Israel Advocacy - Language and Persuasion

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Language signals are important persuaders, both for and against a point of view. Slogans and epithets are designed to associate opponents' causes with "bad" things such as "colonialism," "oppression," "apartheid," "illegitimate," "reactionary" and "racism." They also try to one's own cause with "good" ideals - "progressive," "freedom," "rights" and "legitimacy."

At the same time, language provides signals that tells people if they are reading to neutral material, or material from one or another camp. Partisan opinion - spoken or written - almost always carries verbal signals that can tell the alert reader or audience what the bias of the speaker is. Former communists could often identify each other because of overuse of words like "concrete," "framework" and "praxis," which formed part of their ideological jargon. Be aware of the signals in the materials produced by others and in your own speech. Make sure your use of language is not telling people that you are an extremist or "one of them." If you label yourself, people will stop listening before you start talking.

Sometimes the "signals" are accidents. A lot of communist material was translated from Russian or German and words that are relatively uncommon in English, but common in those languages, became common in English language communist literature. Often however, the "signals" are slogans or deliberately chosen words that are meant to shape opinion.

Slogans and Epithets

A slogan is an important device for getting across a key bit of information or better, an emotional association. Epithets likewise make it easy to demonize the other side. It makes it easy to repeat the same information in a memorable form in many different contexts:

  • Zionism is Racism
  • Israel Apartheid
  • Racist Israel
  • Zionist Nazis
  • Ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem.
  • Neo-con Zionist

Of course, these techniques are neutral - they work for either side, and equally well for truth and for fabrications. Slogans sum up an idea and it is legitimate to use them if they are true. Epithets tell a story, and are legitimate as well if they are applicable. "Reactionary Hezbollah" and "Genocidal Hamas" can be effective epithets and slogans.

As for slogans of the other side, you need to deconstruct them at every opportunity. Handouts, Web pages, and lectures with the slogan or epithet included need to explain why it is false.

Language Truth and Logic

Logical arguments should be capable of convincing people and changing points of view, but too often they are irrelevant. It is crucial to know the facts and understand the logic needed to disprove fallacious claims. Each such claim that you deconstruct helps to undermine the credibility of the other side.

"Palestinian right to a capital city in Jerusalem" sounds good, but there is no such right. It is not granted in any legal document, nor is there any historical basis for such a claim. It is simply an invention. The "illegal Israeli occupation" and the "right of return of refugees guaranteed under international law" are also fictions of Palestinian propaganda, but they are used and repeated - they "sound right."

It can be shown that strictly speaking, under international law, the Palestinian territories are not "occupied," as the law defines "occupied" as territory conquered from another sovereign. There is no other recognized sovereign for these territories. The PLO or the Palestinian Authority are not states and are not sovereigns. The West Bank are not more "occupied" now then they were before 1967, when they were "occupied" by Jordan and Egypt. Usually however, that argument will get you nowhere. The problem is greatly complicated by the fact that Ariel Sharon rightly referred to "kibbush" in Hebrew regarding the territories. This word means conquest and was born about 2,500 years before any international conventions. But it also means "occupation" in modern Hebrew, including the formal, legal definition.

Palestinians assert their claims to Jerusalem based on the "narrative" that Muhammad flew to Jerusalem on his horse and tied it up at the West Wall, which is therefore a holy place for Muslims, even though Jews claim it is a remnant of the temple retaining wall. One really has to be eager to believe in order to accept the narrative of Muhammad and his flying horse as the basis of a claim that is supposed to be valid in international law. Nonetheless, the flimsy claim is often viewed as a valid argument unless it is highlighted and exposed.

The Language of delegitimation

Rhetorical language techniques are used by anti-Israel activists to delegitimize Israel, Zionism and its advocates, and conversely, to legitimize anti-Israel and anti-Semitic ideation. They can occasionally be turned around and used against their originators, with justice and effect.

