The so-called “right of return” is one of the the Israeli-Palestinian conflict’s thorniest issues. During Israel’s 1948 War of Independence, as many as 700,000 Arabs fled or were driven from what had been mandatory Palestine. Since then, and unlike most of the world’s other refugee populations, the official number of Palestinian refugees has not declined, but exploded. The United Nations has decided that the refugee status of the Palestinians passes down from generation to generation, so that children born today are classified as refugees in the same way their grandparents were—an attitude that is contrary to its policy for all other displaced groups. And as a consequence, even when neighboring Arab countries make an effort to integrate Palestinians and their descendants, they are counted as refugees.
Why did this happen? In The War of Return: How Western Indulgence of the Palestinian Dream Has Obstructed the Path to Peace, Einat Wilf and Adi Schwartz explain that the persistence of the Palestinian refugee problem is part of the broader Palestinian war—waged not only with rockets, knives, and bullets, but also through international bodies, NGOs, and the media—against the very existence of the Jewish state. They also show how Western indulgence of this manufactured problem has harmed the effort to achieve an end to the conflict.
This week, Jonathan Silver sits down with Einat Wilf, a former Knesset member, to discuss the roots of the refugee problem, the role it plays in the Palestinian war against Israel, and why peace will never be achieved until Palestinians abandon the dream of destroying the Jewish state.
Musical selections in this podcast are drawn from the Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, op. 31a, composed by Paul Ben-Haim and performed by the ARC Ensemble as well as “Ulterior” by Swan Production.