The tragedy of the Middle East refugees remains an open wound in the heart of our region. True peace cannot prevail unless the plight of the displaced is fully addressed. Jews and Arabs have been blaming each other for decades, while the human suffering continues. To solve this problem, we may try to agree on some principles:
1) The problem cannot be solved if it continues to be used for political goals. All personal rights of the refugees must be fully restored regardless of the political resolution of the conflict. There is a better chance of solving both issues if we discuss each problem separately.
2) All must accept reality and abandon fantasies. Palestinian refugees who cling to the keys of their lost homes can expect only frustration, as these homes ceased to exist.
3) Two wrongs don't make a right! Returning Arab refugees to their property, by banishing Jews from their homes, will create new tragedies that will intensify the conflict.
4) An international forum should look for ways to compensate all refugees in the region. As Prof. Ada Aharoni has pointed out, more Jews were forced to leave Arab countries than Palestinians exiled from Israel, and more property was seized from them than the Arab assets lost in Palestine. All refugees, Arabs and Jews alike, are personally entitled to get paid for their property.
5) Whatever political plan concludes the Arab-Israeli conflict, each community must decide if and how it absorbs its own displaced persons. The refugees will then be free to choose how to rebuild their lives.
Ehud Tokatly, 18/March/2004