The Palestinian right of return was overwhelmingly supported at the latest Doha Debate on March 28. The debate was broadcast on BBC World on April 14 and 15. The issue is seen by many as the most intractable barrier to a Middle East peace settlement.
The vote came as Arab League ministers discussed the topic at a meeting in Saudi Arabia. A final draft resolution called for a “just solution” to the problem but avoided any mention of the phrase “right of return.”
Many Palestinians claim the right to return to lands and property that once belonged to them in what is now Israel. Israelis say that opening the door to an estimated five million registered refugees would destroy the Jewish state.
Yossi Beilin, a Knesset member and Chairman of the Meretz-Yachad party, and Bassem Eid, a long-time Palestinian human rights campaigner, argued for the motion. They were challenged by Israeli academic Ilan Pappe and Ali Abunimah, co-founder of The Electronic Intifada.
In a final vote almost 82 percent of the audience rejected the motion: ‘This House believes the Palestinians should give up their full right of return.’
The Doha Debates, a public forum for dialogue and freedom of speech in Qatar, have been broadcast on BBC World since January 2005. BBC World is the BBC’s international, 24 hour news channel, broadcasting by satellite to nearly 270 million people in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide.