What is the right of return? Do Palestinians enjoy privileges over other refugees?

The right of return is one of the human rights enshrined in international law (inter alia, in the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). In addition, UN Resolution 194, adopted on December 11, 1948 as part of the efforts to promote reconciliation following the 1948 war, stated that: “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date […] compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.” Although the State of Israel accepted the resolution, it never implemented it.

As of 2019, about 8.7 million Palestinians are forcibly displaced, out of which about 8 million are refugees (in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Arab countries, and elsewhere) and about 700,000 are internally displaced (displaced Palestinians who were forced to acquire Israeli citizenship, but remained without their land and property and are not allowed to return to the villages where they resided before 1948). The "expiry date" for the right of return, and the end of the refugee status, is something that is stipulated in peace agreements and based on the choice of the refugees. As long as there is no agreement, in accordance with international law and the principle of family reunification, descendants of refugees are also considered refugees and entitled to the same rights, which is not unique to the Palestinian case.

The meaning of the UN's recognition of the State of Israel was the acceptance of the right of the Jewish people to resettle in the land of Israel after two thousand years of exile. Resolution 194 recognizes that this right is unfair to the Palestinians living in the country and conditioned Jewish right of return on respecting the right of return for Palestinian refugees as well.