What to Respond When a Palestinian Who Claims to Have a Key to His Original House in Palestine?

  • 1 minute read
  • • by Sharon Koifman
  • • September 19, 2022

About 150 million people have been displaced since 1940. 830 thousand of them were Jews. You rarely see anyone walking around with a key demanding their house back. At the 2000 Camp David summit, Israel offered to compensate for the property which had been lost in the 1948 war, and it was refused.

Palestinians love to use old keys as a symbol of their exile, claiming it belongs to their old homes before 1948. As an activist, my natural instinct is to question if it’s even true. If they really have the original keys? Do they simply hold any key just so they claim that or whether that house still exists? Do they completely forget why they lost their property, and why are their leaders not being blamed?
But quickly, I catch myself realizing that my thought process is going in the wrong direction.

It is very much ok to acknowledge that many Arabs of Palestine have been forced out of their houses and villages, and it does not matter who was at fault for that. The dishonest aspect of this argument is this strange need to come back to the house that might not even be there, and most likely, no one would have probably wanted to live there in the first palace.

It is important to understand that during the 19th Century, the majority of the borders of countries outside Europe were drawn, especially in the Middle East. There have been so many wars and colonizers.

During the same decade as the 750 thousand Arabs were displaced during the war that was declared by the Arab High Committee, there were about 70 million displaced people around the world.

830 thousand of those were Jews from Arab lands that for a big part were absorbed by Israel. About 150 million people have been displaced since the 1940s, and you never hear stories outside this conflict about a person holding a key to a house that belongs to their great grandfather. In any conflict, any war, the next generation, if not the same generation, simply moves on. They build other homes, other communities, and entire economies.

But not the Palestinians. As a pressure effort by their leadership, the Arab League and UNRWA, the refugee organization that is supposed to help them, the Palestinians were not allowed to move forward. But unfortunately, this all goes back to the double standard the Jews in Israel have to deal with.

If we are being honest, trying to go back to a 70-year-old shack is clearly not a goal for anyone. If a displaced population does want back, is the value that they lost.

Yet at the 2000 Camp David summit, Israel offered to compensate for the property which had been lost in the 1948 war. Also, Israel offered the possibility for 100,000 refugees to return with 30 billion dollars to fund their resettlement. Yasser Arafat refused.

Israel has had a compensation law on the books since 1953. Any Arab, anybody for that matter, who can produce any evidence at all that they owned property can approach Israeli courts and receive full compensation. LAND ACQUISITION (VALIDATION OF ACTS AND COMPENSATION) LAW, 5713-1953

So I apologize if I’m being condescending, but the key is just a Schtick to simply push a marketing agenda.

If there is any symbolism of that Key, it is the oppression against the Palestinians by the Arab leadership and UNRWA that does not let them move on.

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