In May 2011, a task force set up by the Israeli National Security Council recommended that “the issue of compensating the Arab-Jewish refugees be raised in negotiations with the Palestinians as an inseparable part of discussions on the Palestinian refugees” and that “such linkage would deter excessive claims on behalf of the Palestinian refugees, or at least moderate them”. Timed to coincide with the October 2012 meeting of the UN General Assembly, the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the World Jewish Congress sponsored a conference on the issue in New York and launched a campaign to enable Israel “to make its own demands”, and not simply “to respond to Palestinian demands”.
Though Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights welcomes – regardless of the respective geography – any campaign which seeks to raise awareness of the plight of refugees, and ultimately restore their internationally-recognized rights, Badil notes with concern a number of aspects of the current Israeli campaign regarding past displacement of individuals from Arab states.
BADIL views this campaign as cynical and politically-motivated, demonstrating a clear Israeli disregard for the rights of Palestinian refugees. Badil presents its rights-based analysis as follows:
1. Reparation for all: The rights of refugees are universal, with no one group to be favored above others. All refugees are entitled to, amongst other things, voluntary repatriation, property restitution and financial compensation.
2. Refugee claims to be made against offending states only: Claims made by, or on behalf of refugees should be filed with the state(s) whose actions are said to have created the individual's refugee status. For example, Arab Jews claiming refugee status should direct their claims to the respective Arab states, and not seek to tie them to any final status negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. For Israel to draw Arab states into the Palestinian refugee crisis is to use refugees as political capital, and is a deeply cynical attempt to achieve wider strategic aims.
3. Claims should not be linked: The current Israeli campaign seeks to make the protection and fulfillment of Palestinian refugees' rights dependent on the protection and fulfillment of those of Arab Jewish refugees. No group of refugees should have their fate tied to that of a separate, unrelated group. To do so is to artificially prolong the suffering of those refugees concerned.
4. Universal recognition of refugee rights: All reputable refugee-centered campaigns should acknowledge that the rights of all refugees are enshrined in international law. As such, the State of Israel must, in initiating this new campaign, recognize not just the rights of Arab Jewish refugees, but also those of all other refugee groups, including Palestinians.
5. A rights-based approach is the only solution: Badil fervently believes that the only approach that can deliver a just and durable solution for refugee populations worldwide is one which focuses upon the rights of refugees. In contrast, this Israeli campaign is instead politically motivated; devised as a means of limiting the rights of Palestinian refugees and extricating the State of Israel from its obligations as laid out under international law.
6. Israel cannot divest itself of its obligations: Regardless of whether Arab states have, through their past actions, created Arab Jewish refugee populations, the State of Israel has created - and continues to create - a Palestinian refugee and displaced population which now numbers in excess of 7.4m individuals. The obligations that Israel owes to those Palestinian refugees created by its actions are deeply entrenched within international law and cannot be jettisoned or diluted by any means.