Associate your cause with good words - "Legitimacy" and "Legality" - Invented "rights" are given "legitimacy" simply by saying they are "rights" or by tying them in dubious ways to international law. "Right of Resistance" to occupation is meant to allow armed struggle against armed forces of invaders. It is used to justify killing babies in Tel Aviv. "Right of Return" of refugees is an invention of the anti-Israel camp, since in international law, refugee rights are never transferred to descendants. Both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs have a right to self-determination that is strong law - "Jus Cogens" - and would override any "Right" of return. "Illegal occupation" is another anti-Israel invention. Occupations are not illegal (see below), and are recognized in international law. Yet by associating these two words repeatedly, the occupation becomes "illegal" in the eyes of many. Terror groups ARE illegal. Why not talk about the illegal Hamas terror group?

A major fallacy of arguments based on "legality" is the hidden assumption that "legal" = "moral." Actually, laws often reflect power relations in a society and the world, and current sentiments of the community. One hundred and fifty or so years ago, slavery was legal in the United States, and helping runaway slaves was "illegal." The Nazi Nuremberg laws made it "illegal" for Jews to participate in society as normal citizens. The British White Paper of 1939 made it "illegal" for Jews to immigrate to Palestine, though the White Paper itself was deemed illegal by the League of Nations. People need to be reminded that "Illegal" doesn't mean "bad."

Associate the other guy's cause with "bad" words - Zionism is associated with "colonialism" "expansionism," "aggressiveness," "apartheid," and even with "Nazism" by anti-Israel advocates, and more recently with "right-wing" and "neo-con." The essence of colonialism was the attempt to profit from the labor of exploited natives and steal the resources of a country for the benefit of another country. Zionism had no such program, but instead poured huge sums of money into the land of Israel in order to turn it into a modern industrial economy.

The Obama administration considered appointing Charles Freeman to a sensitive intelligence post. Freeman was clearly unsuited for the post. In addition to being director of a pro-Arab lobby that receives support from Saudi Arabia, he has expressed cynical sentiments about Chinese suppression of democracy protests and of the Tibetan people. He made it clear that if nominated, he would have tried to put his political views into practice. His partisans tried to quash opposition to the nomination by insisting that all of his opponents are "right wing Zionist neo-conservatives." In the same way, Jeremy Ben Ami, head of the J-Street lobby told an interviewer,

For too long, the loudest voices in the American political and national policy debates when it comes to Israel and the Middle East have belonged to the far right – neoconservatives, right wing American Jewish leaders... Source  

But who are the people Ben-Ami was talking about? They include, for example, Alan Dershowitz and Abe Foxman, both people with impeccable liberal credentials. The only thing that makes them "right wing neo-cons" is the fact that they support Israel.

Turn the other guy's cause into a bad word - By associating Zionism with "neo-cons" "colonialism" and extreme right wing causes, anti-Israel groups were able to turn "Zionism" into a bad word.

Friendly fire - The demonizers are assisted greatly by groups and publications that associate Zionism with unrelated causes or even causes that Zionists usually oppose: Opposition to programs to combat global warming, advertisements for "I am a Conservative" T-shirts, opposition to government supported health care etc. None of these is a "Zionist" cause in any way. Israel has a socialized medical system and it works, for example, but socialized medicine is not a Zionist cause, and Zionists should not take stands on any of those issues as part of Zionist advocacy.

Abuse of War Crimes Statutes and Language

International conventions against war crimes evolved to humanize war and make some "rules of the game." Their history began before 20th century "total war" and genocidal wars of the twentieth century. Like all international law, they are laws that apply between nations. The internal actions of a government are usually exempt from war crimes statutes (with the exception of genocide, which now may be prosecuted under international law - see here ) . They do not apply to terrorist groups either strictly speaking, since such groups are not the regular armies of nations. The behavior of the Nazi SS divisions and the Wehrmacht in World War II changed the meaning of "War Crimes." Following World War II, "War Crimes" became indelibly associated with Nazi monsters in the dock at Nuremberg for intentional mass murders of millions of people.

