Debunking House Resolution 1123 Regarding the Nakba and Palestinian Refugees
By John Phillips for Life Magazine - Unknown source, Public Domain
On May 16, 2022, U.S. Representative Rashida Tlaib submitted House Resolution 1123 - Recognizing the Nakba and Palestinian refugees' rights.[i] This one-sided resolution misleads the public by leaving out critical facts and context about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It will not help bring Israelis or Palestinians together to build a more just and peaceful future.
HR 1123 erases the Jewish people’s connection to Israel and distorts the history of the conflict.
It claims Palestinians are the region’s sole “indigenous inhabitants.” This erases 3,000 years of the Jewish people’s history and connection to their ancestral home, fueling further hatred and conflict.
Before a single refugee fled, Palestinian leaders and Arab states rejected a 1947 peace plan proposed by the U.N., made no counteroffer, and launched a war to destroy the Jewish state.
“The representative of the Jewish Agency told us yesterday that they were not the attackers, that the Arabs had begun the fighting. We did not deny this. We told the whole world that we were going to fight.” - Jamal al-Husseini, Arab Higher Committee member and UN representative [ii]
“This will be a war of extermination and momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Tartar massacre or the Crusader wars.” — Azzam Pasha, Arab League Secretary-General [iii]
During what is now called the 1948 War, Israel declared independence, the Israeli army defeated invading Arab forces, and an estimated 500,000-750,000 Palestinians became refugees. Many Palestinians call this the “Nakba” (Arabic for “catastrophe”) and accuse Israel of ethnic cleansing.
In 1949, Israel offered to take in families that had been separated, pay compensation for any loss of private land, and absorb 100,000 refugees in return for peace. Arab states rejected this offer, refusing to accept Israel’s right to exist.[iv]
HR 1123 misleads the public about the causes of the ongoing Palestinian refugee crisis.
There is no question that the refugees suffered personal and collective traumas that remain central to Palestinian identity. Unfortunately, HR 1123 exploits that trauma to spread misinformation, shield Palestinian and Arab leaders from accountability, and promote hatred against Israelis.
“[T]he Palestine refugee problem was born of war, not by design, Jewish or Arab. It was largely a byproduct of Jewish and Arab fears and of the protracted, bitter fighting that characterized the first Israeli–Arab war; in smaller part it was the deliberate creation of Jewish and Arab military commanders and politicians.”—Prof. Benny Morris[v]
According to Benny Morris, the most widely cited historian of the Palestinian refugee crisis, “ethnic cleansing was not carried out in Israel” during the 1948 War. Regarding who created the refugee crisis, Morris wrote, “responsibility is split among [Israel], the Palestinians and the Arab countries – with enormous responsibility lying with the Palestinians who started the conflict.”[vi]
For generations, Palestinian leaders have promoted the narrative that peace is impossible unless all refugees can move to Israel and turn it into a majority-Palestinian state. Meanwhile, Arab states have systemically discriminated against Palestinian refugees and used them as political pawns. UNRWA, the UN agency which serves Palestinian refugees, has enabled this destructive status quo instead of helping Palestinians build a better future.[vii]
HR 1123 makes misleading claims about international law.
No group of refugees in modern history, nor their descendants, have been granted a collective “right of return.” Over 40 million people became refugees from 1945-1958. The international community did not demand a “right of return,” but rather resettled them in other countries.[viii]
UN General Assembly Resolution 194 does not give Palestinian refugees a “right of return” to Israel. It was initially rejected by Arab states and is not legally binding.[ix] It called for either “resettlement” or “repatriation” of the refugees, under certain conditions.[x]
Resolution 194 recommended that Palestinian refugees be permitted to return only if they wished to ”live at peace with their neighbors.”[xi] Since 1948, Palestinian and Arab leaders have launched numerous wars and terror campaigns against Israel, and stated that their goal in demanding a “right of return” is to eliminate the Jewish state.[xii],[xiii] Additionally, 850,000 Jews fled or were expelled from Arab states before and after the 1948 War, due to the actions of those leaders.
The Jewish people have a right to self-determination under international law. President Obama and others have recognized that a “right of return” to Israel, rather than to a future Palestinian state, is not an option because it would end Israel’s existence and strip away Jewish rights in the process.[xiv] It would also turn Jews into a minority living under the rule of leading Palestinian factions like Hamas and Fatah, both of which systemically promote anti-Jewish bigotry and terrorism.
HR 1123 calls for changes to US foreign policy that would undermine efforts to negotiate a just peace.
The US government supports a two-state solution and rejects unilateral actions, emphasizing the need for Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate directly to resolve their conflict. This includes a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian refugee crisis.
Any just and lasting solution must protect the rights of both the Jewish people and the Palestinian people. Demanding that Jews become a stateless minority again, living under the rule of Palestinian factions like Hamas and Fatah, is unjust and a recipe for endless conflict.
HR 1123 is a gift to extremists who reject compromise and seek to prevent any solution that would help ensure freedom, dignity, and safety for both Israelis and Palestinians.
Those who truly support justice and peace must accept that millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants will not be “returning” to sovereign Israeli territory. Erasing Jewish history, distorting the facts, and trying to end Israel’s existence will only fuel more hatred, suffering, and conflict.
[i] Recognizing the Nakba and Palestinian refugees' rights., HR 1123, 117th Congress (2022), https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-resolution/1123/text?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22nakba%22%2C%22nakba%22%5D%7D&r=1&s=3
[ii] Security Council Official Records, S/Agenda/58 (April 16, 1948), p. 19
[iii] Akhbar al-Yom, Egypt, October 11, 1947; quoted in David Barnett and Efraim Karsh, “Azzam’s Genocidal Threat,” Middle East Quarterly (Fall 2011)
[iv] Jewish Virtual Library, “Myths and Facts – The Refugees,” 2019, at https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/myths-and-facts-the-refugees#g
[v] Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949 (1998), p. 286
[vi] Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947–1949 (1998), p. 286
[vii] Adi Schwartz and Einat Wilf, The War of Return, 2020
[viii] Cited in Walter Laqueur and Barry Rubin (eds), The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict, 1975, Document 35, p. 154
[ix] Ruth Lapidoth, “Do Palestinian Refugees Have a Right to Return to Israel?” Jewish Virtual Library, n.d., at http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Peace/refreturn.html
[x] UNGA, “Resolution 194,” UNISPAL, December 11, 1948, at http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/C758572B78D1CD0085256BCF0077E51A
[xii] Yehoshafat Harkabi, Arab Attitudes to Israel, Israel Universities Press, 1974, at http://books.google.com/books?id=ocybbUgguOEC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false; President Nasser 1961 quote in Interview in Zibicher Woche, September 1, 1961, cited in www.eretzyisroel.org/~samuel/refugees.html; Palestinian Media Watch, “PA depicts a word without Israel,” 2013, at http://www.palwatch.org/main.aspx?fi=449
[xiii] Ruth Lapidoth, “Do Palestinian Refugees Have a Right to Return to Israel?” Jewish Virtual Library, n.d., at http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Peace/refreturn.html
[xiv] BarackObamadotcom, “Obama: Opposes ‘Right of Return’ Inside Israel,” YouTube, April 16, 2008, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xatt3DmTXHo&ab_channel=BarackObamadotcom
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