Reciprocal Rights of Return

In “Homeless in Gaza,” The New York Review of Books, Jan. 18, 2018, Sarah Helm writes that some Palestinians have been working to preserve the memory of their homes lost in 1948. They have been aided by Zochrot (remembering), a group of young Jewish Israelis. Zochrot created a smartphone app called iNakba (catastrophe) that produces maps indicating the location of former Palestinian villages. Their goal is to execute a “right of return” of Palestinian refugees and all of their descendants to their ancestral homes inside Israel. (Palestinians are the only people whose descendants in perpetuity are classified as refugees.)

One approach to nullifying a Palestinian right of return might be for Israel to assert a reciprocal Jewish right of return. The creation of Israel and the defeat of invading Arab armies in 1948 led to threats and violence against ancient Jewish communities in many Arab countries. Over 700,000 Jews lost their property and were forced to flee for their lives to Israel, Europe, and the United States. Perhaps a group of young Israeli Arabs and Jews can create a smartphone app to produce maps indicating the locations of former Jewish villages. Such an app would enable Jewish refugees and all of their descendants to assert a dual “right of return” to their ancestral homes in the Arab world.

Neither Israel nor the Arab nations will accept a right of return. Therefore, refugees and their descendants will be entitled to “just compensation.” Since the number of Palestinian refugees displaced by the Israeli war of independence is approximately equal to the number of Jewish refugees forced to flee Arab countries, both groups will be entitled to equal compensation. The amount of compensation can be negotiated in the context of a two-state solution.

About the Author
Ted Sheskin is an emeritus professor of industrial engineering and the author of a textbook, Markov Chains and Decision Processes for Engineers and Managers. He has published peer-reviewed papers on engineering systems and mathematical algorithms. His letters to editors addressing politics, economic policy, and issues facing Israel and American Jews have appeared in the NY Times, Daily News, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Cleveland Jewish News, Jewish Week, and Jewish Voice.
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