By their nature, "War crimes" are generally not prosecuted in a fair and equitable way. Victors are generally immune. Nobody investigated the extensive allied bombings of civilian targets in Germany during World War II for example, and nobody is going to determine the rights and wrongs of civilian deaths caused by NATO in the war in Afghanistan. The treatment of US prisoners of war in North Vietnam has never been investigated, and the those responsible for violating the law were never brought to justice. There are many other examples.

The "war crimes statutes and the epithet of "War Criminal" are unfairly and consistently applied to Israel and Israel is singled out for international persecution. In the Iran-Iraq war, both sides used gas warfare and other forbidden weapons and tactics, but at the time, there were no war crimes tribunals. After the US invasion of Iraq, Iraqis guilty of crimes against humanity were tried for crimes they committed in Iraq, but not for war crimes. Iranians were never brought to justice.

During Israel's wars with Arab states, Israeli Prisoners of War were tortured, denied proper medical attention and denied access to the International Red Cross. Some died in captivity. Some were hacked to pieces by mobs before they reached captivity. However, there was no international outcry about "War Crimes."

Terrorist organizations are generally considered immune from the provisions of war crimes statutes, since they are not the army of any state and often do not wear uniforms. Therefore, they can target civilians intentionally, use hospitals and mosques as military bases and use ambulances to transport arms and fighters, all without being subject to prosecution as war criminals. When Israel kills civilians accidentally it is labeled a "war crime" by anti-Israel propagandists. When terrorists kill civilians on purpose it is labeled "resistance."

The primary target of "War crimes" prosecutions and condemnations by Amnesty International other rights organization in the Middle East is Israel, though Israel goes out of its way to protect civilians and no "war crimes" allegations have ever been proven against Israel.


Criminal statutes against harming civilians were meant to protect against intentional targeting of civilian populations primarily. They are being used against Israel whenever civilians are killed as an accident of operational necessity or due to misaimed artillery fire. International doctrine regarding civilian casualties is based on Article 57 of Protocol 1 of the amended Geneva Convention of August 12 1949, ). This protocol is not ratified by Israel or the United States, in particular because it can be construed as protecting non-uniformed combatants such as terrorists as if they are civilians. Nonetheless, some nations construe that this protocol is "customary law" that is binding even on non-signatories.

Relevant parts of Article 57 state that:

(a) those who plan or decide upon an attack shall... (iii) refrain from deciding to launch any attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated;

(b) an attack shall be cancelled or suspended if it becomes apparent that the objective is not a military one or is subject to special protection or that the attack may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated;

The bolded wording (emphasis added) is the basis of the proportionality doctrine. It is not very clear in itself, since "excessive" is a matter of judgment. However, the doctrine has been distorted by Israel's detractors to mean that enemy casualties must be proportional to your own. If Israel suffered few civilian casualties, it is claimed that it is unjustified to allow the deaths of large numbers of enemy civilians. But the convention has no such criterion. In the case of operation Cast Lead and of the Second Lebanon war, Israeli cities were blanketed by rockets, making life unbearable. Few civilians were killed because Israel took reasonable self defense precautions. The point of the Israeli attack was not to punish civilians or exact "revenge" but to stop the rocket attacks. There is no way to make an objective judgment about the "concrete and direct military advantage" anticipated. If the rockets are falling on you, then you will certainly go to any lengths to stop them.

Collective Punishment

Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 states in part:

No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

"Collective punishment" is not defined, but the framers had in mind the German practice of killing villagers arbitrarily in retaliation for partisan raids and activities. It is not possible that the framers intended that it was illegal to take any action at all that harms civilians in response to an act of war or belligerent act, as that would rule out, for example, any sort of economic sanctions such as those imposed on Iraq after Operation Desert Storm as well as blockades or any bombing of strategic targets that might also harm civilian targets.

