Palestinian Refugees in International Law


Reviewed by Sam Bahour in +972 under the title “International Law sides with the Palestinians, but can it solve their plight?”  Oxford University Press, 2020, 608 pages

A new book dives into the myriad laws that protect Palestinian refugees and their right of return. Its proposed solution, though, may be hard to swallow.

“I was recently on a video call with a longtime Jewish Israeli friend from Jerusalem. He is a highly educated, deeply cultured, politically liberal, and progressive academic who is outspoken and well-written on the need for Israel to end its military occupation of Palestinians and to stop its discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel.”

“But our political conversation hit an odd silence when, during the course of our conversation, I told him that peace can only be realized once Israel recognizes the right of Palestinian refugees — who fled or were expelled during the Nakba in 1948, and whose descendants remain in exile — to return home. His rebuttal was a stutter, a clear dismissal of the idea that such a return could ever materialize.”

“I am used to such conversations, especially with Jewish Israelis and Jewish Americans. Upon learning the historical facts and present realities on the ground, many of them can easily come to terms with the need for Israel to end its military domination over 5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. And yet, for reasons that are beyond me, they expect Palestinians dispossessed by Israel’s creation to “just get over it.” At the same time — and sometimes in the same breath — they argue that any Jew in the world has the “right” to relocate to Israel and fast-track Israeli citizenship based on a 2000-year old claim to the land.

I was therefore pleased to offer my friend a new resource to encourage him to rethink his dismissal. “Palestinian Refugees in International Law” by Francesca P. Albanese and Lex Takkenberg is a fascinating, comprehensive book which meticulously lays out the case for the right of Palestinian refugees to return home and to be compensated for their 73-year dispossession.” (more…)

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