Jewish leaders this week reacted with bewilderment to Jeremy Corbyn call for a Palestinian right of return.
Following a visit to a refugee camp in Jordan, the Labour leader said: “Palestinians obviously have rights… The siege of Gaza must end, the settlement policy must end and the right of return must be a reality.”
He later used Twitter to reiterate his call for “a real two state settlement to the Israel-Palestine conflict which ends the occupation and siege of Gaza and makes the Palestinian right of return a reality”.
The right of return is the principle that Palestinians are entitled to return to land they and their families lived on before 1948, inside and outside the internationally agreed borders of Israel. It’s application would signify the end of Israel as a Jewish state.
Jewish leaders, including the chief executive of the Jewish Leadership Council (JLC), said Corbyn’s call for a right of return for Palestinian refugees “doesn’t square” with his call for a two-state solution.
JLC chief Simon Johnson noted how Corbyn had visited a camp in Jordan but turned down the chance to go to Israel, saying it was “yet another missed opportunity to broaden his understanding of the complexities of the region”.
On Corbyn’s comments, Johnson said: “It’s the Palestinian narrative he believes in, but it poses the question – when he says he wants a meaningful right of return, how does he square that with his call for two states for two peoples? Does he genuinely believe in two states, because the right of return is inconsistent with that objective.
“Furthermore, what right of return is he calling for? To which borders? The 1948 borders, or the 1967 borders? Commitment to the Palestinian narrative is laudable, but comments like this play into the perception there is no any other side to that narrative. He’s the Leader of the Opposition, and needs to realise that wording is very important.”
Labour Friends of Israel chair, Joan Ryan MP, wrote to the Labour leader to “urgently clarify remarks” that he made.
She says “the “right to return” is highly contentious and cannot be reconciled with a two-state solution, as this would simply create two majority-Palestinian states” and it “would effectively turn Israel into a Palestinian state and destroy the Jewish people’s right to self-determination. ”
She concludes by saying she hopes Corbyn and the Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry “immediately clarify what you understand by a “right to return” and, in the future, ensure any language you use concerning it helps to advance, not hinder, the cause of peace, reconciliation and coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Tweeting in response to Corbyn, British Jewish group Yachad said: “This statement is contradictory – you can’t accept the Palestinian demand to settle in sovereign Israel and have a ‘real two-state settlement’. So which one is it – the right of return or the #TwoStateSolution?”
Grassroots group Sussex Friends of Israel said Corbyn “knows full well that the ‘right of return’ is code for ‘the destruction of Israel’ and that is why he’s using it,” adding that he had “no grasp on reality” and “an almost pathological need to see an end to the Jewish state”.
On Sunday Corbyn tweeted that a Labour-led government would recognise Palestine as a state. He wrote: “Today I’ll visit the Al-Baqa’a refugee camp which was first created in 1968, where 100,000 Palestinians live. The next Labour government will recognise Palestine as a state as one step towards a genuine two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict.”
Jewish News requested clarification from Corbyn’s office but received no response.