Academics celebrate ‘right of return’ as the ‘end of Zionism’

A webinar reveals that U.N.-sanctioned propaganda has bequeathed a nefarious legacy. Generations of misled “refugees” refuse to accept the national identities of their birth countries, just as Middle Eastern countries reject these “refugees.”

Noura Erakat. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Noura Erakat. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Andrew E. Harrod
Andrew E. Harrod, a Middle East Forum Campus Watch fellow, freelance researcher and writer, is a fellow at the Lawfare Project. Follow him on X @AEHarrod.

In a future Palestinian state including what is now Israel, “Jewish Israelis can remain, they just can’t remain as our masters,” declared Palestinian-American Noura Erakat, an assistant professor of African Studies at Rutgers University, in a Dec. 7 webinar. Her imperious tone towards the sovereign Jewish nation-state reflected the hate and delusion expounded during the London-based Palestinian Return Centre’s panel on “The Inalienable Right of Return.”

The webinar’s introduction video exemplified the propaganda behind Palestinian claims to a “right of return” for descendants of perhaps 700,000 Arabs who fled what became Israel during its 1948 War of Independence. Although unmentioned in the video, the United Nations bestowed upon these refugees their very own bureaucracy. The U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is distinct from the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for all the world’s other refugees. They also received a uniquely inherited “derivative refugee status.”

Although the original 1948 Arab refugees have largely died off, their descendants have ballooned, in the video’s words, to “about 7 million Palestinian refugees worldwide.” Under this deceptively skewed reckoning, “Palestinians are the largest and longest-suffering group of refugees in the world,” equaling one-third of all refugees globally. Thus panelist Janna Jihad, the nom de guerre of a 14-year-old Floridian, has become “the youthful, innocent face tasked with hiding” the terrorism-supporting Tamimi clan’s “murderous hatred of Israel.” Thanks to UNRWA, her family’s West Bank roots give her standing as the “fourth generation after the nakba” (“catastrophe”) of 1948.

Continuing this perverse tradition, the American-born Erakat boasts she has instructed her daughter to reject any notion that Palestinian “refugees” could embrace lives in new homelands like numerous other diaspora communities. “Despite the Zionist mantras that the old will die and the young will forget, Palestine continues to live on in all of us,” she stated. Her fellow webinar presenter, Palestinian American Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi, similarly claimed that “of the original Arab population of Palestine, about half of their descendants now live outside of historic Palestine.”

Any “return” of these Palestinian millions to Israel means the “end of Zionism,” proclaimed University of Exeter Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies Research Fellow Ghada Karmi. This demographic destruction of Israel’s Jewish majority would create a unitary Arab-majority Palestinian state encompassing Israel and the Palestinian territories. As panelist Miko Peled, a fringe anti-Zionist Israeli, fantasized, this would be a “single state with equal rights” replacing what all the panelists accepted as Israeli “apartheid.”

History offers no evidence of non-Muslim minorities living in equality in Muslim-majority states, but the panelists preached that Israeli Jews should not fear living amid rabidly anti-Semitic Palestinians. Jewish Israelis “will be welcomed to stay to build with us the new state” without “suspicion or question of any Palestinian trying to advocate for the expulsion of the Jewish Israelis,” cooed Karmi. Arab-Jewish “coexistence was not ever possible in the Zionist vision. The reverse is not true,” claimed Erakat, despite Israeli Arabs enjoying rights and benefits unknown throughout Arab states.

In the panelists’ telling, Arabs should fear Jews and not vice-versa, as Israel engaged in “ethnic cleansing” in 1948, according to the Palestinian myths peddled by Khalidi. Erakat dismissed as “mythology” the facts that many Arabs fled combat zones or obeyed Arab authority orders to evacuate in order to create free-fire zones. “Zionist gangs, murderous gangs, racists, fascists” expelled Palestinians in 1948, ranted Peled, such that “Israel does not commit crimes against humanity,” but rather “Israel is the crime against humanity.”

Peled fabricated a revisionist history in which Zionist settlers stole a developed Arab homeland rather than pioneering modern communities in a sparsely settled wasteland to the mutual benefit of Arabs. “The Zionists took Palestine fully furnished. It was a land that was well-cultivated. It was a country that had an enormous amount of wealth,” he lied. In Janna Jihad’s alternate reality as well, the region’s Arabs “were living in such beautiful houses next to the beach, a very humble and beautiful life,” before the onset of Zionist ravages.

In this fantasy, Palestinians occupied a veritable Eden since time immemorial, rather than being a local Arab population formed through successive immigration streams that only in the 1960s began to develop a Palestinian identity. “Palestinians have a right of residency in their ancestral homeland by right as the indigenous population of the country” and the “natural right of a people” to self-determination, asserted Khalidi. Any doubting of this Palestinian nationalist narrative is the “politicide” of a people. Erakat also condemned British “colonial erasure” of a Palestinian “right to peoplehood” for not recognizing a then nonexistent Palestinian identity in the 1917 Balfour Declaration and subsequent League of Nations Palestine Mandate.

The webinar’s historical distortions make a mockery of any peaceful protestations by Khalidi. Like other Palestinian “right of return” proponents, Khalidi falsely argues the 1948 U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 “established the right to return” for Arab refugees, albeit “on condition that they were prepared to live in peace.” Yet repatriation is merely one option in this nonbinding resolution, and if the webinar is any indication, any indoctrinated Palestinian “refugees” would only implement what Israeli observers have dubbed a “war of return” against Israel. Peled himself scoffed that under the resolution “Palestinians are the ones who have to explain themselves and promise to behave well.”

The webinar, where such academics as Erakat and Khalidi shared a platform with equally extremist activists like Peled and Janna Jihad, revealed that U.N.-sanctioned propaganda has bequeathed a nefarious legacy. Generations of misled “refugees” refuse to accept the national identities of their birth countries, just as Middle Eastern countries reject these “refugees.”

Fortunately, Erakat and Khalidi’s ilk will never achieve their genocidal goals. Even as the list of Arab and Muslim-majority states establishing relations with Israel continues to grow, these professors made fools of themselves by promoting the Palestinian Return Centre’s hidebound Israel-hatred. The real tragedy shown by the webinar is Middle East studies, which for all of its profligate resources should offer accurate and useful insights into contemporary conditions. Instead, the field mimics the lies and distortions of Palestinian propagandists, some of whom count among its most “distinguished” faculty. As a discipline, it is embarrassingly out of touch with reality.

Andrew E. Harrod, a freelance researcher and writer, is a Campus Watch Fellow and a fellow with the Lawfare Project. Follow him on Twitter at: @AEHarrod.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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