The “right” of return

MB Smordin writes:

I was wondering how you would respond to Dr. K, an Arab native of Jerusalem whose e-mail Daniel Gordis posts at his site:

I am the Dr. K that Dr. Gordis refers to in his post above….

My father had this house built in 1932, and I was born in Jerusalem in 1937. My family left Jerusalem because of the state of war that occurred in 1948. Regardless of why we left (it was not voluntary), why should we lose title to our home because of that war? The Israeli government did not allow us to return to it (nor to pay taxes on it!) after May 1948. To this day we have never been offered compensation nor any acknowledgement by any party for our loss.

My original purpose in communicating with Dr. Gordis was to try and connect with another human being who can help provide me a sense of connection with my home and land of birth. I am a realist and not stuck in living in the past. Yes, I was shocked at the changes that have occurred but who wouldn’t be?

I am interested in a dialogue and not in having people talking at me and telling me how I should be feeling or behaving. I hope we can talk about ourselves and not lecture others. Is this possible in this forum?

LA replies:

There was a war, a war started by the Arabs with the announced intention of destroying Israel and killing the Jews. A war has permanent results—changes of borders, changes of sovereign control of land—that may transcend the rights of individuals to live where they would like to live. Dr. K, sadly for him, was on the losing side of that war. His family left Jerusalem. He says the departure was “not voluntary,” slyly implying that the Israelis kicked his family out. To my knowledge, not even the Arabs have charged that the Israelis kicked Arabs out of Jerusalem. The charge of forced expulsion has been made with regard to other areas of Israel, not to the city of Jerusalem itself. According to the Israelis’ own records, they selectively used force or the threat of force to expel Arabs from certain key spots within Israel that were indispensable to Israel’s capacity to defend itself. The rest of the Arabs who left, left of their own accord, or because they were urged by Arab leaders to do so.

Whatever his personal motives may be, in practical terms Dr. K is on the side of the Arabs, on the side of all of Israel’s mortal enemies, who want to use the right of return to destroy Israel. He may say, “I just want my family’s property back, I just want to return to the place of my birth,” and maybe he’s even sincere about that. But in reality his claim is inseparable from, and helps advance, the entire concept of the right of return, through which Israel’s enemies seek, by a claim of individual rights and of compassion for individuals, to undo the defeat of the Arabs in 1948, to undo their failure to destroy Israel, to undo Israel’s successful defense of its existence. It’s simply impossible to consider his claim outside the context of the ongoing Arab war to eliminate Israel. Admit Dr. K’s claim, and you’ve admitted the right of return. Admit the right of return, and you’ve consigned Israel to horrible destruction.

Tens of millions of people in Europe and on the Indian subcontinent were forced to leave their homes during and after World War II. None of them is demanding their return to their former homes as a “right,” and none is getting such a demand recognized by a large part of the world—except the Arabs who left Israel, and their descendants. The reason the right of return is insisted on in this one case alone is very simple. The Arabs and much of the world seek to make the Jewish state disappear from the earth, and the claimed right of return is the strongest way of expressing and advancing that intent.

- end of initial entry -

Barbara L. writes:


LA replies

Thank you. I’ve said nothing that hasn’t been said thousands of times. But living in a world of obvious (yet widely believed) lies, we have no choice but to keep repeating the obvious truth in order to counter the lies.

Barbara L. replies:
Exactly. But you did it so pithily & precisely that it gave me a brandy-lke lift. Thank you.

LA replies:

Thanks. :-)

James P. writes:

The “right of return” is not held to apply to the millions of Germans who were expelled from eastern Germany and eastern Europe after 1945. This expulsion easily meets the common sense definition of ethnic cleansing and even genocide (since many were killed for no other reason than being German). Yet we should note three things: this expulsion was the direct consequence of Germany’s military aggression and defeat; this expulsion and the redrawing of the German border kept the peace for over 60 years; and, the millions of Germans who were expelled did not spend the decades after 1945 in refugee camps as poster children for the plight of the poor victimized German people. I think the parallels here to the situation of the Palestinians are obvious. The Arabs attacked, were defeated, and there is no reason in international law or common sense that Israel should give up territories needed for its defense. Liberal arguments to the contrary amount to a demand that Israel commit suicide.

Paul T. writes from Canada:

Your response re Dr. K is the most perfect (and perfectly succinct) analysis of the “right of return” that I’ve ever read. Thank you!

May 12

Barbara V. writes:

Your response, Larry, is admirable, and totally clear-sighted.

Adela G. writes:

I’ll never forget how shocked I was to learn that any Arabs were permitted to live in Israel. I know most things aren’t black or white. But sometimes survival dictates that you have to act as though they were. This has always seemed to me to be one of those times.

By the way, you mention people who lost their homes in WWII. My mother said my grandfather got letters via the Red Cross from his family back in the old country (Austria) after WWII. She said his relatives wrote that their village had been burned and they were living outdoors and begged him to send whatever he could. They weren’t Nazis, they were Serbs, apparently it was the Germans who destroyed their homes. Of course, he had no way to respond to them. My mother said he used to read the letters and weep.

Andrew McCarthy writes:

Well stated, Larry. I think there is a sharia aspect to this as well. The Palestinians claim a “right” that the Europeans do not because of an Islamic conceit that once a territory has become part of the Muslim world, as Jerusalem is fabled to have become, title forever belongs to Allah, and Muslims thus have a “right” under Islamic law to live there. It’s the same theory by which apostasy is made a capital offense, for once the individual person professes himself to be a Muslim, the “rights” of the Islamic community are deemed to attach—just as they attach to land—and the individual loses any right to renege.

Irwin Graulich writes:

Terrific response on “The Right of Return.” I can tell you unequivocally that not even one Arab family was thrown out of their homes in 1948—none!!! This is a fact, but as usual, the Palestinian Arabs continue with their big lies. How come there are so many Arab families still living in Israel? How come they weren’t thrown out? The reason is because their parents/grandparents did not listen to the propaganda on the radio and in Arab newspapers that came from surrounding Arab countries which demanded that they all leave the budding Jewish state and will return to their homes after we push the Jews into the sea. The Arabs who believed this garbage left Israel with the false promise that they would be given Jewish land as well, when they return. The very few who were asked to leave their homes temporarily because the Israeli army determined that they were in strategic spots, were not asked to leave the country. Dr. K is full of baloney.

However, I have a deal for him. When all the Arab/Muslim countries give back the land, property, businesses and percentage of the oil fields that were owned by Jewish citizens who were definitely thrown out of their countries for no reason, I will return the homes in Israel to any Arab that has a record of ownership. Now that is a very fair deal.

And by the way, how about the homes, businesses, artwork, etc. that was confiscated from Jews in Germany and Poland. The reparations that Germany paid to Holocaust survivors are nothing compared to what was actually taken from them. Holocaust survivors should be given most of Germany and Poland, including companies like Mercedes, BMW and Volkswagen!

Thank God most Americans have not fallen for the fraudulent demand of “Palestinian right of return.” Only Europeans and Scandinavians can find compassion for and believe in “rights” for evil doers. It is amazing to me that when I meet a European or Scandinavian today, they really look borderline retarded and actually think along those lines. I am not kidding. No wonder their politics are so sick and their countries are going down the tubes rapidly.

A. Zarkov writes:

I am very glad to read the comment from James P. on German expulsions after WWII and the right of return. Few people bring this up, and it’s pertinent to the issue as to whether Arabs should be able to reclaim property they abandoned in 1948. I would like to point out that James doesn’t go far enough in his comment. Let’s recall that Section 12 from the Potsdam Agreement reads in pertinent part:

“The Three Governments, having considered the question in all its aspects, recognize that the transfer to Germany of German populations, or elements thereof, remaining in Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, will have to be undertaken. They agree that any transfers that take place should be effected in an orderly and humane manner.”

The transfers were hardly humane, and some two million ethnic Germans died as a result of the massive expulsions of some 16 million people. The expellees also lost their property both real and personal. For example the 1945 Benes decrees confiscated property (without compensation) from virtually all the Sudeten Germans, who were expelled as well. Many Jews were also caught up this massive post WWII ethnic cleansing which also reached into the USSR. Thus we have the Europeans, some now occupying confiscated Jewish property, pleading for a “right of return” for Palestinians who for the most part abandoned their property. I would like to hear someone explain why (say) the Sudeten Germans don’t have the same right as Palestinians.

LA writes:

Also, there are many excellent comments at the Daniel Gordis site replying to Dr. K. Often they start by acknowledging the painful plight of people like Dr. K, but then look at his personal plight in a fuller perspective.

Here is one:

Author: Uri Snyder
Dr. K,

I first of would like to give you a little background on myself. I am a Jewish- American and an ardent Zionist. I have spent almost a year living and studying in Israel yet would never claim to fully understand what it is like to live in Israel. I’ll say that I maybe have a “child’s” understanding of what it is like to be an Israeli. However my one advantage to being so far removed from the conflict is that I have been able to see the Israeli-Arab conflict through a different lense. My opinions have not been jaded by years of living with the threat of terrorism, and I am therefore free of some of the natural “distrust” and anger that shapes the way Israelis see the situation. I have also had the privilege of speaking with many people of Palestinian descent which has given me a greater understanding of both sides of the argument. The War of Independence left a refugee problem in its wake that to this day has never been solved. I have no answers for you as to why you should not be able to return to your home. I however would humbly like to pose a question to you. What would have happened to Jewish families who wished to flee as you did, from areas of violence? They would never have been allowed to go to Arab areas in order to avoid the impending conflict. In a war such as the conflict in 1948, it seems to me that by fleeing, your family did in fact “choose a side”. I know this argument would not hold up in a court of law, however it does have moral implications. Your family was allowed to safeguard their own lives in a place where Jewish civilians would have been slaughtered for doing the same. From this perspective I understand why the Israeli government did not allow the “refugees” back into Israel. How could they trust those who fled to nearby countries whose armies were trying to exterminate the Jewish neighbors that they left behind? I do not mean to place blame on anyone but rather point out some of the reasons that contributed to this issue. Thank you and I look forward to reading your response.

Here is another:

Author: Leslie Green
Dr. K’s story is a sad one, but as the previous comments show, not unique. My father left behind 20,000 acres of farmland in Hungary that had been in his family for more than 4 generations. My father was in agricultural school preparing to someday take over the farm that he loved when the Nazis arrested his family and all their land was confiscated. At the time, 3 different generations lived on that land in 2 homes and farmed it. They were the largest employers in their district. When he went back after being liberated from Dachau, the homes had been taken over by local families. His family decimated, he left for the United States. He had no choice. The police did not offer to remove the “squatters”. The local priest had absconded with his grandmothers beautiful furniture and china. He returned fifty years later to find that the farm had been split up, his grandfather’s home was the town’s library and his parent’s home was the doctor’s clinic. The townspeople, upon hearing that my father had come back, did not have words of welcome for him. All they wanted to know was “are you going to try to take our land away from us?”.
As a people who love Torah and take pride in conducting ourselves in an ethical manner,we should set up compensation for individuals such as Dr. K. to compensate him for the value of theloss of the home he left in 1932. However, he must remember that he was not arrested and forced off the land as my father was. His family left voluntarily, to avoid the unpleasantness of a possible war. Many stayed behind. Anyhow, the discussion is moot. You cannot discuss issues of compensation with people who refuse to acknowledge your existence and insist on “a right to return”.

May 13

Jed W. writes:

Your response to the disingenuous Dr. K was right on the money. Really good.

Dr. K et al left in hope that the Jews would be driven into the sea and, lo, it didn’t happen. Then for then next 60 plus years, their Arab brothers kept them in poverty and squalor. So now, the Israelis are being asked to commit suicide by accepting millions of these hostile Arabs into their country.

I don’t think they’re in the mood right now.

But the evil heat coming from “dear leader” may be the death knell of the West. His goal of destroying Israel to appease Iran is a disaster as we know. If he and the Muslims are successful, the Jihad will become a nuclear powered Tsunami that will exponentially more difficult to resist.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 11, 2009 07:04 PM | Send

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