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May 21, 2015 Special Dispatch No. 6052

Fatah On 67th Nakba Anniversary: We Will Continue Struggle Until Refugees' Right Of Return To Their Homes Is Realized

May 21, 2015
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 6052

The Palestinian commemoration of the 67th anniversary of the Nakba, which fell on May 15, 2015, included rallies featuring speeches by Fatah and Palestinian Authority (PA) officials, in which they stressed that they were continuing to pursue the Palestinian refugees' individual and collective right of return, which they said can never be relinquished. In his speech, PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas called for a just and agreed-upon solution to the refugee problem, promising that the nonviolent popular resistance activity would continue. Fatah issued a statement calling for refugee return, noting that this right was sacred, and Palestinian officials said that this right is passed down through the generations and will not disappear even after the Palestinian state is established. Rallies and marches marking the Nakba were held across the PA; during some, clashes broke out between Palestinians and Israeli military forces.

The following report summarizes the Nakba Day activities and their coverage in Fatah and PA media.

 
Left: Palestinian flag and the key that symbolizes the right of return (Source: Alquds.com, May 15, 2015). Right: Map of cities and towns to which Palestinians hope to return (Source: Alquds.com, May 15, 2015)

 
Left: Parade of keys; on marchers' tee shirts is the slogan "Return" (Source: Al-Ayyam, PA, May 14, 2015). Right: Cartoon noting Vatican's recognition of Palestinian state (Source: Al-Ayyam, PA, May 15, 2015)

'Abbas: A Just And Agreed-Upon Solution To Refugee Problem; Congratulations To East Jerusalem Residents For Their Struggle

In his Nakba Day speech, on May 14, 2015, PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas expressed his support for the East Jerusalem residents' struggle, and stressed that the nonviolent popular resistance activity would continue: "The plans of [successive] Israeli governments to eliminate the Palestinian cause have failed. According to the [Israeli] view, the Palestinian people have been non-existent for years, because the old die off and the young forget, and [therefore] the only solution is to resettle the refugees in the Arab countries... What happened in 1948 will never happen again. With our unity and our consciousness, we will come out against all plots and schemes hatched against us aimed at marginalizing our Palestinian cause with dubious plans such as establishing a state in Gaza or a state with temporary borders...

"With regard to the occupation and the settlers, nonviolent popular resistance activity will continue. I congratulate the Palestinian knights [of the popular resistance] and those around the world who sympathize with [the popular resistance]. I further congratulate the heroic steadfastness of our people in East Jerusalem and come out against the various racist operations by the fanatical settlers and by their patrons, the Israeli security forces. They are stepping up their daily incursions into the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, and are conducting excavations that endanger [Al-Aqsa's] foundations. We hereby warn that this may spark religious wars that will spare no one.

"Our position regarding an arrangement and negotiations is completely clear. We are committed to a solution based on ending Israel's 1967 occupation, establishing an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital, and a just and agreed-upon solution to the refugee problem according to UN Resolution 194 and the Arab Peace Initiative."[1]

Fatah, 'Abbas Associates: Right Of Return - Individual, Sacred, Cannot Be Relinquished

Munib Al-Masri: Establishing A Palestinian State Does Not Cancel The Right Of Return

Palestinian tycoon and 'Abbas associate Munib Al-Masri, who chairs the Consortium of Independent Palestinians and was instrumental in the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation efforts, said: "While the grandparents and parents are indeed deceased, they have bequeathed to their offspring the right of return to the cities and villages from which they themselves were expelled. The right of return is an individual and a collective right, and cannot be relinquished. The establishment of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as its capital, is a certainty. But this does not abnegate the right of return under UN Resolution 194."[2]


March in Ramallah with maps of Palestine (Source: Al-Ayyam, PA, May 14, 2015)

Nabil Sha'ath: We Are Entitled To Return To Jaffa, Safed, Jerusalem, Beersheba; We Will Continue Our Struggle For The Right Of Return

One way that Palestinians commemorate the Nakba is by passing on Nakba stories from generation to generation. The elderly describe their yearning for the homes they left and their memories of visits to the homeland.  In an article describing a visit to Jaffa, Fatah Central Committee member Nabil Sha'ath wrote: "Jaffa remains in my thoughts, my dreams and my heart. It is not gone from me and I did not forget it in my childhood and youth. It was the image [that appeared] when I closed my eyes and remembered Palestine... One [person there] asked me: 'Do you [now] feel foreign in your city?' I said: 'Absolutely not. I feel that I am in my city and that I never left it. My right to return here has not been lost. Safed, the city of my birth, is my city; Gaza, the city of my father and his family, is my city; Jaffa is my city, and glorious Jerusalem is my city. Nablus, my wife's city, as well as Hebron, Acre, Bethlehem, Beersheba and Nazareth - they are all my cities."

