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Few phrases have epitomized the Palestinian and Arab rejection of Israel's legitimacy more clearly than the "right of return." The demand for the return of the 1948 refugees and their descendants to territory now part of the State of Israel, plus their financial compensation for losses and suffering, is tantamount to destroying Israel through demographic subversion. In addressing non-Arab audiences, however, Palestinians have been less than genuine about their objectives, presenting this "right" as humanitarian, as grounded in international law, and as a long-overdue redress of historical injustice.

Aruri's edited volume, based on papers presented at a conference held at Boston University Law School in April 2000, makes for depressing reading. Its main goal is to obstruct a two-state solution, an objective effectively repudiated by the terrorist war launched by the Palestinians in September 2000.

Notwithstanding the authors' euphemistic language aimed at garnering Western support for the "right of return," Palestinian Refugees is a demeaning and dehumanizing collection that accords the adversary no rights whatsoever. Further, Aruri and his contributors are not bothered by the facts, preferring to paint a picture of unblemished Israeli aggression and Palestinian victimhood.

The opening section vividly demonstrates this bias. Michael Prior, a principal lecturer in biblical studies at the University of Surrey, and Nur Masalha, a London-based Israeli Arab, distort Jewish and Zionist history, presenting it as a predatory movement that "demanded the expulsion of the indigenous non-Jewish population." Prior draws a direct line between the supposedly genocidal nature of the biblical Exodus story and Zionist ideology and policies. Masalha brings together a tendentious string of quotes and supposed facts from Zionist history to prove that "the Palestinian exodus of 1948 was the culmination of over half a century of efforts, secret plans, and, in the end, brute force." Some of his claims have long been discredited by Palestinian sources, notably the widely inflated number of people killed during the battle for Deir Yasin (April 9, 1948) and some alleged atrocities (e.g., the raping of women) that never took place.[1] Masalha also makes much of the bogus Tantura massacre "discovered" by an Israeli research student.

Two articles draw a parallel between German reparations paid to Holocaust survivors and those supposedly owed to Palestinian refugees. "It is easy to see that if for ‘victims of Nazi persecution,' ‘victims of Zionist persecution' was substituted, a similar situation should apply to the Palestinians," writes Atif Kubursi, professor of economics and regional studies at McMaster University, Canada: "The German basis of compensation was all-inclusive and that is the precedent that is relevant here and should form the basis of any estimate of Palestinian losses." Norman Finkelstein, of New York's City University, goes a step further in this bogus analogy. "Jewish organizations misappropriated much of the moneys earmarked for the Jewish victims of Nazi persecution," he patronizingly cautions. "It would be regrettable should moneys earmarked for the Palestinian victims of Israel's establishment also end up in undeserving hands."

These are mind-boggling assertions and not only because the Palestinian leadership during World War II was closely aligned with the Nazis. The chapters in Palestinian Refugees brazenly ignore that the Palestinians and Arab states launched a war of annihilation against the Jewish community and the newly-established state of Israel in 1948-49, just a few years after the extermination of European Jewry. They ignore the heavy casualties and devastation inflicted on Israel. They also ignore the hundreds of thousands of innocent Jews who were driven from Arab lands with all their worldly goods seized. It is as though a defeated Nazi Germany demanded reparations from Britain and the United States or from the surviving Jews.

[1] In a BBC documentary upon Israel's fiftieth anniversary, a former Palestinian radio broadcaster, Hazem Nusseiba, revealed that Hussein Khalidi, Secretary of the Arab Higher Committee, had in April 1948, when news of the tragedy broke, ordered the broadcasting of inaccurate numbers for Deir Yasin to maximize Arab political gains from this tragic episode.