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Reparations for
Palestinian refugees
by Lena El-Malak

Israels failure to provide reparations to Palestinian for giving rise to the conditions
that create refugees would serve
refugees over the past six decades is in blatant as a deterrent to states which
violation of international law. resort to expulsion and population
transfers to create or reinforce
The abysmal failure of the Oslo prohibiting the expropriation of land ethnically homogenous entities.
process is in no small part due to owned by an Arab in the Jewish state
its failure to provide some form of and vice versa, except for public During the 1990s the Balkan
reparations to Palestinian refugees purposes, and stating that in all cases Wars reinvigorated international
in accordance with principles of expropriation full compensation focus on the need for repatriation
of international law. Instead of as fixed by the Supreme Court shall and reparations, yet once again
redressing the historical injustice that be paid previous to dispossession.1 Palestinians were a case apart. For
is at the core of the Israeli-Palestinian The subsequent denationalisation Palestinian refugees the Oslo Peace
conflict the Nakba (catastrophe) the of Palestinians en masse by Israel Process simply enshrined their
Oslo process relegated the issue of in order to prevent them from marginalisation. The international
refugees to final status negotiations. returning to their homes and the communitys failure or unwillingness
expropriation of their property could to put pressure on Israel to provide
Reparations may take various therefore not have been condoned reparations does not only have
forms: restitution of lost property, by the international community. implications for the Palestinian
compensation for damages incurred, refugees of 1948. This political
an acknowledgment of the harm Additionally, in 1948 the General impotence has given Israel the
done or a combination of all. Under Assembly adopted resolution 194 green light to displace hundreds
international law, reparation which resolved that the refugees of thousands of Palestinians over
must, as far as possible, wipe out wishing to return to their homes and the decades and, most recently,
all the consequences of the illegal live at peace with their neighbours even Lebanese civilians with the
act and re-establish the situation should be permitted to do so at the full knowledge that, once again, it
which would, in all probability, earliest practicable date, and that would not be called upon to provide
have existed if that act had not compensation should be paid for the reparations to those it has wronged.
been committed. Following the property of those choosing not to
flight of an estimated 726,000 return and for loss of or damage to Lena El-Malak is completing a
refugees from Mandate Palestine to property which, under principles of PhD at the Sir Joseph Hotung
neighbouring Arab countries, the international law or in equity, should Programme for Law, Human
Israeli Cabinet voted in July 1948 be made good by the Governments Rights and Peace Building in the
to bar the refugees return to their or authorities responsible.2 Middle East, School of Oriental
homes, and adopted legislation aimed and African Studies, London.
at denationalising them en masse Yet, almost 60 years later and Email: elmalaklena@soas.ac.uk
and expropriating their property. despite an annual reaffirmation of
resolution 194, Israel continues to See also:
The status of international legal preclude refugees from returning
norms at the time still allowed some to their homes. It has also failed to n Leckie, S Peace in the Middle
scope for debate of the legality restitute any of their property and East: getting real on the issue
of these measures. However, the provide compensation for their of Palestinian refugee property,
intention of the international losses. Although the international FMR 16 www.fmreview.org/
community with regard to the Arab community voted resolutions FMRpdfs/FMR16/fmr16.14.pdf
population of Mandate Palestine was in favour of the rights of return,
made unequivocal by the adoption restitution and compensation, it n Lee, Luke T, The Issue of
of two UN General Assembly has not exhibited sufficient political Compensation for Palestinian
Resolutions in 1947-48. In resolution will to enforce these rights. The Refugees www.arts.mcgill.
181 the so-called Partition Plan the importance of providing reparations ca/MEPP/PRRN/lee.html
General Assembly called on both the in international law must not be 1. UNGA res.181 (II), 29 November 1947.
Jewish and Arab states-to-be to grant undermined. Beyond the moral 2. UNGA res. 194, 11 December 1948 www.badil.org/
citizenship to the respective minority significance of redressing a historical Documents/Durable-Solutions/GA/A-RES-194(III).htm
residing on their territory. Resolution injustice, insistence that states have See also www.badil.org/Solutions/restitution.htm for
more background documents.
181 provided additional guarantees an obligation to provide reparations
to the minorities in both states by (restitution and/or compensation)