"Collective punishment" is regularly nonetheless by anti-Israel advocates and media in just that way, as if the statutes outlawed any act that might harm civilians. An article in Electronic Intifada of 26 July 2006 by Shane Darcy, entitled "Israel's long-standing practice of unlawful collective punishment" (electronicintifada.net/v2/article5247.shtml ) made precisely that claim, as well as citing the false interpretation of "proportionality":

The extensive military operations that have been conducted by the Israeli army in and around the Gaza Strip over the past weeks have displayed a marked disregard for international humanitarian law and have involved the imposition of grave and unlawful measures of collective punishment on the Palestinian population. The principle of proportionality has been completely abandoned.

Terrorists or Militants?

Both Hamas and Hezbollah are considered terrorist organizations by the United States and the European Union. However, a peculiar journalistic convention dictates that member of these terrorist organizations, even while engaged in acts of terror, will be referred to as "militants" or "gunmen" or in Arab country media as "fighters" in English, and "resistance" in Arabic. ETA is the Basque separatists terror organization in Spain A Google search reveals that the term "ETA terrorists" appears in 7420 pages, while "ETA militants" appears in only 2,680 pages. The use of "terrorists" for ETA is almost 3 times as frequent as the use of "militants." For Hamas, the ratio is reversed. About 155,000 pages refer to "Hamas militants" while only abut 80,000 refer to "Hamas terrorists." 245,000 pages are listed for Lockerbie and militant, but 776,000 are listed for the words Lockerbie and terrorist.

Pro-Zionist Signals

Legitimate words like "Zionism" and "Jew" have been delegitimized, but we need to work to restore proper understanding and respect for them. Other terms really are extremist propaganda jargon or may be innocently perceived as such even if that is not the intention.

Some usages phrases that are associated with "Zionist extremism" or religious extremism or with pro-Zionist sentiments of varying degrees:

  • Land of Israel
  • Eretz Yisrael
  • Greater Israel
  • Judea and Samaria
  • "Hashem" (Hebrew substitute for "God" used by very Orthodox Jews)
  • G-d
  • God-given right
  • United Jerusalem
  • Anti-terror fence
  • There are no Palestinians
  • MSM (for "Main Stream Media" - an indicative characteristic of right wing Web logs and journals)
  • Jordan is Palestine

If you aren't part of the movements and ideologies represented by the more extreme terms and words, do not use them. You may think Jews have rights in Jerusalem, but that is not the same thing as "United Jerusalem." You may think Jews have the right to live to the east of the Green Line armistice border. That is not the same as being an adherent of the Greater Israel movement (see earlier discussion of Greater Israel ).

A problem arises in the use of some terms. If you use the term "militant" to describe Hamas rocketeers and suicide bombers, you are perpetuating the distortions introduced to bias the language of the conflict against Israel. If you use the word "terrorist" you are labeling yourself as "Zionist."

Anti-Israel Signals

Be aware of the way in which the anti-Israel propaganda machine uses words to delegitimize Israel, Zionism and Jews. Some of these terms have made their way to main stream popular media, while others are, as yet, confined to pro-Arab sources. Here are some of the terms that mark their writings and speech:

Apartheid Israel - Apartheid South Africa was a racist regime that discriminated  against South African black people. It denied them the right to vote or to live where they wanted to and outlawed "mixed" marriages among other strictures. The term "apartheid" was grafted on to Israel in an attempt to delegitimize it. Numerous South Africans and others have explained why the analogy does not fit but it continues to be used. Israeli Arabs have equal rights under the law. Palestinians across the green line are a belligerent population and the steps taken to separate them from Israelis are not done for racial reasons, but to prevent terrorists from infiltrating and carrying out attacks. Arab and Muslim societies are, to an extent, "Apartheid" societies by nature and custom. Each group has their own quarter or mellah (millet) and their own leaders by tradition: the Armenian quarter, the Jewish quarter, the Coptic quarter, the Greek Christian quarter, the Assyrian quarter... Each may live in their own villages or areas. Each group has their assigned place in society according to Muslim Sharia law. They do not mix very much:

Be familiar with all the arguments (see Israel Apartheid I, Israel Apartheid FAQ  Israel Apartheid II  Israel Apartheid III ). Make a Web page or handout about "Israel Apartheid." You can use the handout at "Israel Apartheid week" in universities. If someone uses the Israel apartheid slogan in a debate or interview, explain to the audience that they are trying to delegitimize Israel and deny the right of the Jewish people to self determination

Apartheid Wall - The Israeli Security Fence was adopted in desperation as a security measure to prevent terrorism, not to discriminate against people of a particular race. The security fence has saved hundreds of lives. It will be removed when the threat of terror is past.

Arab East Jerusalem - This term is part of an inventive and imaginative Palestinian Arab narrative that erases the Jews entirely from parts of Jerusalem east of the 1949 Green Line border. This narrative tries to obliterate the fact that Jews lived in the old city and other parts of Jerusalem before 1948 - for hundreds of years. The narrative ignores the existence of the Hebrew University campus, Hadassah hospital and other Jewish institutions in East Jerusalem prior to 1948. Cynically, it notes that no Jews ever approached the temple mount before 1967.. Of course they did not, since Muslim guards kept them out before 1948 and between 1948 and 1967 access to Israeli Jews was forbidden under the Jordanian regime. The extreme version also claims there was never a Jewish capital in Jerusalem in ancient times. The narrative is used to claim that East Jerusalem was always "Arab" and should be the exclusive territory of Arab Palestinians where they will form the capital of their state. (See extensive references to this issue here here and elsewhere. In his book, "Once upon a Country," Sari Nusseibeh managed to write extensively about returning to Jerusalem "in the good old days" without ever mentioning that there were Jews in East Jerusalem before 1948. Jerusalem was never the capital of an Arab state or an Arab province in history. There is no such thing as a Palestinian "right" to a state with its capital in Jerusalem, as they claim.

Colonialist - This epithet was attached to Zionists by leftist extremists and especially by the false anti-Semitic Soviet "science" of Zionology. As explained elsewhere, it is not really appropriate, since Jewish settlers in Palestine were not exploiting the country for the benefit of another country, and were not representing any other country, but rather. were investing in our own country.

Illegal Occupation - Military occupations are not illegal. They are legitimate and covered by international law. The Israeli presence in the West Bank is not necessarily an occupation according to some legal experts, since occupation takes place when the land in question was conquered from another recognized sovereign. Jordanian annexation of the West Bank was not recognized by most of the world and therefore there was no recognized sovereignty there between 1948 and 1967. The status of Jerusalem is different again. It was to have been internationalized under UN resolutions, but the Jordanians occupied the eastern half, and Israelis occupied the western part of the city in 1948. Neither annexation was recognized. But Jerusalem was never supposed to be part of any Palestinian state. The United Nations has never rescinded the international status resolutions, nor made any move to implement them.

International Legitimacy - Refers to UN resolutions as interpreted by the Arabs, and is applied only to those parts of the resolutions that are favorable to the Arab side. It should be noted that General Assembly Resolution 194 ("return of refugees") is not international law. General Assembly resolutions are not binding in international law.

IOF - "Israel Occupation Forces" - the inciteful way that anti-Israel publications refer to IDF.

Israel Lobby - This doesn't refer to the actual groups that support Israel. Rather, it refers to a mythical monolithic entity that allegedly controls United States policy and is supposedly responsible, for example, for American antipathy to Iran following the taking of US personnel as hostages by Iranian students in 1979 as well as the recent war in Iraq. The Israel Lobby is supposedly behind efforts to ensure that the book of Jimmy Carter about "Apartheid Israel" is not published, and the book of Professors Walt and Mearsheimer about the "Israel Lobby" is suppressed. AIPAC is one visible manifestation of the Israel Lobby. Christians United for Israel might be another. There are really pro-Zionist lobby groups and interest groups. However, there are also groups, often larger and more powerful, that support Arab or Muslim interests, like CAIR, the Middle East Policy Council (MEPC) and the American Iranian Council (AIC).

However, the term "Israel Lobby" has anti-Semitic overtones. "Israel Lobby" is a portrayed as a shadowy entity. The lobby is generally assumed to be supported by "Jewish money" and it is implied that it is steered by the nonexistent Elders of Zion. It is reminiscent of the "International Finance Jewry" of Adolph Hitler. When Jimmy Carter complained of the "Israel Lobby," the term was simply and accurately translated as "the Jews" by Al Ahram newspaper. The failure of the efforts of the mythical Israel Lobby to suppress anti-Israel and anti-Semitic propaganda is generally ignored. Arab countries and their agents spend far more than the "Israel Lobby" does to influence opinion, but you almost never hear about that.

Justice - "Justice" as in "Peace with Justice" "Justice for Palestine" and in Hebrew, "Brit Tzedek" has been totally abused, The use of this word in the title of an organization and its literature has become a dead giveaway that the group is anti-Zionist, and has defined "Justice" as whatever serves the Palestinian cause. The definition is loaded. Thus it is "justice" to allow Palestinian Arabs to return to their land in Beersheva (now greatly developed) but it is "settler Zionism" to allow Jews to return to their homes in Gush Etzion or the Jewish quarter of the old city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem from which they were ethnically cleansed in 1948.

Nakba - The "disaster" suffered by Palestinian Arabs who fled Palestine in 1948, used as a cultic symbol of the victimization myth. See Palestine Nakba and more detailed discussion in a different chapter. 

Palestinian-State-with-its-capital-in-Jerusalem - This demand, which has no historical basis, is being converted into a "right." Palestinian advocates repeat the formula over and over, until it seems to have a certain logic and justice, though it does not. You might as well say, "Amerindian state with its capital in Washington D.C." Jerusalem was never the capital of a Palestinian state, as there was never any Palestinian state, nor was it ever a regional capital under any of the Arab or Muslim empires.  If you encounter this slogan, be ready to deconstruct it.

Racism - In anti-Israel lingo, this epithet is used to describe any manifestation of Jewish national rights, such as use of the "racist" Israeli flag or Jewish star, law of return, use of Hebrew in schools etc. It is also directed against security measures like the security fence ("Apartheid Wall")

Rights - Anything demanded by Palestinians is called a right, giving the impression that it is firmly anchored in law. Examples - "Return of Return" of Refugees, "Right" to a capital in "Arab" East Jerusalem, "Right of Resistance" - blowing civilians to bits in suicide bombings and rocket attacks.

Right of Return - Right of Return is discussed in detail below. Palestinian Arab refugees have a unique status under UN refugee law. Though some refugees have been returned to their homes within reasonable times after a war, there is no "right of return" that is implemented consistently, it never applies to enemy belligerents, and it has never been extended over 60 years to second and third generation descendants.

Settlements - This originally neutral word has been turned into a pejorative, implying an illegal "colonial" outpost set up by stealing land from oppressed Palestinian Arabs. Any establishment of Palestinian Arabs, no matter how recent is a called a "neighborhood" or a "village." Palestinians are setting up new "villages" and "neighborhoods" all the time. Any attempt to control such illegal building and squatting evoked protests about "Ethnic Cleansing." These new villages and neighborhoods, as they are called, include summer tent villages in the West Bank set up for farming activities. When Israel tried to removed the squatters, it provoked an intensive campaign by "rights" groups. Likewise, Arab squatters settled in Silwan (the Valley of Siloam) after 1967. This "neighborhood" was built without any building permits over a valuable historical site - the City of David - containing antiquities from the time of the first temple. Attempts to move the squatters have met with outrage.

On the other hand, any Jewish community; no matter how well established or how old, peaceable or legal is a "settlement" in Palestinian propaganda parlance. That includes for example the "settlement" of Ashdod shelled by Hamas rocket fire. Hamas news reports regularly refer to rockets fired on the "settlements" of Sderot and Ashdod, inside the Israeli Green Line. America has a short memory. About 1950, a hit song of the progressive Weavers group was "Tzena Tzena," celebrating the birth of the state of Israel. The words mean "Come out girls and see - there are soldiers in the settlement."

