June 2, 2010 Special Dispatch No. 2995

Palestinians: Nobody Is Authorized to Waive the Right of Return

June 2, 2010
Palestine | Special Dispatch No. 2995

On May 15, 2010, the Palestinians marked the 62nd anniversary of the Nakba. Many of the statements on this occasion emphasized the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and regain their property within the borders of Israel. Another notable feature was the use of the word "Nakba" to refer not only to the 1948 war and its consequences, but also to other events, such as the current schism within the Palestinian people.

Following are details about the Nakba Day events, and statements by Palestinian officials, public figures and columnists:.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) marked Nakba Day with a moment of silence in Palestinian towns. The WAFA news agency reported that in the main square of Ramallah, only a few pedestrians and vehicles stopped to observe the moment of silence in memory of the Palestinian shahids.[1]

The PA also held a central rally in Ramallah, attended by members of the PLO Executive Committee and the Fatah Central Committee. Participants held keys representing their lost homes in Israel, and speakers emphasized the refugees' right to regain their houses and lands and to receive compensation. One of the placards held aloft said "We will return to Haifa, Akko, Lod, Ramle, and Nazareth."[2]

In a rare show of unity, Fatah and Hamas members held a joint march in Gaza under the heading "United, We Shall Return."[3] In the Jenin refugee camp, children drew a picture of a large olive tree bearing the names of all the Palestinian villages and towns abandoned in 1948. A little girl from the camp, Sajida Abu Al-Hija, explained that one of the slogans in the picture, "Return Is a Sacred Right", means: "We will not live as refugees forever, and the more the occupation violates our rights the more we will remember the right of return," she said.

Raed Salah: The Ships Arriving in Gaza Herald the Return of the Refugees to Their Homes

The secretary-general of the PA presidency, Al-Tayeb 'Abd Al-Rahim, who spoke at the central rally on behalf of PA President Mahmoud 'Abbas, was careful to speak about the right of return in broad terms, and refrained from stating explicitly that the refugees must return to their original villages and cities: "When our people marks the Nakba, it emphasizes its resolve and its insistence on gaining its rights, first and foremost an independent Palestinian state and a just and agreed-upon solution to the refugee problem... When we demand the right of return for our refugees, we demand [our] rights, [and we demand] justice and the implementation of international law, especially [U.N.] Resolution 194 and the Arab peace initiative."[4]

The PLO international relations department stated in an official communiqué: "The refugee problem is sacrosanct, and is a top priority for the PLO leadership, which rejects the [option of] settling the refugees permanently in their host countries. The refugees have a legitimate right to return to the homes from which they were expelled... in accordance with [U.N.] Resolutions 194, 242 and 338 and the Arab peace initiative."[5] Executive Committee member Zakariyya Al-Agha, head of the Supreme National Committee for Commemorating the Nakba, voiced his opposition to the notion of Jordan as an "alternative homeland" for the Palestinians.[6]

Chief Palestinian negotiator Sa'eb 'Erekat said, "A solution to the refugee problem must be found, based on U.N. Resolution 194... In other conflicts, the rights of refugees were honored, including their right to return to their homeland and to their former situation, and to receive compensation for damages caused to them. Israel, on the other hand, refuses even to acknowledge the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, and continues to deny them their basic rights."[7]

Hani Al-Masri, an official in the Palestinian Information Ministry and a columnist for the PA daily Al-Ayyam, wrote: "The Palestinian problem cannot be resolved without finding a just solution to the refugee problem, because [the right of return] is a natural, historical and legal right, and is included in international resolutions. U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 stipulates that the refugees must return to their homes and to the property from which they were expelled, and in addition must be compensated. [It does not say that] return and compensation [are mutually exclusive]."[8]

Officials from the Islamic Movement in Israel made similar statements. The head of the movement, Raed Salah, declared at a rally in Berlin that he intends to sail with one of the solidarity ships headed for Gaza,[9] and that "the ships arriving in Gaza herald the return of the refugees to their towns and villages occupied since 1948."[10]

The movement's deputy head, Kamal Al-Khatib, said that the Palestinian people objects to the resettlement of the refugees, and that Israeli Arabs would not leave their homes even in the case of a war that Israel may be planning. He added: "The return of the Palestinian refugees is nigh, and they will not [return] only to the West Bank but also to Akko, Tiberias, Haifa, Lod, Ramle and all other parts of the homeland from which they were expelled."[11]

Refugees Visit Their Homes in Israel

PA dailies and news agencies published stories about refugees who had visited their homes in Israel. Some expressed their determination to return, while others expressed resignation. Fathiyya Al-Jaraf, who visited her family home near Jaffa, said that she had shouted at the Jews who now live in it: "We will return, even if it be in a hundred years!"[12]

