INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON THE PALESTINIAN RIGHT OF RETURN
Draft send by IOPA for the meeting scheduled April 2004 in Lausanne
Please find attached two draft documents based on a lengthy discussion
between Ahmed Benani and myself, held in Amman during the period of his stay in August, 2000. The first document provides a general framework as to the context and objectives of the Conference and the second outlines général workshop/conference themes. The workshops represent six inter-related spheres wherein the Right of Return is being debated, manipulated or reproduced. The duration of the workshops will be two days and the third day will be a public conference, during which workshop discussions will be reported in the form of a statement.
We hope that these draft documents will be enriched by your comments,
suggestions and ideas. Since time is of the essence at this point, we hope
to have these as soon as possible. You may send your comments to either Dr. Ahmed Benani or Dr. Randa Farah at the email addresses provided in the above.
Thank you for your cooperation and support and we look forward to hearing from you soon.
Dr. Ahmed Benani, President of IOPA
Dr. Randa Farah, Special Coordinator
First draft (the conference has been postponed to 2004
The International Conference on the Palestinian Right of Return
Geneva, Switzerland, May/June, 2001
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY RESOLUTION 194 (11)
The 186th Plenary Meeting on December 11, 1948
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY HAVING CONSIDERED FURTHER THE SITUATION IN PALESTINE:
11.RESOLVES THAT THE 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, AND THAT COMPENSATION SHOULD BE PAID FOR THE PROPERTY OF THOSE CHOOSING OT TO RETURN AND FOR LOSS OF OR DAMAGE TO PROPERTY WHICH,
UNDER PRINCIPLES OF INTERNATIONAL LAW OR IN EQUITY, SHOULD BE MADE GOOD BY THE GOVERNMENTS OR AUTHORITIES RESPONSIBLE.
INSTRUCTS THE CONCILIATION COMMISSION TO FACILITATE THE REPATRIATION, RESETTLEMENT AND ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL REHABILITATION OF THE REFUGEES AND THE
PAYMENT OF COMPENSATION »
The dawn of the third millennium exposes a world wherein several areas of
conflict have witnessed the beginnings of peace and new boundaries of hope. Yet, the greatest calamity of our contemporary world continues to be forced displacement and migration, countered Ò in particular cases - by serious attempts to ensure that the uprooted population is repatriated to home, country or community.
Tragically, the Palestinian expulsion in 1948 has become one of the oldest
displacements in the 20th and 21st centuries still awaiting a solution. The
widely quoted UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (III) calling for the Right of Return of refugees and compensation, remained a paragraph gathering dust in UN and international offices, re-printed and re-affirmed but never implemented. This strange contradiction and hypocritical stance swinguer between verbal reaffirmation and practical denial, had grave conséquences for over four million Palestinians, who are scattered in various corners of the earth. The journey of exile, uprooting and displacement has been harsh.
For many refugees their histories are tales of horror, armed conflict,
starvation, discrimination, living in caves and tents, trajectories that
punctuates their private and collective memories.
Undoubtedly, the Oslo framwork for peace shackled the Palestinian leadership and rendered it incapable of manouevering beyond the limitations set by the American and Israeli agendas. The Right of Return has been déclare non-negotiable and unacceptable by Americans and Israelis alike. This policy
has been echoed by elites and some intellectuals who claim the Right of
Return is ÎunrealisticÌ and a Înostalgic dream.Ì At the very best,
Palestinian officials involved in the negotiations focus upon ÎstatehoodÌ as
the ultimate objective of the nation, by-passing the Right of Return. This
shift in Palestinian official policy has reversed and in fact severed the
relationship between nation and state. The majority of the nation resides
outside the territorial base of the Palestinian National Authority, has not
participated in the making of the political entity (the PNA) and was clearly
marginalized in the political process.