Tel Aviv Government - Phrases such as "The Tel Aviv government stated" or just "according to sources in Tel Aviv" are a way that certain media remind readers that they do not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The government offices that are the sources of these "Tel Aviv" statements are usually in Jerusalem. If you encounter these phrases in a news story, it is probably biased. The correct neutral phrases are "The Israeli government" or the "The Israeli Department of Defense" etc. These avoid the problem of taking a stand on the status of Jerusalem. The "Tel Aviv" usage, once the exclusive property of Arab and Muslim governments and Communist government publications, is gradually finding its way into mainstream media in the West.

"Right of Return" of Palestinian Refugees and International Law

One of the cardinal claims of Palestinians concerns the "Right of Return" of Refugees under International Law. Examination of the legal issues shows that there is probably no such right, that the "refugees" are not considered refugees in international law, and that the intent of the claim is to destroy Israel. Therefore, this claim cannot be a condition for a "peace" treaty. Palestinian and Arab use of the claim in their "peace" proposals shows that their intent is to destroy Israel, rather than to make peace with Israel.

The "Right of Return" claim is based on a gross abuse of language. UN General Assembly Resolution 194 is generally offered as the basis of the claim that the right of the refugees is anchored in "international legitimacy." But General Assembly resolutions are not binding in international law. Moreover, the use of the word "right" in connection with return was intentionally excluded from the resolution.

Refugee status is not heritable. The children of refugees are not considered refugees anywhere except in the case of the Palestinians.

The Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 states :

This Convention shall not apply to persons who are at present receiving from organs or agencies of the United Nations other than the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees protection or assistance.

That excludes Palestinian refugees who are receiving aid separately from the UNRWA. The same convention states:

E. This Convention shall not apply to a person who is recognized by the competent authorities of the country in which he has taken residence as having the rights and obligations which are attached to the possession of the nationality of that country.

Palestinian refugees in Jordan have obtained Jordanian nationality. About 1.5 million such "refugees" are included in official UN tallies of Palestinian refugees. Numerous Palestinians living in the United States, Australia and EU countries have obtained citizenship of their countries, but claim "right of return." None of them would be eligible for refugee status under ordinary international law.

The convention does not mention a "right of return," but only mentions that refugees may not be forcibly returned to a country where they are liable to persecution.

Palestinian supporters claim that the right of return is recognized in international human rights instruments, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the 1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However the applicability of these provisions to Palestinian Arab refugees is in doubt.

According to Article 12(4) of the 1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights:

 "No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country."

To whom does the article apply? Stig Jagerskiold, an early interpreter, wrote:

"This right is intended to apply to individuals asserting an individual right. There was no intention here to address the claim of masses of people who have been displaced as a byproduct of war or by political transfers of territory or population, such as the relocation of ethnic Germans from eastern Europe during and after the Second World War, the flight of Palestinians from what became Israel, or the movement of Jews from the Arab countries. Whatever the merits of various "irredentist" claims, or those of masses of refugees who wish to return to the place where they originally lived, the Covenant does not deal with those issues and cannot be invoked to support the right to "return." These claims will require international political solutions on a large scale." (Freedom of Movement, in The International Bill of Rights 166, at 180 (Louis Henkin ed., 1981).

 Likewise, another expert has noted:

 "There is no evidence that mass movements of groups such as refugees or displaced persons were intended to be included within the scope of article 12 of the Covenant by its drafters" (Horst Hannum, The Right to Leave and Return in International Law and Practice (1987) p.59)

Intent of the claim

The claim to "right of return" as a "just" solution of the Palestinian refugee problem must be viewed in the light of the intent of the claimants. This intent has been announced repeatedly and openly: To destroy Jewish self-determination and the state of Israel.

