One cannot truly understand the Israeli – Palestinian ‘conflict’ without first understanding the history and origin of Israel. In order for us to understand this situation, it is also necessary to for us to work around and demystify the political and media jargon that is thrown at us everyday. And as time goes, this blog hopes to address those truths and fallacies that surround this ‘conflict’.
Today’s post serves as an introduction to two laws that govern Israel and how these laws impact on ordinary Palestinians.
Israel was established as a Jewish state and this in turn means that it was not intended to be a state for all of its citizens – Jews and non Jews alike. Instead it was primarily envisaged as a state of which every Jewish individual throughout the world would be a potential citizen.
So when Israel was unilaterally established in 1948, it became imperative for its legislative body to define in law those persons who would qualify as actual or potential citizens and those who would be excluded (non Jews in general and Palestinian Arabs in particular).
A mere 2 years later, the Knesset (Israel’s legislative body) passed 2 laws: the Law of Return and the Absentee Property Law. The former defined the boundaries of inclusion (‘every Jew has the right to immigrate into the country’) and the latter defined the boundaries of exclusion (‘absentee’).
So what do these law’s mean? Well under these laws, every Jew throughout the world is legally entitled to become a citizen of Israel upon immigration whilst some 2 million people (the 1948 Palestinian Arabs and their descendants) who were exiled as a consequence of the 1948-9 and the 1967 wars, are denied the rights of citizenship. Now here’s the kicker – their (the exiled Palestinians) right of return is universally recognised in international law and in repeated UN resolutions (beginning with resolution 194 (III), 11 December 1948). Yet they are defined by Israeli law as ‘non-existent’ and as ‘absentees’, and hence excluded from actual or potential citizenship in the Jewish State.
It is important to realise that the
“the most damaging manifestation of Israeli legislation is directed against those non-Jews who are legally excluded as ‘absentees’ from the body of Israeli polity: two million Palestinian Arab displaced persons, conventionally referred to as ‘refugees’.Thus, each Israeli Jew has a shadow: the Palestinian Arab refugee of 1948. Israeli Jewish homes are built on the ruins of their homes. Israeli Jews cultivate their land.
The Palestinian Arab refugee of 1948 is today a soldier in the Palestine Liberation Army: a fida’i. All human beings will rebel, must rebel, in such circumstances, to reconstitute their full human existence, to reclaim their rights, if necessary by armed struggle, inside every part of the homeland from which they have been excluded. And in this struggle the Palestinian Arab deserves our full moral and material support.” (Uri Davis, Israel: an Apartheid State)