Refugee return to Palestine is practical as well as just

Monday is the day Palestinians mark the 69th anniversary of the Nakba, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by Zionist militias before, during and after the founding of Israel in 1948.

This new infographic from Visualizing Palestine starkly illustrates how many Palestinian villages were violently depopulated by the forerunners of the Israeli army in 1948.

Between 1947 and 1949, more than 750,000 Palestinians were forcibly removed by Zionist militias creating the Jewish-majority state of Israel and quite literally wiping Palestine off the map.

In violation of every norm of international law and of UN resolutions, Israel has for decades actively blocked these refugees and their descendents from returning to their homes.

According to UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, they now number more than five million people living in refugee camps in historic Palestine and in the surrounding countries. Palestinian diaspora communities exist all over the world.

Israeli racism

Israel’s laws, which a recent landmark UN report said meet the international definition of apartheid, block the return of Palestinian refugees for one reason alone: they are not Jewish.

The importance of this new infographic is that it illustrates how possible return would be in practice.

Many Palestinian homes emptied by Zionist militias – especially in cities – were stolen and given to new Jewish settlers.

The Jerusalem residence of The New York Times bureau chief, for example, is on the property where renowned Palestinian writer Ghada Karmi grew up. Her acclaimed memoir, In Search of Fatima, recounts how she had to flee as a child with her family in the shadow of massacres by Zionist militias.

However, as this chart shows, the vast majority of 536 towns and villages from which Palestinians fled or were expelled remain empty to this day.

The map builds on the work of veteran Palestinian geographer Salman Abu Sitta, whose research over decades demonstrates that Palestinian return is practical, as well as just.

Abu Sitta is an occasional contributor to The Electronic Intifada.

As we approach the 70th anniversary of the Nakba next year, remember that there is nothing stopping Palestinian refugees returning from their enforced exile except for Israeli racism.




This article does not look deep enough. In any decent system of law every criminal has the right to be stopped. "Israel" could never have been created and been permitted to violate International law millions of times per day since its inception without the connivance and active help of the US, UK, France, USSR/Russia, Germany,Canada and a host of other members of the United Nations. But the problem is deeper than this. "Israel" was created on the basis of the enforced absence of the (non-Jewish) majority of the people living within the boundaries of the new, so-called "state". This non-Jewish majority was not merely entitled not to be expelled, murdered, raped and terrorised into flight: it was also entitled - and has ever since been entitled - to participate fully in the political life of whatever state developed on its territory. The very fact that this majority has never been allowed to take part (together with the then minority Jewish element of the population) in the political life of its country means that no government elected since "Israel's" inception has been legitimate. In consequence, no decision, policy or measure taken by any "Israeli" government can - logically can - have been legitimate. True, illegitimate "Israeli governments" have implemented immigration policies that have created a Jewish majority within "Israel". But, by the UDHR Article 21 definition of legitimate government, and by common sense, such policies have been illegitimate. Consequently, no "Israeli" government has been legitimate. Not even the name "Israel" can be legitimate. It is irrational to think otherwise. And since the whole de facto constitution and continuation of "Israel" is founded on the perpetual exclusion of the majority of rightful citizens, "Israel" has never been, and never can be, a legitimate state. This is a matter of the most elementary logic. So why isn't each decent reader of EI asking his/her government why they are being so culpably irrational?

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He is an associate editor of The Electronic Intifada and co-host of our podcast.

He is author of the bestselling book Weaponising Anti-Semitism: How the Israel Lobby Brought Down Jeremy Corbyn (OR Books, 2023).