return will not only begin the task of correcting the historical injustice committed against the Palestinian people, but may also usher in a new beginning for Jews in the country. The right of return can open up an opportunity for Jews to encounter the country in a new way, no longer as occupiers, but as equals. An injustice cannot be corrected by another injustice, and the right of return, like any other right, must be implemented with care to ensure that other rights are protected.