Today, we are witnessing the crumbling of the peace negotiations, and as
Clinton shuffles between the ÎFarÌ and ÎMiddle-EastÌ trying to save whatever is left of the process to score a point before he leaves his Office, Barak is busy trying to stop Ministers and old supporters from resigning. In the meantime, the PNA leadership is trying its best to re-kindle the dying fire and to camouflage compromises made under American and Israeli pressure, by appealing to religious and ethnic sentiments around Jerusalem. Any observer will note that Oslo has been transformed to a theatre, upon which the elite performs, but with a diminishing audience no longer interested in the show or its actors. Moreover, the focus on Jerusalem has clouded the more fundamental issue of the Right of Return, or as the Israeli agenda would have it the Îrefugees,Ì without political rights.
The current peace process threatens UN Resolution 194 (111) and the Right of Return. Proposals by various intellectuals suggest that Resolution 194
should be annulled or changed as a necessary step to end the conflict and
refugees should be resettled in Arab countries and beyond. As Shlomo Gazit, an Israeli advisor to the negotiations wrote, in this formula of peace,
Israel should not carry the burden either of acknowledging its
responsibility for producing the refugee problem, neither should it be the
one to compensate them for their loss.
Furthermore, Israel equates the destruction of a whole society and the
expulsion of the majority, with Jews expelled from Arab countries. Needless
to say, there is clear disparity in the two situations and in any case, if
claims are to be made for Jewish losses, these should be addressed to the
Arab governments concerned, a fact that does not invalidate Palestinian
claims to their Right of Return and compensation. The ÎRefugee problemÌ
according to the Oslo framework, is a humanitarian cause, to be dealt with
preferably within the framework of the ÎFamily Reunification SchemeÌ and not as a political and juridical matter.
The Israelis have consistantly referred to the demographic danger inherent
in the implementation of the Right of Return, as if the return of the
original inhabitants would somehow upset a balance that should always faveur a Jewish majority. Similarly, compensation has been proposed in most cases as an act that stands in lieu of the Right of Return. Compensation goes hand in hand with the Right of Return and includes material and non-material claims. The suffering, dispersion, loss of life and property are a product of colonization and settelement. Palestinians are not second class citizens of the world and have equal rights to international law.
The Right of Return is the pivotal point around which the Palestinian
struggle revolves and speaks directly to millions of Palestinians in the
Diaspora. It invokes the notions of the lost land and the right of its
people to return to a familiar home, land and way of life. Ironically, the
Israeli Law of Return stands as the absolute oppositional pole to the Right
of Return. The former allows any Jew, anywhere in the world and at any time to land in Ben-Gurion airport and acquire citizenship and nationality rigottes as Israeli citizens. In Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, Palestinian refugees often gaze across the borders and realize that the geographical distance between them and their home, can often be overcome by foot and in a short time, while the political boundaries are fifty years long, protected by Israeli boundaries and laws of denial and negation.
How is it that the aforementioned laws coexist in time in relation to one
land? Why is it that the Israeli law contradicts all notions of democracy
and wreaks of racism, but is accepted, implemented and celebrated as the
means to have created the ÎenlightenedÌ and Îdemocratic Jewish nation;Ì
while the other, based on simple and universal human rights principles is
avoided, denied and considered Îunrealistic?Ì If these are simple questions,
then why is it that the answers are continuously ambiguous, unclear or absent?
Finally, the present framework for peace is tearing apart the Palestinian
people and the land into discontinuous segments, thereby creating new
borders and boundaries that will erupt in the future. The new geo-political
map warns of future conflict and further repression and victimization;
consequently, it is short-sighted. To imagine a future when a lasting peace
may be envisioned, should begin with the implementation of international law to be applied universally and not selectively. We need a new imagination for peaceful co-existance and solutions and political scenarios begin with civil society. Lasting peaceful solutions cannot be produced in a matter of weeks or even months by a handful of leaders meeting in the White House. The answer lies in the mobilization of civil society, in democracy and a willingness to recognize and acknowledge the past in a way that will help us move beyond the present and into a future of peace.