"Our cause is just, and we have sincerely proposed [to Israel] two humane solutions to achieve a homeland and peace: Either one democratic state for both of us, or two neighboring, sovereign, independent states living in peace and security, with [us enjoying] the right of return to the towns and villages from which we were removed. But they refused.

"This people will adhere to its struggle, its hope, its creativity and its steadfastness, until it actualizes the freedom and independence of its land and the return of its people. Jaffa will remain in heart and in mind."[3]

Nabil Sha'ath: 'Abbas Never Relinquished His Right To Return To Safed; The Right Of Return Is Sacred

In an interview with the Israeli-Arab weekly Al-Sinara, Sha'ath stressed that he has the right to return "to any place" in Palestine: "'The Israelis believe they have the right to dream of return after 4,000 years but that we have no right to return. They wish not only to expunge our lives and our land but also to control our history. The British occupied our land and then went back to theirs. The Crusaders conquered our land and then went back to theirs. [The Israelis] claim they are here because they have had the right to return for 4,000 years. How can they deny that our people has this right [as well]?

"We tried to achieve [our rights] through armed struggle, but failed. Negotiations failed too. Now we are trying the method of South Africa, namely of continuing the struggle in non-violent ways, both locally and internationally, so that they will be attacked from every direction and have nowhere to run.  Ultimately they must feel that they will have no peace until real peace and justice are achieved. There are only two models for a solution: a [single] democratic state in all of Palestine, or two genuine sovereign states, Palestine and Israel..."

Asked whether the latter solution would not invalidate the right to return to Israel, Sha'ath replied: "Of course not. The right of return is sacred and we will never relinquish it. But if they are willing to negotiate, we will discuss the method and the mechanism, [namely] how people will return to their land and how peace will be ensured once they do. But there is no relinquishing or giving up the right of return. How can they claim the right to return while denying ours?...

"Abu Mazen said:[4] 'I personally may not return to Safed, because my place today is in Ramallah. But Safed is my city and it is my right to return there.' There is nothing in his statement that implies a renouncement or withdrawal of the right of return. He was speaking of the existing circumstances. After visiting Safed he said that, personally, he did not live there [because] his responsibilities required him to be in Ramallah. I was born in Safed and later moved to Hebron and Jaffa. Then we left Palestine, left Jaffa. Later I returned to Gaza and today I live in Ramallah. All these places are Palestine. It is my right to return to any place I wish, and nobody can take this right away from me."[5]


Elderly refugees tell their grandchildren about the Nakba; the left picture is captioned "Tales of the Nakba and the Dream of Return" while the right features the key and an elderly refugee holding the deed to his property (Source: Facebook.com/fatehwatanps, May 13-14, 2015)

Fatah: Palestinians' Right To Return To Their Homes Is As Sacred As The Right To Life

A statement issued by Fatah's Office of Information and Culture on the occasion of Nakba Day read: "The right of return is as sacred as the right to life. No force in the world... can usurp it from our people or force our people to obey its policy."

It added that Fatah had been founded to obtain freedom and independence [for the Palestinians] and to actualize the Palestinian refugees' return "to their cities and villages, and to the homes they built and passed on [to their children] since the dawn of human history in [their] natural homeland - Palestine - and to which they tied their fate... Fatah is certain that political initiatives will never harm [the Palestinian] refugees' right of return. The right of return is the heart of the conflict with the occupying and settling Zionist enterprise..."

Also in the statement, Fatah congratulated the millions of Palestinian refugees around the world for "adhering to their personal and collective right and to their faith in this sacred right, which has never wavered. Fatah is proud of their ability to stand fast in the refugee camps as a way station prior to the final station of a secure homeland."

It concluded: "Fatah will fight on all arenas to defeat the plot against the refugee camps aimed at entangling them in [the Arab countries'] domestic conflicts so as to abolish the Palestinian problem and eliminate the right of return - [plots that exist] even though [Fatah] has stressed that the Palestinian people and its refugee camps are neutral and respect the sovereignty and laws of hosting states."[6]

 
Fatah: "We will continue our struggle and adherence to national goals" (Source: Facebook.com/Fatehwatanps, May 13, 2015)

Nakba Activities

At Ramallah Rally: 67-Second Siren, Promise To Return To Haifa, Jaffa, Acre, Safed

The Nakba activities, which kicked off with a 67-second siren heard throughout the PA, included rallies featuring keys - the symbol of return - and maps of Palestine. At a Ramallah rally attended by 10,000 people dressed in black, participants renewed the oath of their historic right to return to their homeland and the homes from which they had been expelled by "the Zionist gangs." Waving Palestinian flags and holding keys and maps marking the towns they left, they chanted: "We will devote all efforts to protect the right of return until we return to Haifa, Jaffa, Acre, and Safed."


Central Ramallah rally (Source: Facebook.com/Fatehwatanps, May 13, 2015)

 
(Source: Facebook.com/325384247479817, May 14, 2015)

At a Bethlehem march near Rachel's Tomb, participants waved black flags and keys and called for "adhering to the right to return to cities and towns from which [refugees] were banished, prosecuting the occupation government, and suing it in international courts for crimes and massacres."

At a torch-lighting ceremony in the Dheisheh refugee camp in the Bethlehem area, speakers stressed the need for "closer relations between the refugees and the homes and property they abandoned" and for "clinging to the right of return."[7]

 
Bethlehem rally: We will not forget our right of return (Source: Al-Ayyam, PA, May 15, 2015)

Some rallies, such as those in Qalqilya and Ramallah, escalated into clashes between Palestinian protestors and the Israeli Army.

 
Left: Qalqilya; Right: Jalazone Refugee Camp (Source: Al-Ayyam, PA, May 16, 2015)


Huwwara checkpoint near Nablus (Source: Palinfo.com, May 16, 2015)

Columnist In PA Daily: Popular Mobilization Mandatory For Promoting Right Of Return Which Cannot Be Relinquished

Rajab Abu Suriya, a columnist for the PA daily Al-Ayyam, expressed his apprehensions that in negotiations the PA might be forced to relinquish the right of return. He wrote that political circumstances have led to a situation where the Palestinians have achieved no more than autonomy, and that the negotiations propose a token return of refugees to Israel, with the vast majority of those returning to the Palestinian state. Considering this unsatisfactory, he proposed the creation of a popular Palestinian movement to fight for the full implementation of the right of return: He wrote: "Lack of popular support for the demand to realize the right of return would make it difficult to implement [this right], because politicians are subordinate to the diplomatic negotiations and [they] have no choice but to accept a compromise taking into account the reality on the ground.

"However, the individual and humanitarian aspects [of the right of return] are anchored in the demand of those who are entitled [to these rights]. [Therefore,] why not establish Palestinian groups, even as part of village and town councils, or as part of tribes and clans, to demand rights for family unification and rights for individuals with regard to homes and land, to prepare lawsuits, and to gain the attention and assistance of human rights organizations?"[8]

 
"We Will Return" (Source: Facebook.com/Fatehwatanps, May 13, 2015)

 

 

Endnotes:

 

[1] Fatehwatan.ps, May 14, 2015.

[2] Al-Ayyam (PA), May 14, 2015.

[3] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), May 15, 2015.

[4] Sha'ath is presumably referring to statements 'Abbas made in a November 2, 2012 interview on Israeli television. See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No.897, "'Abbas In Interview On Israeli TV: I Have Right To Visit Safed But Not Live There; 'Abbas In Interview On Egyptian TV: I Did Not Waive Right Of Return, Was Expressing My Private Opinion," November 12, 2012.

[5] Al-Sinara (Israel), May 15, 2015.

[6] Fateh-voice.net, May 13, 2015.

[7] Al-Ayyam (PA), May 15, 2015.

[8] Al-Ayyam (PA), May 15, 2015.

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