Revolutionary Worker #1146, April 14, 2002, posted at http://rwor.orgThe "right of return" is a key issue in the Palestinian struggle. The masses of Palestinian people strongly insist on this right. On the other hand, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak put out the Zionist view when he said, "Insisting on the right of return puts a question mark over the very raison d'etre [reason for existence] of Israel-we will never agree to it."
The majority of Palestinian people today are refugees-living under Israeli military occupation, in nearby countries, or in other parts of the world. The right of return means the right of the Palestinians to return to and regain the land that was unjustly and violently taken away from them by oppressive powers.
Why can the Zionists "never agree" to this right? It's because this issue points to a basic truth-that Israel is a state based on the unjust dispossession, expulsion, and suppression of the indigenous people of the land, the Palestinians.
At the same time, the Zionists uphold their own "right of return"-anyone who is considered Jewish under Israeli laws can come to Israel to settle and become a citizen, even if he or she (or their family) had never lived in the area. This shows the racist and apartheid-like nature of the Israeli state.
For centuries, the Palestinian people had lived and worked on the land that the Israeli state stands on. The Zionist Jews from Europe who founded Israel followed a plan of expulsion and conquest of the Palestinians-with the help of the British and later the U.S. imperialists.
The 1947 UN partition gave the Zionist settler-colonialists 54 percent of the land-even though Palestinians outnumbered Zionist settlers two to one and owned 92 percent of the land. In 1948, the Zionists declared the establishment of the state of Israel and launched a war against Palestinians, using deliberate terror tactics against the people. At Deir Yassin, Israeli forces massacred 250 defenseless villagers, including 100 women and children. By January 1949, over 800,000 Palestinians-two-thirds of the entire population-was forced into exile. Israel seized 77 percent of the land and razed 400 Palestinian villages to the ground.
In 1967 Israel launched the Six Day War and seized the remaining 23 percent of historic Palestine-the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. Another wave of Palestinians were forced to flee, many for the second time. Over 300,000 were expelled from the West Bank and Gaza. Today, there are over four million Palestinian refugees living outside of what is now Israel, West Bank, and Gaza. Over three million Palestinians live in poor, crowded refugee camps.
Israel's origins and history show that as long as this state exists, there can be no liberation and self-determination for the oppressed Palestinian nation. The only truly just solution to the conflict is the overthrow of the Zionist state of Israel and the establishment of a secular (non-religious), democratic Palestinian state for all the people throughout the territory of Palestine. And the Palestinian right of return is a key part of this just solution.