Signed: Dr. Ahmed Benani, President of the IOPA
Dr. Randa Farah, Special Coordinator of the International Conference on the Right of Return
I- THE RIGHT OF RETURN IN FACTS AND FIGURES: THE DEMOGRAPHIC AND GEOGRAPHIC
MAP OF PALESTINIANS AND PALESTINE.
SUGGESTED ITEMS FOR DISCUSSION:
WHO ARE THE PALESTINIAN REFUGEES, DEFINITIONS AND CONCEPTS
THE DIASPORA IN FIGURES: WITHIN AND OUTSIDE MANDATORY PALESTINE.
COMPARING AND ANALYZING THE DIFFERENT SOURCES OF DATA ON THE PALESTINIAN AND
HOW ARE STATISTICS USED IN THE POLITICAL PROCESS? (PNA, ARAB COUNTRIES, ISRAEL, ETC.)
THE NGOÌS WORKING ON THE REFUGEE ISSUE: WHOÌS WHO?
II- THE RIGHT OF RETURN IN INTERNATIONAL LAW.
UNGA RESOLUTION 194 (III) A JURIDICAL/LEGAL PERSPECTIVE
REFUGEES, ASYLUM SEEKERS AND MIGRANTS: A COMPARATIVE PERSPECTIVE: THE UNHCR,
UNRWA, THE FOURTH GENEVA CONVENTION, CASE STUDIES, E.G. REPATRIATION IN THE FORMER YUGOSLAVIA
THE ISRAELI LAW OF RETURN AND THE RIGHT OF RETURN: DEPOPULATION AND SETTLEMENT: REPATRIATION AND RESETTLEMENT.
COMPENSATION: THE PALESTINIAN RIGHT TO MATERIAL AND IMMATERIAL COMPENSATION.
WHO DECIDES AND EVALUATES?
A GLANCE AT ISRAEL, THE HOLOCAUST AND COMPENSATION ISSUES.
III- THE POLITICAL PROCESS AND THE RIGHT OF RETURN
A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: THE RADICAL SHIFT IN POLICY IN PALESTINIAN NATIONAL POLITICS ON THE RIGHT OF RETURN. (THE PLO IN THE SEVENTIES AND THE PNA AND PLO IN THE NINETIES)
THE OSLO FRAMEWORK OF PEACE AND THE RIGHT OF RETURN: IS 194 (III) A BARGAINING CHIP OR A MATTER OF POLICY AND PRINICIPLE?
THE TRANSFORMATION IN POSITIONS AND INTERPRETATION OF THE RIGHT OF RETURN AND RESOLUTION 194 (III).
IV- THE REFUGEES AND THE QUESTION OF REPRESENTATION.
THE MARGINALIZATION OF REFUGEES IN THE POLITICAL PROCESS THE VOICES OF REFUGEES: THEIR HISTORIES AND NARRATIVES THE QUESTION OF REPRESENTATION: STATE, NATION AND CITIZENSHIP. (REFUGEES IN
THE DIASPORA AND WITHIN, ARAB STATES, THE PNA, ISRAEL).
V- THE RIGHT OF RETURN AND RE-WRITING HISTORIES
THE PRE-1948 PAST, THE JOURNEYS OF EXILE AND THE POLITICAL SHIFT. HISTORIES IN ISRAEL: THE NEW ISRAELI HISTORIANS, THE OFFICIAL NARRATIVE AND
THE JEWISH-ARAB PAST.
OFFICIAL RE-WRITING OF HISTORY BOOKS, POPULAR MEMORY AND THE POLITICS OF IDENTITY.
VI- IMAGINING THE FUTURE AND REMEMBERING THE PAST
WHAT ARE THE SCENARIOS FOR FUTURE PEACE
HETEROGENEOUS COMMUNITIES, CITIZENS AND NATIONALS OF THE REGION THE RIGHT OF RETURN: A NECESSARY INGREDIENT FOR PEACE.
Please note that the duration of the workshops will be two days and the
third day is the conference when statements and reports will be heard based
upon the discussions held in the workshops.