Israeli jurists twist interpretation of law to deny legal basis of Right of Return

I found a disturbing article on Ynet News today:

Two prominent Israeli law professors submitted a paper to PM Netanyahu outlining their total opposition to the Palestinian Right of Return. “International law does not recognize the right of the Palestinian refugees and their descendents to return to their homes,” wrote Ruth Gavison and Yaffa Zilbershatz.

I’m no expert in international law, but I invite you to consider this passage from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 13, Section 2

I fail to see how one can misinterpret this law, but Gavison and Zilbershatz have managed to do so. Their expertise in the field of international law is clouded by the notion that recognizing Palestinian rights threatens the establishment of anti-Palestinian policy.

According to the jurists, the return of Palestinian refugees will “undermine the Jews’ ability to realize their right to self-determination in a Jewish and democratic country, and therefore Israel’s legal opposition regarding this issue is justified. (Recognizing the right of return) may perpetuate the (Israeli-Arab) conflict.”
Experts: No legal basis for Palestinian refugee demands, Ynet News

Contrary to the two jurists’ comments, the Palestinian Right of Return does indeed have a legal basis. The right to return is recognized in multiple humanitarian law documents including the updated Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. Gavison and ZIlbershatz shouldn’t be using their personal biases in defining the fate of the Palestinian people.

In a very petty and seemingly last-ditch attempt to justify their legal opinion, Zilbershatz told a Ynet reporter, “Had [the Palestinian Right of Return] been a legal right and not a question of morals or politics, it would have already been discussed at the international court.” Let me remind you that an inalienable human right is an inalienable human right regardless of whether or not the International Court of Justice issues a formal decree.

Nonetheless, the international community has been heavily engaged in discussion since the first few months of the refugee problem began in 1948. The UN General Assembly passed Resolution 194 and Resolution 3236 in support of the Right of Return. So if I can direct this comment to Gavison and Zilbershatz, I’d like them to know that they’re wrong.

The law applies to all. After all, Zilbershatz once said, “You can’t argue with rights.”

Sami Kishawi


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