Notes on international law and the right of return

on 52 Comments

My thanks to Ahmed Moor for his continuing efforts to advance the search for political solutions in Israel-Palestine, and I offer my apologies for my extended absence from the discussion. I hope to respond to his latest proposals in the near future, but first I’ll answer a question that Adam Horowitz raised in response to my  previous post discussing the Palestinian right of return. The question was, “what is the relation of international law to the right of return?” I’ll refer to some long answers and short answers to that question before providing my own medium-length response. 

My analysis will focus primarily on the most weighty and controversial element of the right of return, which is the right of the descendants of the original 1948 Palestinian refugees to move to and live within the internationally recognized, pre-1967 borders of the State of Israel.  The rights of the 1948 refugees themselves, while no less (and probably more) compelling, apply only to a small and dwindling number of individuals, and the rights of 1967 refugees from the Occupied Territories to return to those areas can be realized by the creation of a Palestinian state.  It is the right of descendants of 1948 refugees to live in Israel that poses the toughest problem. 

Many lengthy, complex and detailed answers to the question can be found in articles and position papers written by law professors and political activists.  A fair sample of that literature might include, on the Palestinian side, Badil’s brief and bulletin, the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine’s information paper, and the Human Rights Watch position; and on the Israeli side, articles by professors Eyal BenvenistiRuth Lapidoth, and Yaffa Zilbershatz, and by journalist Matthew Kalman

Readers with the patience and fortitude to study that literature will learn a great deal about international treaties and UN resolutions, but in the end they are likely to arrive at the following bottom line: Given the lack of effective mechanisms for interpreting and applying international law regarding the right of return, it makes more sense to seek political rather than legal solutions.  In other words, unless and until some legal forum is empowered to decide, authoritatively, what international law regarding the right of return requires, and some executive body is empowered to enforce that decision, the competing claims of activists and professors will remain largely academic, without much practical effect. 

If I nonetheless put myself in the position of a lawyer wishing to advocate for the right of return through legal action, I have to ask myself at least four pertinent questions:  What legal standards should I invoke?  By what authority do they bind the State of Israel?  And again, What legal forum can apply those legal standards, and What executive body can enforce its decision? 

Regarding the legal standards, a review of international treaties governing armed conflict, refugees, migration and nationality – four areas with great relevance to the Palestinian refugee problem – unfortunately provides little or no support for the right of return.  While various provisions of such treaties are occasionally cited by right of return advocates, on examination they generally turn out to be designed for different types of situations, or advisory rather than compulsory, or both. 

More commonly cited by right of return advocates are UN resolutions, particularly General Assembly (GA) Resolution 194, resolving that “the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date,” and international human rights law, especially Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which provides that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.” 

The numerous UN-GA resolutions addressing the right of return reflect the shifting emphasis of politics at different points in history.  A fair sampling of the seminal resolutions would include 194, adopted in 1948, which made a relatively strong statement in favor of repatriation; 393 and 394, adopted in 1950, as it became clear that near-term repatriation was unlikely to occur, and which therefore put additional emphasis on resettlement and compensation; 2452, adopted in 1968, the first of a series of resolutions strongly supporting the right of return of 1967 refugees to the Occupied Territories; and 3236 (1974), 37/120(E) (1982) and 38/83(J) (1983) – adopted as Israel’s standing and support began to decline due to the ongoing Occupation and the invasion of Lebanon – which expressed renewed support for the right of return of 1948 refugees. 

However, there are at least three serious obstacles to enforcing UN-GA resolutions.  First, they lack specificity and consistency.  Second, the GA’s powers, delineated in Chapter IV and other parts of the UN Charter, are advisory, not compulsory.  By way of contrast, Chapter VII of the Charter empowers the Security Council (SC) to make binding decisions and even to use military force to enforce them; however, the SC resolutions relevant to the right of return, like 237 and 242, are general and advisory. 

Third, the UN’s judicial arm, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), whose jurisdiction is defined in Chapter 14 of the Charter and in an annexed statute, may deliver a judgment binding a member state only if that state has consented to the proceedings.  The ICJ may also deliver advisory opinions without a state’s consent, as it did regarding Israel’s Separation Wall, but no advisory opinion has been delivered regarding the right of return. 

Article 12 of the ICCPR was enacted to protect the individual’s freedom of movement, including his right to leave and enter his own country.  In the wake of a number of refugee crises in the 1990’s, the UN Human Rights Committee issued an official comment applying Article 12 to refugee situations.  The general language of the comment seems to support a fairly strong claim for many 1948 and 1967 refugees, and perhaps a weaker claim for their descendants.  Again, though, the ICJ lacks jurisdiction to provide binding interpretation and application. 

If a court did assume jurisdiction to define and implement the right of return, I think the most relevant precedent, which it could distinguish but probably not ignore, would be the body of law arising from the claims of Greek Cypriot refugees from the northern part of Cyprus. 

In 1974 Greek Cypriots launched a military coup against the government of Cyprus, and shortly thereafter Turkish forces invaded the northern part of the island.  More than 150,000 Greek Cypriots fled their homes in the north, while tens of thousands of Turkish Cypriots fled their homes in the south.  In 1983 the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) declared its existence as an independent state, which however was recognized only by Turkey, not by any other countries.  In 1985 the TRNC enacted a constitution which purported to expropriate the property deserted by Greek Cypriot refugees.  In addition, Turkey began to foster the migration of settlers from mainland Turkey to the TRNC. 

However, since Turkey had previously agreed to be bound by the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), Greek Cypriot refugees were able to assert their rights in that forum.  In a series of decisions, most notably Loizidou v. Turkey (1996) and Cyprus v. Turkey (2001), the ECHR ruled that Greek Cypriot refugees retained legal title to their property and were also entitled to be paid damages for deprivation of its use. 

The UN had previously adopted a number of resolutions supporting the rights of Cypriot refugees to return to their homes (SC 361, GA 3212, and others), but the ECHR did not rely on those resolutions, nor did it rely on ICCPR Article 12 regarding freedom of movement.  Instead, the ECHR relied primarily on a protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights that protects property rights.  The court held that since the TRNC was not recognized as a sovereign state, its laws purporting to expropriate refugee property were of no effect. 

Over time, the ECHR’s rulings created problems both for itself and for the TRNC.  The ECHR was flooded with thousands of similar lawsuits, while as a practical matter it was unable to enforce the declared rights of refugees to return to their homes.  Meanwhile, the TRNC faced ever-growing damages liability, and the legal validity of its title to refugee property was undermined.  Under those pressures, the ECHR and TRNC worked out a compromise arrangement over the last decade whereby the TRNC enacted a law and created a commission to process refugee claims, then amended its process in accordance with the ECHR’s recommendations.  Eventually the TRNC began processing claims, paying damages, and in some case returning refugee property or exchanging it for refugee property in the south, while the ECHR began requiring claimants to exhaust the remedies provided by the TRNC before appealing to the ECHR. 

Understandably, many Greek Cypriot refugees protested the ECHR’s diversion of their claims to an organ of the TRNC, where many would have to accept compensation rather than restitution of their property.  However, the court, in the Demopoulos case decided last March, held that while the refugees were entitled to legal redress, after 35 years they could not expect to return to the status quo ante, nor would it be proper to force the eviction of large numbers of people who had come to live on refugee property.  The court also acknowledged that it lacked the resources to handle all the pending claims and, of course, the power to engineer a political solution to the Cyprus conflict. 

However, there’s one additional wrinkle. In a parallel development, a British couple purchased refugee property in northern Cyprus and built a house there, whereupon the original owner sued them in a Cypriot court and received a judgment requiring them to pay him damages and demolish the house.  The owner then attempted to enforce his judgment against the couple in a UK court, which in turn asked the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which hears civil cases and operates parallel to the ECHR, whether it should hear the case.  The ECJ gave the green light.  Last January, the UK Court of Appeal, in Apostolides v. Orams, ruled that in light of the ECJ decision and ECHR precedent – and despite concerns that civil litigation of this kind might interfere with diplomatic efforts to broker a political solution to the ongoing Cyprus dispute – the UK courts would enforce the judgment of the Cypriot court. 

Does that mean that the door is now open for a 1948 Palestinian refugee from West Jerusalem to sue a London resident who purchased his former home?  Maybe.  Since Israel is a sovereign state, UK courts would probably apply the “act of state” doctrine, according to which the courts of one state, for diplomatic reasons, almost always decline to hear civil claims where a decision would require the court to pass judgment on the validity of another state’s action – in this case, Israel’s expulsion of refugees and expropriation of their property.  However, there have been exceptions to the rule, which readers can explore in the House of Lords decisions in Kuwait Airways v. Iraqi Airways and Oppenheimer v. Cattermole

Sometimes surprising results can be achieved by a creative lawyer appealing to a sympathetic judge.  And, of course, experienced litigators may think of many other approaches that I haven’t imagined.  Legal efforts sometimes have a significant political impact, which is why lawyers and human rights activists are reportedly preparing to file a wave of lawsuits based on the IDF’s destruction of Palestinian property during Operation Cast Lead. 

I’ve taken a legalistic approach to this topic rather than focusing on the declaratory moral force of international law, because when international law is invoked for moral suasion rather than legal enforcement, it becomes a political rather than a legal tool.  It looks like the Israeli-Palestinian impasse will be broken primarily by political rather than legal means, and I hope to return to the sphere of political action in my next post.

52 Responses

  1. potsherd
    September 13, 2010, 11:49 am

    Very informative, thanks for posting.

  2. MHughes976
    September 13, 2010, 12:35 pm

    I don’t think that rights to specific private properties are at the heart of the matter. In the end, properties can be bought. They can even be expropriated in return for compensation, the level of compensation decreasing (I suppose) over time, when the persons compensated have been born and made their lives elsewhere and in other ways. The Germans have, I think, made some compensation payments in respect of Jewish properties that changed hands in Hitler’s time and Israel has not encouraged former Jewish owners to reclaim houses lost in that period.
    The heart of the matter seems to be the right to a share of sovereignty in a place, which cannot be bought and sold: I can’t sell my British citizenship (whereas I could sell my house) to a Rwandan, anxious to leave Rwanda, or take my chances in an exhange of citizenship with him.

  3. Richard Witty
    September 13, 2010, 12:40 pm

    I found it informative as well, with the effect of casting great doubt on the assertions by Norman Finkelstein and many others that the right of return is “clearly defined in international law”.

    I believe that there is a legal approach that is practicable in asserting individual title claims over specific properties, and that is the nature of perfected title itself.

    The perfection of title is a transformation of contested title to consented title. The standard of consented title is not voted on, but judicially ruled on the basis of a “reasonable person” test. Would a reasonable person conclude that title to land, buildings, secondary rights (airspace, mineral, ground water) is clear and uncorrupted.

    Then the legal question becomes, what is necessary to perfect the title? Restoration of property to prior owners, compensation if it would be more unjust to remove current owners.

    This only addresses title questions.

    Rights to residence in a sovereign state are different questions, that internationally vary radically. States have residence and immigration laws that range from universally inviting, to inviting to those with skills and/or capital, to inviting to those ethnically connected, to isolation.

    It would be better if Israel’s residence and citizenship law were clearer and allowed for broader permissions to reside and become a citizen. (This is one area where religious and nationalist electoral factions have influenced the Israeli law.)

    What do you consider “political”, in your description of political means over legal.

    • American
      September 13, 2010, 1:31 pm

      Let me answer your idiotic question about ‘perfected titles”..even though I doubt you even know what that means.

      Here’s how it would probably go in a court.

      The expropriated land, the land seized after routing out the Palestines in 1948 went to the state of Israel under their ” Absentees’ Property Law” transferred to the “Development Authority”.

      Which means…guess what?…..Israel has no deeds or conveyances to any of that property.
      This was done with Palestine land under laws Israel created for Israel.
      It was not done under Palestine RE law and no court in the fucking world would recognize the RE law of one country applying to the land and RE law of another. The US even has varying and different RE laws for land and ownership, different title and deed laws in it’s states.
      You don’t know what you are babbling about. Titles, deeds and etc are absurd when discussing confiscated land across borders of a country.

    • Chaos4700
      September 13, 2010, 11:35 pm

      …And this is why you’re only qualified to cook the books, Witty, and not get anywhere near the judge’s bench in an international court of law.

    • pjdude
      September 13, 2010, 11:39 pm

      I hate the whole unjust to remove current occupents argument. it makes a precedent that pushes to avoid justice rather than ensuring it. in my opinion it doesn’t matter how long they lived there if they did not gain it in a legit manner than they have no right to be there.

  4. pabelmont
    September 13, 2010, 12:45 pm

    A beautiful legal analysis.

    I am reminded, though, and sadly, of the semi-exculpatory remarks which conclude the opinion MOHAMED v. JEPPESEN DATAPLAN (9th Cir. en banc, Sept 8, 2010). The judges, apparently feeling the injustice of what they had by no means been compelled to decide, observed that the US Congress could provide restitution to the victims of US CIA’s extraordinary rendition (kidnapping and torture) as, after far too many years, it had handled the Japanese-Americans interned during WWII) (Jeppesen at 13554).

    Even without a basis in law, the US Congress could, of course, apply enormous political pressure to Israel intending to compel Israel to readmit the refugees and their progeny. And, of course, with considerable basis in law, the US Congress could attempt to compel Israel to ‘respect the Fourth Geneva Convention’ ‘in all circumstances’ by removing the settlers and the wall from all occupied territories and lifting the siege of Gaza. No-one expects it to any such thing.

  5. American
    September 13, 2010, 12:54 pm

    In my opinion the law, specifically international law, the Geneva Conventions, Rome statutes and the ICC as an arm of the UN should be the
    sole authority in these disputes and claims.
    The Geneva conventions and the Rome statutes set out what the law is occupations and land confiscation…if a law is violated it follows that the law must seek a cure.
    That is not to say the rulings would be the same in every case, …BUT the laws remains the same regardless of how a settlement is reached.

    The problem is and always has been ENFORCEMENT….the UN has no teeth.

    In the case of the law and enforcement regarding I/P, the US at the UN Security council has been the main impediment to enforcement of the international law in I/P.
    That is why no one in their right mind should be for ‘political solutions.”

    The entire question of right of return should be taken to the ICC…who can then set the ‘legitimacy” and criteria’ to be followed for any and all countries and claims.
    There will be enough ‘politics’ in the negotiations in the following lawsuits to suit everyone.

  6. Joseph Glatzer
    September 13, 2010, 12:59 pm

    Very interesting article. I particularly liked learning about those Cyprus cases which I didn’t know about before at all.

    • lysias
      September 13, 2010, 1:52 pm

      Why is Israel allowed to have associate status in the EU, when it won’t obey the European Convention on Human Rights or subject itself to the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, the way all the countries in the EU do?

      • potsherd
        September 14, 2010, 1:20 pm

        Israel blocked a delegaion of EU ministers from entering the country, for fear they might put pressure on them to make peace, then it demands membership. The chutzpah line has been moved back again.

  7. traintosiberia
    September 13, 2010, 5:06 pm

    link to reports of returning Jews youngsters and of settling down in Germany using the legal provision of claiming citizenship on the basis of ancestorial links to Germany or Europe.

    I find it this cynically racial when Romas are being shunted to wasteland by Frnace and when the debate about returning of Palestininians is being fashioned as the begining of the demise of Israel.!

    • alec
      September 13, 2010, 6:52 pm

      One rule for Jews, a different rule for others: that’s the Zionist way.

      Have you seen hypocrisy and self-serving ever bother Richard Witty?

      • lyn117
        September 14, 2010, 12:58 am

        “One rule for Jews, a different rule for others: that’s the Zionist way.”

        For sure, and I thought there was a convention against racism somewhere in the UN charter which Israel signed onto. If so, Ben Zakkai left the Palestinian refugee’s civil and human rights out of the discussion, in his emphasis on property rights.

        The Palestinian refugees are originally from within the pre-1967 borders of Israel. I believe that gives them the right to citizenship in Israel. The refugees still in Syria, Lebanon and the occupied territories are citizens of no state, nor did they emigrate voluntarily. As far as I know, the Cypriot refugees are citizens of some recognized sovereign state.

    • eljay
      September 13, 2010, 8:05 pm

      >> “I love Israel, but I just couldn’t live there anymore — it’s like a small village and so militaristic,” explained Lea Fabrikant, a photography student who arrived two years ago. “Most of all, I needed freedom and space, and I found it here.” Fabrikant, 26, said she lived through the many suicide bombings in Jerusalem, her home town, during the 1990s, and loves Berlin’s tranquility, relaxed spirit and affordability for students and artists.
      >> … Asaf Leshem, a 36-year-old travel guide, said his move three years ago had much to do with his family’s past in Germany. He has walked through the Schoeneberg neighborhood where his grandfather lived as a child before emigrating in 1938 … Leshem thinks his grandfather, were he alive, would have supported his decision. … “They also had good memories, especially from their childhood in Germany, how they used to go on trips to the Baltic Sea or go for a swim in Berlin’s Grunewald forest.” Leshem grew up in Israel but says he feels a bit German himself and appreciates German culture.

      How dare these young, self-loathing but clearly not “generation to generation” fear-scarred members of the “Jewish nation” forsake the safe haven of the Promised Land – their only true homeland – for the illusory calm of Germany.

      Why, as I write this, they’re probably even relying on Gentiles for their protection! The horror of it all!

      • Antidote
        September 14, 2010, 12:15 pm

        Former German chancellor Helmut Kohl:

        “If I do admit Jews to Germany, Israel accuses me of undermining Israeli national security. If I don’t admit them, I’m accused of being a German antisemite.”

        link to

  8. maximalistNarrative
    September 14, 2010, 9:28 am

    International law fully supports the right of the Jewish people to reconstitute their homeland and state in the Land of Israel.

    It does not, however, recognize Palestinian sovereignty over Jewish land in Judea and Samaria.

    Jewish people have a historic right of return to the Land of Israel based on our long history in our homeland. It makes no sense why an Afrikaaner type mish-mosh of foreign occupyers are able to occupy Jewish land and build large cities such as Ramallah, and Jenin over the ruins of Jewish cities.

    • James North
      September 14, 2010, 9:43 am

      Max: I would guess — although I can’t prove it — that you are adding deliberately provocative comments to this site in the hopes of provoking intemperate outbursts, that you can then label as anti-Semitic and try to discredit us. Most Mondoweiss commentators will see right through your manuever.
      I hope I’m mistaken. So by all means join in the vigorous dialogue here. We have a distinguished range of commentators, many of them Jewish, some of them Israeli, who will be happy to respond to your views. You just might have your prejudices shaken.

      • maximalistNarrative
        September 14, 2010, 9:56 am

        Yes you are mistaken. I am fully aware of International law and Jewish rights to the entire land of Israel. I am also quite aware of international attempts to dislodge the Jewish people who are a native peoples of the Land of Israel.

        In my opinion Jews have the right to build massively in Gaza, Ramallah, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and it is my goal to see overwhelming settlement of Jewish land which cannot be challenged legally in an international court.

      • Richard Witty
        September 14, 2010, 10:22 am

        You are aware that sovereignty is determined by consent of the governed, not by decree.

      • RoHa
        September 14, 2010, 7:46 pm

        “the Jewish people who are a native peoples of the Land of Israel. ”

        “Native” means “born there”. Most Jews were not born in Israel. They are native to the land they were born in.

      • Chaos4700
        September 14, 2010, 7:55 pm

        And where, Witty, did the Palestinians consent to being driven out of 80% of their own homeland?

      • Colin Murray
        September 15, 2010, 1:47 pm

        You are aware that sovereignty is determined by consent of the governed, not by decree.

        That is utter nonsense. Sovereignty is determined by an institution, e.g. a political party (think Bolshevik) or bureaucracy (think Canadian federal government) successfully acquiring the monopoly of state violence, by whatever means, to govern. Do you think people who lived under Communist governments consented to being ruled by rapacious mass-murdering gangsters?

        Most Israeli Jews recognize the sovereignty of the Israeli state and willingly consent to live under its laws and protections enforced by the IDF and various Israeli police forces, but the other HALF of the population under control of these same military and police forces does not. Do you think the 6-7 million Palestinians between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan River consent to governance by the racially supremacist Israel state? A monopoly on the control of gun ownership, i.e. the tools to kill, imprison, or deport anyone who exercises dissent, is the basis of Israeli state sovereignty over gentiles in Eretz Israel, not consent.

      • potsherd
        September 14, 2010, 11:24 am

        Max’s prejudices are quite firm, but as all he does is repeat the same Zionist slogans, he serves as an excellent example of the poverty of Zionist thought.

    • MRW
      September 14, 2010, 12:46 pm


      Unless you can cite some “international law” — and you can’t — since 1948 that grants “the right of the Jewish people to reconstitute their homeland and state in the Land of Israel,” the international agreements that created a “Jewish Homeland” within Palestine but NOT A STATE that was to replace it, still stand.

      I’m getting tired of posting this but I will:

      His Majesty’s Government believe that the framers of the Mandate in which the Balfour Declaration was embodied could not have intended that Palestine should be converted into a Jewish State against the will of the Arab population of the country. That Palestine was not to be converted into a Jewish State might be held to be implied in the passage from the Command Paper of 1922 which reads as follows

      “Unauthorized statements have been made to the effect that the purpose in view is to create a wholly Jewish Palestine. Phrases have been used such as that `Palestine is to become as Jewish as England is English.’ His Majesty’s Government regard any such expectation as impracticable and have no such aim in view. Nor have they at any time contemplated …. the disappearance or the subordination of the Arabic population, language or culture in Palestine. They would draw attention to the fact that the terms of the (Balfour) Declaration referred to do not contemplate that Palestine as a whole should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that such a Home should be founded IN PALESTINE.”

      But this statement has not removed doubts, and His Majesty’s Government therefore now declare unequivocally that it is not part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish State.

      From the British White Paper of 1939 housed at the Avalon Project at Yale University Law School.
      link to

      The biblical references to some “historic right of return to the Land of Israel” were added to the Bible in 1909 by Oxford University Press. “Israel” did not exist as a nation then. Israel in the Bible was a person, Abraham’s grandson (I think.) Israel had a tribe. NONE of the mythology you’re trying to pawn off here has any historical reference or archeological truth (Israel itself is in the vanguard proving that). It’s just one big wet dream of a con you hope idiots will swallow.

    • David Samel
      September 14, 2010, 12:46 pm

      MaxNarr, I must say I am utterly mystified at your “contribution” to this discussion. It seems to me that you are trying to be funny, but as someone who does that too often, even I can’t quite figure out the joke. On the off-chance that you are being serious, that your understanding of international law gives the Jews and no others rights to “sovereignty” and the right to build throughout the entire area, the absence of any supporting argument or specific citation to actual law fatally undermines your position, don’t you think? Why did you even bother to say anything? Next time, how about “I’m right and you’re wrong.”

    • RoHa
      September 14, 2010, 7:45 pm

      “Jewish people have a historic right of return … based on our long history in our homeland”

      Your homeland is the land you were born in, brought up in, or made your home in.

      • Chaos4700
        September 14, 2010, 7:57 pm

        I continue to find it fascinating that Zionist are the worst offenders for propagating the anti-Semitic canard that each and every Jew born outside of Israel puts their allegiance to a foreign power at the expense of their loyalty to their actual home country.

      • maximalistNarrative
        September 15, 2010, 1:47 am

        Quoting the British White Paper is irrelevant since this came after the relevant resolutions that were already adopted by international bodies recognizing the re-establishment of the Jewish homeland.

        In fact international laws do not “Grant” Jews the right to our land, they simply “recognize” our historic right to the land since it predates Britain, France, The US and many other countries. In fact it predates Islam.

  9. eljay
    September 14, 2010, 10:10 am

    >> I am fully aware of International law and Jewish rights to the entire land of Israel.

    Please provide a link to the international law that clearly defines “the entire land of Israel” and that clearly affirms the right of Jews to “the entire land of Israel”. Thanks.

    • Shmuel
      September 14, 2010, 10:51 am

      Please provide a link to the international law that clearly defines “the entire land of Israel” and that clearly affirms the right of Jews to “the entire land of Israel”. Thanks.

      Maybe this?

      • eljay
        September 14, 2010, 10:58 am

        >> Maybe this?

        Thanks, but I was hoping for some international law, not make-believe religious “laws”. ;-)

      • James North
        September 14, 2010, 10:58 am

        eljay: Shmuel is making a joke.

      • eljay
        September 14, 2010, 10:59 am

        >> eljay: Shmuel is making a joke.

        I know. That’s why I put a “winky” emoticon next to my reply. :-)

      • James North
        September 14, 2010, 11:03 am

        Sorry, I missed the emoticon.

      • Shmuel
        September 14, 2010, 11:08 am

        I was dead serious. You will both burn in hell :-P

      • eljay
        September 14, 2010, 11:23 am

        >> I was dead serious. You will both burn in hell :-P

        Although I’m atheist, I was raised Roman Catholic and, last I heard, the Pope said that burning in Hell is currently not necessary. So there. :-D

      • Shmuel
        September 14, 2010, 11:53 am

        Although I’m atheist, I was raised Roman Catholic and, last I heard, the Pope said that burning in Hell is currently not necessary. So there. :-D

        His Holiness happens to be a neighbour of mine, and I believe he was referring to unbaptised infants and aborted foetuses. So unless you are an infant or a foetus (which I seriously doubt), I’m afraid your punishment stands :-b

      • eljay
        September 14, 2010, 12:19 pm

        >> His Holiness happens to be a neighbour of mine, and I believe he was referring to unbaptised infants and aborted foetuses. So unless you are an infant or a foetus (which I seriously doubt), I’m afraid your punishment stands :-b

        I do have a youthful disposition (much to my wife’s occasional dismay), but I am neither an infant nor a foetus. Good catch. ;-)

        As for the status of my punishment:
        Wiki: link to
        >> Presently the Roman Catholic Church teaches that neither Heaven nor Hell is, in the proper sense, a place, created or uncreated, and that each is a question of one’s personal relationship with the Trinity. Pope John Paul II declared that, while Scripture uses the image of place in relation to eternal damnation, what is really involved is a state of self-exclusion from God. In the words of Pope John Paul II, “The images of Hell that Sacred Scripture presents to us must be correctly interpreted. They show the complete frustration and emptiness of life without God. Rather than a place, Hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy”.

        I’ve separated myself from “God” and I don’t feel any burning sensations, so I’m good. :-D

      • Shmuel
        September 14, 2010, 1:14 pm

        In the words of Pope John Paul II …

        Ohhhh, that pope. Say no more. Better safe than sorry, I always say.

      • marc b.
        September 14, 2010, 2:40 pm

        alas there is nothing more fallible than papal infallibility. i consider myself roman catholic as an identifier of my ethnicity, but religiously they really lost me on the silly meat on fridays/no meat on fridays debate. with all the pressing matters back in the 80’s, it was just the perfect example of fiddling about while rome burns.

