Utopian Thinkers Plan for Future One-State Israel Solution — If It Comes

Some Want Third Temple — Others See Palestinian Return

Still on the Drawing Board: Architect Shadi Habib Allah has drafted detailed plans for al-Lajun, a proposed town in Northern Israel for returning Palestinians.
Courtesy of Zochrot
Still on the Drawing Board: Architect Shadi Habib Allah has drafted detailed plans for al-Lajun, a proposed town in Northern Israel for returning Palestinians.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published November 24, 2013, issue of November 29, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 3)

Palestinian leaders have always insisted that Arabs whose families were expelled from or fled from their homes during the 1948 war that established Israel should have the right to “return” to them. Israeli leaders have always dismissed this as out of the question. The refugees from that war and their descendants — many still stateless — should be allowed to return only to whatever Palestinian state is eventually established in the West Bank and, perhaps, Gaza, Israeli leaders say.

At the Zochrot conference, held in late September, participants debated detailed plans on how at least a portion of those refugees could return to Israel itself in an orderly, planned manner. Palestinian author Salman Natur, a conference attendee, hailed the gathering as a “turning point in the attempt to transform Israeli consciousness” on this question. “Something noteworthy is happening here,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

The establishment of a Jewish discourse that supports a Palestinian return is newer — and much smaller — than the Israeli right’s varied proposals to annex the West Bank. Somewhat ironically, the conference promoting this discourse would likely have gone largely unnoticed were it not for the vocal protests against it by some on the right, and the media’s coverage of the resulting controversy. The Zionist group Im Tirtzu was furious that the Land of Israel Museum, a major, Tel Aviv-based institution that receives government funds, allowed Zochrot to hold the conference on its premises, and Likud lawmaker Ofir Akunis called on the museum to pull the plug on it. But the museum declined to intervene.

There are around five million Palestinian refugees, according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. And Israelis tend to presume that almost all would head to Israel given the chance. But speakers at the conference contested this. A “very small minority would actually move back,” Zochrot director Eitan Bronstein said, suggesting that Palestinians now established with citizenship in other countries, such as Jordan, would be unlikely to relocate.

The realistic goal of the conference, he and other organizers said, wasn’t to suddenly make “return” mainstream in Israel, but rather to begin a conversation, and to establish what “return” would actually mean.

Bronstein acknowledged that Israel would no longer have a Jewish majority in such a scenario, but he stressed that Jews would still represent a significant proportion of the country’s citizens.

Amir Asher, a translator who volunteers as a guide for Zochrot’s tours of former Palestinian villages whose structures or ruins remain within Israel’s pre-1967 borders, claimed that the right of return for Palestinians would not be just a concession by Israelis — it would also benefit them. “People always think about return in terms of the damage it would cause from the point of view of Jews in Israel,” he said, “but they never think about it as a good thing.” Asher argued that it would rectify the wrongs he believes were done to Palestinians around the time of Israel’s establishment, and thereby enable Israelis to stop “living a lie.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • A new Gallup poll shows that only 25% of Americans under 35 support the war in #Gaza. Does this statistic worry you?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.