Beyond Images - Briefing 2   Perspectives on the Arab-Israeli Conflict 
ISRAEL'S LAW OF RETURN - Fulfilling a Humanitarian Mission
London - 5 July 2002 

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"Israel's law of return is discriminatory because it gives Jews from anywhere in the world the right to live in Israel while Palestinians cannot enter the country".

The Law of Return is Israel's national immigration Law

  • Israel is a sovereign nation and a member of the United Nations. It was re-established in 1948 as the national home of the Jewish people (see Beyond Images Briefing 1 - The Unbreakable Bond).

  • For thousands of years, the Jewish people had been scattered across the world, but Israel offered them the opportunity to escape persecution and build a new life. Following Israel's establishment, thousands of Jews entered the country, mostly refugees from the Arab world who were driven out of their countries of origin, without compensation.

  • Every country is entitled to enact its own immigration law, and for Israel it was a matter of the highest national priority that it offers a safe haven for Jewish refugees who wished to enter the country.

  • The Law of Return, enacted in 1950, fulfilled that objective. It is the national immigration law of the Jewish people. It is as legitimate and justifiable as the immigration law of any other country.

The Law of Return has made possible the ingathering of millions of persecuted or dispersed Jews

  • Millions of Jews have migrated to Israel under the Law of Return from countries as diverse as Yemen, Morocco, Russia, Argentina, Australia, the USA, India, Bosnia, France and Ethiopia.

  • Thousands of lives have been saved, and Jewish communities rescued from isolation and persecution, because of the availability of immigration.

The Palestinians would need an equivalent to the Law of Return once they achieve self-rule

  • Ironically, if and when the Palestinian people achieve self-determination, they would need the equivalent of such a law to govern the influx of Palestinians.

  • Such a law would entitle Palestinians living anywhere in the Arab world, Europe or for that matter anywhere else, to migrate to the new state. Needless to say, such a law would give priority rights of entry to Palestinian Arabs, over any other national or ethnic group.

  • No-one would think to suggest that such a Palestinian law was "discriminatory" for giving priority rights of entry to Palestinians.

  • It is an inherent part of any immigration law that it gives precedence to the nationals of the country in question.

It is the absence of peace and normalisation which prevent Palestinians from returning
  • Since 1948, there has never been peace between Israel and the Palestinians. For as long as that continues, Jews the world over will be able to continue to migrate to Israel, but Palestinians will not be able to migrate to the territories over which they aspire to have self-rule.

  • It is not Israeli "discrimination" which has created this situation, but the absence of a political solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, addressing the right of return, compensation funds and resettlement programmes in a just and sustainable way.

  • These issues were raised in Israeli-Palestinians negotiations during 1999-2001 (which ultimately failed).

  • While Israel rejected an open-ended "right of return" by Palestinians into Israel, it made clear it would support an agreement by which any Palestinian could readily return to a future Palestinian self-rule entity. A 'law of return' to the Palestinian state would be needed to achieve this.

Beyond Images Conclusion

  • There is nothing discriminatory about Israel's Law of Return. It has enabled Israel to fulfil a humanitarian mission by offering a home to Jews from around the world.

  • It is counter-productive for Israel's critics to condemn a law which the Palestinians will in due course need to emulate.


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