Samson Blinded: A Machiavellian Perspective on the Middle East Conflict
[ Descendants of 1948 Palestinian refugees are not refugees ] [ No legal basis for Palestinian right of return to Israel ]


The right of Palestinian refugees of 1948 to return to Israel is not viable

Taking the Edward Said's logic of the Palestinian right of return to Israel to its logical conclusion, Jews should be allowed to return to Spain, Germany, England, almost everywhere else, including Mecca with restitution of Jewish property there. When the Ukrainians in 1991 tried to collect two barrels of gold some ruler supposedly left in the English Exchequer more than two hundred years earlier, they were laughed at. No country can afford to pay compound interest;[1] without it, the 1948 Palestinian property in Israel is not worth the paperwork, to say nothing of the problem of establishing the existence and value of the Palestinian property in Israel as of 1948 and the hereditary rights of Palestinians.

The amount of the Palestinian claims from 1948 Edward Said vaguely estimates at billions of dollars. Although that does not seem like a high price to pay for Israel to get rid of the Palestinians, the figure is sheer fantasy, since the whole property of several hundred thousand poor Palestinian exiles could not have amounted to more than a few dozen million.[2] Fleeing Jews left no less in the Arab states. Jewish refugees resettled in vacated Arab houses; Palestinians could have done likewise. Edward Said adds land to the claims and misrepresents the facts. Before 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Jews had bought about six percent of the territory of Israel, but that percentage included much of the arable Palestinian land, the rest being desert, marshes, non-arable hills, or unowned vacant land. Quoted in the prices of that time, the Palestinian land would now be worthless. If the value of land in Israel has increased, that is due to improvements in agriculture and irrigation introduced by Israelis. More land was bought after 1948 by Israelis. United Nations decisions gave Israel other untitled land. If Edward Said recognizes the U.N. authority, he cannot claim land the U.N. gave Israel.

Edward Said writes that Israel took over all Palestine except the West Bank and Gaza after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Actually, Israel took about half of Palestine – the area allocated by the United Nations.

Edward Said starts with a request for Palestinian equality with Israelis and cessation of brutality and finally comes to the issue of Israeli compensation—not only Palestinian refugees, most deceased by now, but also their numerous descendants. Never has a victor, after repelling an invader (Arabs invaded legally established Israel in 1947) paid compensation to the conquered or their supporters. Edward Said offers the example of Iraq, which paid reparations to Kuwait; but Iraq was the aggressor and lost the war, quite unlike Israel. Edward Said wants overseas Palestinians compensated by Israel as well. Applying that logic to other cases, Israelis should demand compensation from Italy, Spain, and many other European countries, as well as from the Arabs who persecuted Jews and expelled them on several occasions. There is no legal framework for such reparations; Germany offered them only after unspeakable crimes, not comparable to the Israeli relocation of Palestinians. Perhaps Jews accepted the money because Germany offered it in good faith, not in exchange. Israel never solicited reparations—but Edward Said does.


[1] 60 guilders paid to American Indians for Manhattan, with compound interest over the centuries, amount now to more than all real estate on the island.

[2] A few hundred dollars is a major amount today for African families semi-nomadic similarly to the Palestinians, so perhaps Palestinian property in 1948 amounted to hundred dollars per head. Another measure, $800 per-capita GDP in Palestine now, suggests the property value of the same order. The Palestinian land value should not be added, because Israel preserved titled rights. Even if accounting for the Palestinian land, 1948 prices are negligible, later surge is due to development by Israelis. Palestinian refugees from Israel took possessions and cattle.