In response to my piece at the Daily beast today, the noted UK activist and author, Ben White, asked me, on Twitter, what I meant by the following sentence: “Yousef (Munayyer) implied that the only way to recognize Palestinian rights is to allow each refugee and their descendants to choose whether and where, within all of historic Palestine, to return to. That is an unfair standard.”
I respond here because it’s a fair question that deserves more than a 140 character response.
What I mean here is that, while I think it is perfectly legitimate for Palestinians to call for, and for others to support, the full right of return to their original homes, there are also legitimate reasons not to support that call.
In the piece to which my own was a response, Yousef Munayyer claims that Zionism is inherently incapable of recognizing Palestinian rights. His takeoff for this point is Daniel Levy’s statement that he cannot support the Palestinian civil society call for BDS. That call has three clauses, two of which I fully support and I would feel very safe in saying Daniel does as well: self-determination for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and full equality for Arab citizens of Israel. So the issue is with the third, the call for the right of return for refugees.
I think it is not inherently anti-Israel to call for full RoR. I also think it is not inherently anti-Palestinian to say that RoR must be limited, and this is what i describe in my Daily Beast piece. But Yousef seemed to imply that anything less than full support for RoR proves that “liberal Zionists” like Daniel Levy (and non-Zionists like myself, presumably) cannot truly accept that Palestinians have the same rights as everyone else. I disagree, in that I think they do have the same rights as everyone else and, like everyone else, those rights exist within political realities that we all have to deal with. And, as I state in the piece, those universal rights only entitle refugees to return to their home country, not to specific areas within it, necessarily.
Thus, I believe the standard Yousef set for what would be viewed as respecting Palestinian rights is an unfair one.