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TAU Archived Materials
Yehuda KUPFERMAN (French, TAU) lobbies for a "Palestinian Refugee Right of Return," Paris 2004. Jews can take swimming lessons.

Dialogue - Review for discussion between Arab and Jewish activists of Palestine
Yehuda KUPFERMAN (State of Israel)
Good evening to you, dear Comrades and friends.
First, on behalf of all the participants, I would like
to thank the organisers of this Conference who
devoted themselves to this absolutely extraordinary
job in the previous months and made possible this
conference which is so important for us. They have
done a wonderful job and we must thank them for
Now I would like, if I may, to tell you a personal
story. In the early 1960s, I was part of a kibbutz in
Israel, and had been for several years. One day, I
went for a walk in the nearby forest, which had
been planted around the same time as the kibbutz
was started up. And there in the forest, I discovered
ruins of houses. I was surprised. When I went back
to the kibbutz, I asked the old hands. They were
very embarrassed, and explained the following to
me: our kibbutz was set up in 1952.
This kibbutz is called Horchin ("the farmers") in
Hebrew. Before the kibbutz there was a Palestinian
village called Hirbet Herech. One day, an army
jeep arrived with an officer, and they called the
village leader and told him : you have one month to
leave from here. At the end of one month, the
peasants from that village left. A kibbutz was set
up on that spot. I then said to the old hands: ìas far
as I am concerned, this land is cursed. We have
robbed the people who were working their land,
and put in their place other people for totally
inhumane reasons, for reasons of ethnic origin. I
will not stay here any longer. And I left î.
I did some research. I was a member of an extreme
left-wing Zionist political party. I consulted the
archives to find out if this had been an isolated case
or if there had been others. And I realised that all
along the borders at that time, along the borders
with Lebanon, Syria and the old border with
Jordan, a very large number of villages had been
destroyed in this way in order to set up Jewish
You can also note the city of Majdal, along the
Gaza Strip, whose inhabitants were expelled in
1951 I think, towards Gaza, they were sent to the
Gaza refugee camps. Let us not forget that all those
people who were driven out of their homes were
formally Israeli citizens, carrying the blue identity
cards of Israeli citizens. With regard to them, the
principle of a citizenÇs equal rights and obligations
was not respected.
I would like to talk about general issues. At home,
if I dare say so, in the Jewish population of Israel,
we are told the following on what is called "the
Israeli Left": "If the Camp David negotiation,
chaired by US President Clinton, between the
Palestinian Authority led by Yasser Arafat on the
one hand and the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Barak on the other hand failed, it is obviously
because the Palestinians demanded the recognition
of the Right of Return. Among other things. And
Ehud Barak's delegation refused to recognise that
right". And the Israeli Left adds: "What the
Palestinian side, what the Palestinian Authority
demanded was a recognition of the principle of the
Right of Return" that is to say that the State of
Israel should recognise the part it played in the
creation of the refugee problem, that is to say it
should recognise its responsibility in the Nakba.
But this recognition in principle does not
necessarily mean, for this Israeli Left, that the
refugees will come back home. What is demanded
is the recognition of the right of return. "But the
return itself does not necessarily need to be
realised". I think that what millions of refugees
need is not for someone to doff their hat and tell
them "How guilty we were in the creation of your
problem". What they want is the settlement of their
real and concrete problem which they are facing.
That is to say: that they should be allowed to come
back home. Any other "solution" which would
consist of saying: "There would be a peace
agreement in which the State of Israel for its part
would recognise its responsibilities in the creation
of the problem", this is not a solution to the conflict
that has existed between the State of Israel and the
Palestinian people since 1948.
Once again, we have to bear in mind that the
Palestinian national movement wasn't created after
1967, after the war that led to the occupation of the
West Bank, of Gaza and more by the Israeli army.
The Palestinian national movement went back
before that time. The Fatah was created in Kuwait
in 1959. The PLO was created in Jerusalem in
1964. The Palestinian national movement was in
the first place a refugee movement.
In conclusion, a few words on the second point,
which is the issue of the State. "Olga's appeal"
proposes: "a single democratic and secular
republic, or two states, or a federal state, or a state
composed of cantons". Two states: we have known
that since 1948, and we know quite well that this
has been a miserable failure. Such was the
November 1947 UN resolution, and this solution
could not succeed and was unable to be realised.
Two states, that means two states built on a
religious and ethnic basis, that means a
perpetuation of the conflict, the war. And a federal
state means, in other words, two states. "Cantons"
mean two states again. A multiplication of little
states that are impossible to manage. The only
solution that has not been tried is a democratic and
secular republic covering the whole territory of
historic Palestine, where there would be no
difference in the status of citizens who comprise
this State.



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