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Reworded 'Right of Return' Passes in MA

Massachusetts towns pass pro “right of return” referendum after wording is dramatically changed to hide true intent.
By Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 11/17/2010, 10:53 PM / Last Update: 11/18/2010, 5:16 AM

A Massachusetts-based group that calls to boycott Israel has managed to pass a resolution that suggests Israel must accept the “right of return” - but only after dramatically changing the wording.

Massachusetts Residents for International Human Rights, a branch of the Somerville Divestment Project, posed a ballot question asking voters if their representatives should call on the national U.S. government to “support the right of all people, including non-Jewish Palestinian citizens of Israel, to live free from laws that give more rights to people of one religion than another.” The referendum passed with 56% support in five districts.

Previously, the Somerville Divestment Project had tried and failed to win voter support for a referendum supporting the “right of return” - Arab nations' demand that millions of descendants of Arabs who fled Israel during the War of Independence in 1948, most at the behest of their leaders who promised them a victorious return after the Jews were annihilated,  be allowed to “return” and be given Israeli citizenship. Many of the families have remained in refugee camps for the most part, supported by UNRWA, the well-funded UN organization that deals solely with them while  the many millions of other refugees in the rest of the world are helped by a single UN body. Some Arab nations refuse to absorb them in order to put pressure on Israel.

The referendum that passed rephrased the question in terms of “equal rights” - but avoided saying which specific rights are currently not considered equal. Israeli law does not discriminate between Arabs and Jews, aside from not mandating military service for Arabs.

However, there is one law that differentiates between Jews and non-Jews: the Law of Return, which grants automatic Israeli citizenship to Jews and their children, while non-Jews who want Israeli citizenship must apply under the Citizenship Law. Israeli Jews overwhelmingly view the Law of Return as vital to Israel's identity as a Jewish state.

Somerville Divestment Project members were pleased with the results of the referendum vote. The organization's site termed those who opposed the referendum “the pro-apartheid side,” and referred to the “right of return” as “a fundamental human right. They did not note that America is a nation of immigrants, some of whom left their places of birth unwillingly, and who managed to be absorbed in their new country and become its loyal citizens.