The Palestinian news agency WAFA quoted a resident of the Al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza, 'Abd Al-Rahman Shhade, who said: "I will not give up my home and my land, from which I was expelled in 1948, for all the silver and gold in the world."[13] On the other hand, Diana Safiyya, who in 1948 fled with her family from their home in Baq'a, now a neighborhood in West Jerusalem, expressed a different sentiment. Though she was received with hostility by the current residents of the house, she said: "I wish nothing but happiness for those who [now] live there, because it's not their fault... The people who were important to me in my life are all dead, or live abroad. We must get past this and move on."[14]

Palestinian film director Suheir Farraj spoke in favor of the right of return, saying: "Refugee mothers constantly tell their sons about the homeland, that is, about the homeland as it was before [they became] refugees, and about the right of return. No matter where we eventually choose to live, the important thing is that we have the right to choose. [These mothers] will never let [anyone] bury the refugee problem and the Palestinian problem in general. [This problem] will never be solved as long as the problem of the [refugees] exists, and as long as the refugee camps exist, whether they are made up of beautiful homes or of shacks and tents. The important point is that they are refugee camps, and that we were forced to live there against our will after being driven out of our homes."[15]

Palestinian Columnist: No Political Compromise Can Invalidate the Right of Return

'Adel 'Abd Al-Rahman, columnist for the daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, wrote: "One must defend the right that is sacred to every Palestinian, namely [the right] to return to his homeland, the land of his fathers, based on [his] natural and legal right to [his] land, history and identity, and based on U.N. resolutions, particularly Resolution 194... The right of return is a sacred right that no force or country – not even the Palestinian politicians – can revoke, because it is a political right of the Palestinians as a collective, as well as an individual right, and nobody can [waive it] on behalf [of the individual in question, not even] his father or mother. The right belongs not only to the refugees who were expelled in 1948, but to anyone whose father or mother is Palestinian, regardless of when and where he was born – for Palestine is Arab and Palestinian land, and it belongs to all Palestinians regardless of faith, race, color, gender, or political or ideological orientation...

"[Even] if the Palestinian leadership reaches a historic agreement with the state of Israel, this does not invalidate the Palestinian right of return. Every Palestinian may demand to return to his city, village, or [place of] origin, and [he may voice this demand] from any platform or at any international, national, or regional court, in order to realize the right of return and utilize every means in the struggle to return to the land of his fathers."[16]

Today There Is a New Nakba: The Inter-Palestinian Schism

Majed Abu Shamala, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council on behalf of Fatah, called on the Palestinian factions to join forces in the struggle for their rights: "The last thing our people needs is another Nakba in the series of Nakbas [that have already befallen us], namely the schism caused by the Gaza coup, which has driven our people off the right course."[17]

Al-Quds columnist Rasem 'Abidat wrote in a similar vein: "The tragedy is that though the Nakba of our people continues, with the help of [various] Arab, regional and international elements, we ourselves – the people of the Nakba, [namely] the Palestinian people and all its political factions – deepen the bleeding would without own hands. [We] and supply pretexts and excuses for our enemies and others who [wish] to exploit our disunity, and our quarrel over the rule of a non-existent [state], in order to implement their goals and plans, [which are] to destroy our national enterprise and shatter our dream of return, independence and freedom. Moreover, if this state of weakness, schism and lack of a unified strategy continues, even more Nakbas and problems may [befall us]."[18]

Al-Ayyam columnist 'Abdallah 'Awwad wrote: "Even as we mark [the anniversary of] the Nakba, we create a new Nakba, more dangerous than the first, and our leadership stands firm, [considering itself] more important than the land and the people. Isn't this the painful and tragic reality we are experiencing? The essence of the Nakba was the exodus and emigration from our homeland, [which was caused by] the occupation, [whether through] direct and brutal force, or through subtle and indirect [pressure] – for the goal of the occupation was and remains to [take over] the land [and prompt] emigration... Once we dreamt of a homeland, but today we dream about salaries. Once we dreamt about resistance, and today we dream of fancy cars. Once we dreamt of resistance, and today we dream of defending ourselves against the settlers and about putting food in the mouths of our children."[19]

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), May 18, 2010.


[1] WAFA (PA), May 15, 2010.

[2] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 18, 2010; WAFA (PA), May 17, 2010.

[3] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 16, 2010.

[4] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 18, 2010.

[5] WAFA (PA), May 13, 2010.

[6] WAFA (PA), May 15, 2010.

[7] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 15, 2010.

[8] Al-Ayyam (PA), May 15, 2010.

[9] A group of pro-Palestinian organizations plans to send a fleet of aid ships to Gaza. The first is to set out on May 24, 2010.

[10], May 8, 2010.

[11] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), May 16, 2010.

[12] Al-Ayyam (PA), May 16, 2010.

[13] WAFA (PA), May 15, 2010.

[14] Al-Ayyam (PA), May 16, 2010.

[15] Supplement on the right of return published by the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, May 2010.

[16] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), May 16, 2010.

[17], May 15, 2010.

[18] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), May 16, 2010.

[19] Al-Ayyam (PA), March 27, 2010.

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