The Palestinian narrative sees Israel's 1948 War of Independence as the al Naqba -- "the catastrophe." The birth of a sovereign Jewish state is perceived to be the root of all evil because this supposedly solidified how the small Jewish community robbed the Palestinians of their land.
That is the recurring mantra found in Arab historiography -- a hypersensitive focus on discrimination and inequality. In general, Arab scholars tend to ignore the huge corpus of materials found in the archives on the war and zoom in on what are legitimate or illegitimate claims, using U.N. resolutions as the be all and end all.
Here we are, on the eve of Israel's 60th anniversary, and the Palestinians are still the only nationality that identifies and defines itself by its refugee status. Since the end of World War II, there have been approximately 140 million refugees worldwide. All have been assimilated with the exception of one -- the Palestinians. Ergo, as long the Palestinian refugee problem exists, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will continue.
And now, in order to illustrate how long the Palestinians have suffered, the Palestinian Authority has embarked on a new initiative to commemorate Israel's 60th anniversary by calling on all Palestinians living in the Diaspora to converge on Israel by land, sea and air to forcefully implement the Palestinian "right of return."
The design -- drawn by Ziad Abu Ein, a senior Fatah operative and deputy minister for prisoners' affairs in the P.A. -- states that the Palestinians have decided to implement U.N. Resolution 194, calling for a right of return for all Palestinian refugees.
The proposal of this plan now -- notwithstanding if this ever came to fruition -- is clearly geared toward embarrassing and hurting Israel during the anniversary celebrations by highlighting the right of return and, in essence, motivating Palestinians to act out against Israel by any means possible.
Article 11 of the resolution, passed in December 1948, states that "refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the governments or authorities responsible."
Path to Destruction
In reality, what is, of course, ignored is the desire to live in peace; moreover, what's not mentioned is the fact that the right of return calls for 4.25 million Palestinian Arabs -- refugees of the 1948-9 war and their descendants -- to immigrate to Israel, turning the Jewish majority in that country into a minority and ending Jewish self-determination in a sovereign state. In other words, its exercise can have only one result: the end of the Jewish state. (Talking about issues of "rights" enables academics and certain policymakers to avoid saying this in too blunt a fashion.)
Overall, this discussion on the right of return is based on a highly specific reading of history -- one that assumes an Israeli responsibility for creating the refugee problem via what they're calling "ethnic cleansing." Restitution from the allegedly guilty party involves the return of the refugees and their descendants.
Finally, the Palestinians -- 60 years after the modern State of Israel was established -- instead of searching for paths for peace, are searching for paths of destruction. Distorting empirical history to discover alleged rights manages to create an ongoing, unjustified animosity toward Israel, and continues to lead even well-meaning Palestinians down a path of false hopes built on false foundations.
Asaf Romirowsky is the manager of Israel & Middle East Affairs for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum.