Why is Israel not giving any land back to Palestine?

Law for 70 yearsThe right of every Jew to return to Israel

"The Jewish people arose in the land of Israel. This is where their spiritual, religious and political nature was shaped."

Tel Aviv, May 14, 1948. On this day the British mandate over Palestine ends and a new state is proclaimed: Israel. In the Declaration of Independence, Prime Minister David Ben Gurion draws a line from the expulsion of Jews from Palestine almost 2,000 years ago, through the origins of Zionism in the late 19th century, to the Holocaust and the United Nations' decision to establish a Jewish state in part of Palestine .

"The State of Israel will be open to Jewish immigration and the gathering of Jews in exile."

Return and unity

That same night Israel is attacked by its neighboring states, a Jewish state in an area inhabited by Arabs is unthinkable for them. But Israel emerged victorious from the fighting, and so on July 5, 1950, parliament, the Knesset, passed a law whose first article reads: "Every Jew has the right to immigrate into the country."

The Hebrew original, however, speaks of Aliyah: ascent. What is meant by this is the ascent or the return to Jerusalem, and so the law is not called an immigration but a return law, explains political scientist Lidia Averbukh.

"It was possible to agree on the name" return "because that is very essential for the Jewish tradition, this memory of the Promised Land and the expulsion from it One used to be a unified people in an area that was Palestine at the time the state was founded, that is of course constitutive for Jewish thought in general. "

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Many made use of the new law

In the first three years after the founding of the state alone, almost 700,000 Jews immigrated: Holocaust survivors, but also Jews from Egypt, Iraq and Yemen. At the end of 1951, Israel's Jewish population had almost doubled, while the number of Arabs had fallen from around 900,000 to 150,000 due to flight and displacement during the War of Independence. The Nationality Law passed in 1952 made them citizens of the Jewish state with equal rights.

Most of the Arab refugees and their descendants, on the other hand, insist to this day on their right to return, which the United Nations basically granted them in December 1948. And so the law of return on the Jewish side is opposed to the right of return on the Arab-Palestinian side.

"These myths about the origins of displacement are typical for many national formations. And here in this conflict we have an escalation in both cases, even if they are historically shifted. And of course there are different claims about who was there earlier, who more has the right, both sides try to derive the argument in such a way that the right to return is higher for one than for the other. "

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Not all are treated equally

In 1970 the Law of Return was amended. Since then, it has been said that "a Jew is a person who has a Jewish mother, has converted to Judaism and does not belong to any other religion". In addition, the right of return was extended to the children and grandchildren of Jews.

The dispute over who "returns" to Israel for what reasons is not resolved. Many new immigrants from the successor states of the former Soviet Union are assumed to have come to Israel for economic reasons, not real Jews. And some Ethiopian Jews are still denied immigration to Israel because their ancestors were forced to convert to Christianity.

"The claim to be the center of Judaism"

The central question that Israel has to ask itself again and again, however, is a different one: is the law of return, with its privileges for Jewish immigration, compatible with the standards of a liberal democracy in the long term?

"It is the law that sums up the image of Israel Israel has of itself, namely as the home of the Jewish people, the claim to be the center of Judaism. And I have to say that it is natural for many People in this world are an important law because it potentially gives them the opportunity to immigrate to Israel if they are not wanted in their own countries, so despite all criticism of the law that it does not necessarily go hand in hand with liberal democratic western standards : The law has enormous symbolic power and is still relevant to individuals worldwide. "

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