Saturday, March 19, 2011

Norman Finkelstein's claim that right of return is "complicated"

Is it true, as Norman Finkelstein claims, that the right of return for Palestinians is a ‘complicated problem’ – so complex that it justifies him (and the Zionists) saying, “Now, I am not arguing now for a right of return”? [This is what Finkelstein does indeed say on his web at and you can see a video of him saying he doesn't call for right of return at ]

No, it is not true. I have debunked this ‘it’s complicated’ (or ‘not practical’) notion in two articles: here (pdf) and here. The only thing that makes people say that right of return for the Palestinian refugees is ‘complicated’ is the fact that if lots of the refugees returned then there might not be a majority of Jews inside the green line and this would essentially make it impossible for the Zionists to continue referring to the territory inside the green line as a Jewish state, unless they were to openly admit that their Jewish state is a state of only a minority of the population and risk disapproval of everybody in the world who supports the idea of democracy. In other words, what makes right of return ‘complicated’ is that it is incompatible with the existence of a Jewish state in Palestine—a state that is officially a state of the Jewish people and not a state of all its inhabitants (or even of all its citizens) equally.

For anybody who says, ‘There should not be a Jewish state in Palestine,’ it is very easy and uncomplicated to call for the unconditional right of return of every single Palestinian refugee. As my second linked article above discusses in some detail, there is no economic or political reason why all the refugees should not be allowed to return and be fully compensated for all the property that Zionists stole from them.

If Norman Finkelstein would agree that there should not be a Jewish state in Palestine, then he would be calling for the right of return, and he would be an anti-Zionist. Instead, however, he joins the Zionists in his refusal to say there should not be a Jewish state in Palestine, and he follows the logic of that refusal by saying that he doesn’t call for the right of return because it is ‘complicated.’

In the debate between Finkelstein and the former Israeli foreign minister (see the link above to Finkelstein’s webpage for this debate) the overtly Zionist foreign minister and Finkelstein agreed on the fact that the Palestinians, under international law, had a right of return. Asserting this fact does not make one an anti-Zionist. Calling for the right of return does make one an anti-Zionist. The very essence of Zionism is denying the right of return, no matter what the particular Zionist’s excuse is for denying that right, be it ‘God gave the land to the Jews’ or ‘Jews can only be safe in a state that ethnically cleanses most of the non-Jews because non-Jews are innately anti-semitic’ or ‘The UN gave the land to the Jews’ or ‘Might makes right’ or even ‘It’s complicated.’ I wish Norman Finkelstein were an anti-Zionist.