"There is in history no right of return"

February 5, 2013

In Blog

Finkelstein comments:  Bemoaning the “perennial victimhood” of Palestinians, New York Times columnist Roger Cohen declared in today’s edition,  “there is in history no right of return” (“Blight of Return,” New York Times, 18 January 2013).   It might fairly be argued that, in order to achieve a political settlement of the conflict, the right of return will have to be subject to negotiations, in which Israel or an international arbitration panel makes an offer reasonable and generous enough such that Palestinians would be willing to forego, in part or in full, their right.  But Cohen makes the audacious claim that the right itself doesn’t exist.  If he were correct, then the United Nations, which annually and overwhelmingly affirms this right, as well as major human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, both of which have upheld this right in official policy statements, must be suffering from a grand, and highly contagious, delusion.  It happens that when the Palestinian right of return was debated in HRW, a cabal in the organization, along with its outside hirelings, sought  to prove Cohen’s contention.  It caused intense internal conflict, but at the end of the day, HRW stood fast by its avowed principles of fairness.   In the interests of bringing enlightenment to Cohen, and hoping against hope that he is capable of acknowledging error, I am hereby releasing the internal document from HRW, which a staff member (who prefers anonymity) recently passed on to me.