      • eljay
        September 14, 2010, 2:50 pm

        >> i consider myself roman catholic as an identifier of my ethnicity …

        One day, should you and “your nation” ever feel “generation to generation” fear-scarred, I know of a nice little Holy Land upon which you can self-(self-)determine yourselves. Just steal as much as you can, promise not to steal anymore and you’ll be set! Ain’t “justice” grand?! :-)

      • marc b.
        September 14, 2010, 3:30 pm

        yes, it gets a bit nutty, this ‘we’ve been wronged’-biblical deed nonsense. i listen from time to time to the shortwave christian identity broadcasts, and their argument is that they (white anglo-saxon christians) are the ‘true covenant race’ and that america is their israel. if they get their way, papist and jew (and them gays, boy they don’t like gays) will be swinging by the neck side by side.

  10. eljay
    September 14, 2010, 11:08 am

    >> Sorry, I missed the emoticon.

    That’s probably because I used too much “nuance”… ;-)

  11. NormanF
    September 14, 2010, 10:51 pm

    There is no collective right of return in international law. There is only an individual right and even that is conditioned on state sovereignty and meeting various requirements for entry. No country allows any one an unlimited right to enter and stay in it. And since the Palestinians are not Israeli nationals, they do not even have an individual right to return to a country of which they are not by their own consent, nationals there.

    • Chaos4700
      September 14, 2010, 11:56 pm

      There is no collective right of return in international law.

      So Zionism isn’t, strictly speaking, legal?

      • Chaos4700
        September 14, 2010, 11:57 pm

        No country allows any one an unlimited right to enter and stay in it.

        Ayup. Resounding condemnation of the Zionist invasion of Palestine.

    • eljay
      September 15, 2010, 7:15 am

      >> … since the Palestinians are not Israeli nationals, they do not even have an individual right to return to a country of which they are not by their own consent, nationals there.

      No problem. All we have to do is to partition Israel and give part of it to the Palestinians so that they can self-(self-)determine themselves.

      Should the Palestinians happen to steal most of the land from the “new Israel” and ethnically cleanse any Israelis from Greater Palestine, still not a problem:
      – have the Palestinians promise not to steal anymore land, and all is forgiven (that’s what “humanists” refer to as “justice”); and
      – ethnic cleansing will not currently be necessary.

      All of this falls perfectly into line with the moral lessons currently being taught by Israel and its more fervent/devout Zionist supporters, so who could possibly object to such a wonderful turn of events?! :-)

    • Shingo
      September 15, 2010, 7:21 am

      “There is only an individual right and even that is conditioned on state sovereignty and meeting various requirements for entry.”

      According to which article of the Geneva Convention? You’re simply making this up as you go along, a la Witty.

      The right of return has alrady been tested in Kosvo and Bosnia. There were no such various requirements for entry.

  12. thankgodimatheist
    September 14, 2010, 11:55 pm

    Pathetic sophistry, Norman Fakestein

    Human Rights Watch Policy on the Right to Return

    Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (28 July 1951)

    “International refugee law and international human rights law mutually reinforce each other on the right to return. International refugee law affirms the right to return through the emphasis it places on voluntary repatriation as the preferred durable solution to refugee situations.

    The basis for the right to return under international refugee law can be found in the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (hereafter referred to as the Refugee Convention) and its 1967 Protocol. Support is also found in various regional refugee instruments, UN Resolutions, and the Conclusions of UNHCR’s Executive Committee (ExCom).
    link to

  13. Shmuel
    September 15, 2010, 7:15 am

    since the Palestinians are not Israeli nationals, they do not even have an individual right to return to a country of which they are not by their own consent, nationals there.

    Palestinian refugees are not citizens of the state established in their country, against their will, because Israeli citizenship requirements in the aftermath of 1948 were specifically designed to exclude them and deprive them of their property. To say that this was “by their own consent” is false and insulting. Furthermore, Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country) makes no mention of citizenship or nationality. To imply that the application of this human right is contingent upon citizenship is patently ridiculous and little more than cheap propaganda.

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