The post-war Egyptian Foreign Minister, Muhammad Salah al-Din, stated:

... in demanding the return of the Palestinian refugees, the Arabs mean their return as masters, not slaves; or to put it quite clearly – the intention is the extermination of Israel. (Al-Misri, 11 October 1949, as quoted by N. Feinberg, p109)

Similarly, Egypt’s President Nasser stated:

If the refugees return to Israel, Israel will cease to exist. (Neue Zuercher Zeitung, September 1, 1960)

A Fatah Web site ( no longer online) stated:

To us, the refugees issue is the winning card which means the end of the Israeli state. (fateh.net/e_public/refugees.htm)

To this end, Arab governments and Palestinian groups have acted in bad faith to prevent a solution to the problem.  Ralph Galloway, formerly director of UN aid to the Palestinians in Jordan, stated:

The Arab states do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don’t give a damn whether the refugees live or die. (Ralph Galloway, UNRWA, as quoted by Terence Prittie in The Palestinians: People, History, Politics, p 71.)

While decrying the plight of the piteous refugees supposedly victimized by Israeli aggressors, Arab governments have caused the UN to pass resolutions that condemned Israeli attempts to resettle refugees in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank. Any effort by Israel to improve the living conditions of Palestinian refugees in the Gaza strip or to give them new homes outside the refugee camps, was met with UN resolutions with wording such as this:

1. Calls once more upon Israel to desist from removal and resettlement of Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip and from destruction of their shelters;

2. Requests the Secretary-General, after consulting with the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, to report to the General Assembly by the opening of the thirty-fifth session on Israel's compliance with paragraph 1 above. ( target = "N" UN A/RES/34/52(A-F) 23 November 1979

The intent of pressing right of return claims is certainly to destroy the Jewish state, in violation of several provisions of the Charter of the United Nations and of international law, notably, the right of self -determinination..

The right of self-determination, guaranteed in the UN Charter, is reiterated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Article I, Part I, opens the convention with the following declaration:

1. All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.

This is generally recognized as Jus Cogens (Strong Law) that overrides other considerations.

Abuse of Language in the Media

Language is regularly abused by media, including supposedly neutral and professional media. You need to be aware of it, understand how it shapes opinion, and point out when words are used to stack the deck unfairly. As noted, a man who plots to blow up Israelis is a "militant." When the same man, literally, comes to Britain and is involved in a bomb plot there, the same media may refer to him as a "terrorist." The Saudi who tried to blow up a prince was universally referred to as a "terrorist." He is not different from the "militants" who try to blow up people in Israel.

Israeli foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman advocated a loyalty test to screen out Arab citizens who are opposed to the existence of Israel. He was branded a racist. Supposedly respectable news services such as Reuters refer to him as the "ultranationalist" Avigdor Lieberman, foreign minister in the "right leaning government" of Benjamin Netanyahu. No such epithets are used for presumed paragons of moderate and progressive thought like Bashir Assad of Syria, Hassan Nasrallah of the Hezbollah or Khaled Meshal, head of the Hams.

Abdullah, the Hashemite monarch of Jordan, is widely praised as a "moderate" and a man of peace. No Jews are allowed to get Jordanian citizenship. Jordan prohibits the importation of Jewish religious articles or Hebrew printed matter. However, this is not considered "racist" "ultranationalist" or "right leaning." Likewise, no Jews can become citizens in Saudi Arabia or practice their religion openly there, and neither can Christians. But Saudi Arabia is considered "moderate" rather than "racist" or "ultranationalist" or even "right leaning." The height of absurdity is reserved, however, for "progressives" who support the Islamist regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Hezbollah as "progressive" causes. Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian government are touted as moderate. They insist that all of East Jerusalem is Arab, and that any peace agreement must flood Israel with Palestinian "refugees" and destroy the Jewish state. They refuse to recognize the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. Israelis who demand all of East Jerusalem or refuse to recognize Palestinian rights are labeled "right wing extremists."


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See Also - Zionism and Israel- Issues and Answers   Zionist Quotes    Explaining Zionism Be a Proud Zionist 

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Zionism - Table of contents at the Jewish Virtual Library

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