Who is a Palestinian Refugee? And who is a Jewish refugee? And what should the US Senate do about it?
Senator Mark Kirk
From the media I hear that you have introduced a bill (amendment to the FY 2013 funding bill) which aims to change the definition of "Palestinian refugee" and make it apply solely to people who were personally uprooted in 1948 from the territory which became the State of Israel. Your bill would therefore have the effect of depriving the descendants of these original refugees from having a refugee status.
As an Israeli, I am quite astonished by this idea. After all, the assumption enshrined in our Law of Return, ceremoniously enacted by Israel's Parliament soon after the creation of the state, is that refugee status is inheritable in perpetuity, regardless of how many generations have passed since the moment of exile. Indeed, this refugee status remains fully in force even after the passage of nearly two thousand years. It is on this basis that all Jews anywhere – deemed to be descended from those exiled when the Roman Empire destroyed Jerusalem - are entitled to automatic citizenship in the state of Israel. As of this moment, more than thirteen million people worldwide are deemed by Israeli law to be Jewish exiles, of whom more than five millions had already implemented their rights under the law, while the others are entitled to do so at any moment they choose.
As it presently stands, your bill would require the Secretary of State to submit a report to Congress on how many people are receiving assistance from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency "whose place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948 and who were displaced as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict; and how many are only descendants of those people".
While you are about it, you might consider also mandating a report on the people who are receiving the benefits of the Israeli Law of Return, so as to find out how many of them are those "whose place of residence was Judea between the years 68 AD and 70 AD and who were displaced as a result of the Roman-Judean conflict; and how many are only descendants of those people".
I have written the above letter after United States Senator Mark Kirk introduced a piece of legislation aimed at re-defining who is a Palestinian refugee and in effect drastically reducing their number.
If you agree with my approach, pointing out some logical implications touching upon basic tenets of Zionism and of the State of Israel, you can also contact Senator Kirk - either sending him a copy of my letter with your endorsement or composing a text of your own. If you do, I would appreciate a copy, and also one of any response you get.
Yours, Adam Keller
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|William A. Cook|