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View from the other side

Oldenburg:There is a huge question hanging in the air and that's always brought up by Palestinians I'm talking to: The question of the refugees, what to do about them? How is it possible to get them involved as agents of their own fate?

Noam Chomsky:I must say, this is an argument I've had with Palestinian friends for 35 years. Palestinians can, if they want to, stand on principles and forget the consequences for the victims - which is fine if you are in Europe and the United States, if you're teaching at a university and you can have a seminar where you stand on principles, but that's dooming the people to misery and suffering. There is a real world, you can not pretend it is not there because you don't like it. In the real world the refugees will never return to Israel in more than a token return, I mean, that is just a fact of life.

There's no international support for it. If international support ever developed, which is extremely unlikely, Israel would actually refuse American orders. They would never permit it, they would turn to nuclear weapons, if they had to, to stop it. They're not going to accept giving up their own country anymore than people in Massachusetts would accept to give their land to the people that were driven out. There are just things that are not going to happen and we might as well face it. It's not doing any favor to the refugees to dangle in front of their eyes hopes that are never going to be realized. Things have to be done to help them to come to terms with the reality of the world. There may be token returns, they can certainly be given compensation. If there'll ever be Palestinian independence, they can be returned to Palestine, which is not where they come from, mostly. Or they have to be given a chance to have their own choice to settle elsewhere, actually, here is something which Europe could do easily. Bring them to Europe. Most of them would probably rather be in Europe than in a savage refugee camp. This would be a concrete step.

Actually, the US ought to do it, cause it's mostly responsible for it. But I think we probably can't manage that. But offering hope of return is just an insult to them, in my opinion, and it's also blocking the hope for any political settlement, cause there's no visible group in Israel - maybe five people - who would agree allowing them to come back there. In fact, the demand is a gift to the rightwing in Israel. It's an argument that the rightwing can use, saying, look, the Palestinians want to drive us out, so, therefore we just have to drive them out. This is essentially what the meaning of it is. There's no point in pretending otherwise. I must say that I've been having big arguments with my own Palestinian friends and Israeli dissidents for about 35 years, and I haven't convinced them.

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