17 May 2012 - The Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights has released the Spring-Summer double issue of al-Majdal (issue #49), titled “Forced Population Transfer Persists… The Struggle for Return Continues.” This Nakba-64 special issue of al-Majdal, includes a double feature. The first section examines the ongoing nature of the Nakba through Israel’s continued transfer of Palestinians on both sides of the “Green Line.” The second section includes preliminary visions for the implementation of Palestinian refugees’ right to return emerging from discussions held by Badil and Zochrot during a study visit to the South African city of Cape Town. In their commentaries, Rich Wiles and Nidal Azza discuss the creative ways in which Palestinians have resisted the ongoing Nakba. Noura Erakat and Rania Madi relate the achievement of an unprecedentedly coordinated effort by Palestinian human rights organizations in provoking the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s recognition, and condemnation, of Israeli apartheid on both sides of the green line. In the first feature of this issue the focus is on the crime of population transfer; a central aspect of the ongoing nature of the Nakba. Joseph Schechla offers an overview of population transfer, focusing on the development of international law criminalizing this practice since the 1930s, and Israel’s place as one of the leading state perpetrators of this crime. The following articles offer case studies of Israel’s policies and practices of population transfer. Salman Abu Sitta examines Israeli authorities’ use of Ottoman law, specifically of the mewat classification of land, as cover for stripping Palestinian Bedouin of their property in the Naqab; while Mercedes Melon describes the ways in which Israeli policies and practices in the occupied Jordan Valley have continued the forced transfer of Palestinians from, or within, that area. Amjad Alqasis ends the section with an analysis of the ways in which Zionism and, specifically, the legal use of the concept of Jewish nationality have constituted root causes of the population transfer of Palestinians. In the second section we publish the discussion documents from the February 2012 joint Badil-Zochrot study visit to Cape Town. One of the goals of the visit was for participants to see, hear and learn about population transfer under the South African Apartheid regime, how the struggle for return was waged, and how displaced South Africans experienced return as part of liberation after the fall of political Apartheid in 1994. In the last days of the visit, the participants from Badil and Zochrot discussed the ways in which their experiences could be incorporated into a vision of Palestinian refugee and IDP return. Out of these discussions emerged three documents: one on working towards return, another on reparations and a third on visions for a new state. The purpose of these documents is to stimulate broader discussion on visions and practicalities of return in the Palestinian case. This issue also include a BDS Update (January-May 2012)
For peoples engaged in struggle, the potency of symbolism is undeniable. In the Palestinian case, the symbols of struggle cover the world throughout which we have been dispersed, and exhibit the depth of a century-old quest for freedom. Among the most potent of these symbols is the kufiyyeh, a headdress associated with 1936-1939 worker and peasant uprising against British occupation and Zionist colonization. Many images are also symbols, like the iconic photographs of the expulsions of 1948 and the first tents of the refugee camps, and those of martyrs and freedom fighters. There are also the keys. Refugees carried these keys to the homes lodged in their memories to which they were sure they would return; logos of the leading militant factions; a caricature character with the spiky hair of a hedgehog witnessing the bitter ironies of loss and victory; the map of a homeland resembling a sharp shard of glass carved out by European powers and gifted to the world’s most famous Diaspora, only to create today’s largest and longest standing refugee population; and a flag designed as part of a British colonial campaign against its rival Ottoman empire, later to become a banned symbol of resistance raised in acts of defiance by protesting youth throughout the 1980s.
Today a certain disconnect, a rupture, has emerged constituting a discomforting space between the symbol and what it symbolizes. The locks into which refugees’ keys fit are now buried—together with the doors and the houses they guarded—under bustling cities and Jewish National Fund parks and picnic areas. The weapons adorning some of the leading factions’ logos are today used to police the mothers and cousins of their bearers. The Palestinian flag now adorns the mahogany desks and buildings of an Authority seeking to talk its way to whatever scraps of land and sovereignty the colonial power will allow to fall from the negotiating table. The map of Palestine bears the name of the colonizer’s regime on most maps produced today, and a more accurate map of the “State of Palestine,” if such a scrap is to somehow fall from the table, looks more like ghettoes in the form of a splatter of blood than a bandage to a century of wounds. How long will it be before settlers produce Handhala T-shirts in the Jews-only settler-colonies to sell to Palestinian refugees in neighboring countries and Westerners seeking to replace their tattered Che Guevara paraphernalia with something fresh?
by Rich Wiles* and Nidal Azza*
Even in the fisherman's net,
The smell of the sea.”
"We did not go into the battle because we love to be hungry or in pain, but for our dignity and the dignity of our nation."
With these words, Thaer Halahla from Hebron encapsulated the spirit of resistance. Halahla, and the hundreds of dignified hunger strikers who carried on their struggle even in the face of imminent death each made personal decisions to resist. An act of resistance is not a selfish one; it is an act for the dignity and liberation of humanity. The Palestinian street similarly rose up in support of the political prisoners, and within it, Palestinians of all factions, religions and social backgrounds showed how national unity comes from the hearts of the masses and not from decisions or agreements dictated by 'leaders' in Ramallah or Gaza City. The historic and ongoing struggle was built by the masses, and will always be lead by them.
by Noura Erakat* and Rania Madi*
Between mid-February and early March 2012, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (Committee) held its 80th session where it evaluated the compliance of several states with the 1966 International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). Among those states was Israel who became a party to the treaty in 1979. The Committee’s concluding observations and recommendations are notable because they establish that Israel’s policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) are tantamount to Apartheid and that many of its policies within Israel itself violate the prohibition on Apartheid as enshrined in Article 3 of the Convention.
The cruelty of population transfer is as old as the earliest civilizations. Such felonious practices are supposed to be vestiges of an uncivilized and ignoble past. With the development of international law in the twentieth century, population transfer is now punishable as both a war crime and crime against humanity. However, firm and enforceable prohibitions have been long in coming and inconsistently upheld.
Father: This land was Arab land before you were born. The fields and villages were theirs. But you do not see many of them now. There are only flourishing Jewish colonies where they used to be…because a great miracle happened to us…
Daughter: How can one take land which belongs to someone else, cultivating that land and living off it?
Father: There is nothing difficult about that. All you need is force. Once you have power you can.
Daughter: But is there no law? Are there no courts in Israel?
Father: Of course there are. But they only held up matters very briefly. The Arabs did go to our courts and asked for their land back from those who stole it. And the judges decided that yes, the Arabs are the legal owners of the fields they have tilled for generations.
Daughter: Well then, if that is the decision of the judges… we are a law-abiding nation.
Father: No, my dear, it is not quite like that. If the law decides against the thief, and the thief is very powerful, then he makes another law supporting his view.
--The father was Maariv founder and first editor, Dr. Israel Carlebach. This exchange was published in Ma’ariv, 25th December 1953.
Forcible transfer and deportation are terms that commonly evoke images of people being loaded onto trucks or trains or violently driven away.1 Forcible transfer, however, may also take the form of involuntary or induced movement of people resulting from the creation of insecurity, disorder, or other adverse conditions, for the purpose of, or resulting in such migration. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits all forcible transfers. Only the security of the population of the occupied territory or imperative military reasons can exceptionally justify total or partial evacuation of an area under occupation. Those evacuated shall be transferred back to their homes as soon as hostilities in the area in question have ceased.
In 1973, The United Nations rightfully condemned ‘the unholy alliance between Portuguese colonialism, South African racism, Zionism and Israeli imperialism.’1 And only two years later the same international organization determined ‘that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.’2 Although this resolution was revoked in 1991, at the behest of the U.S. administration, in order to pave the way for the Madrid Peace Conference that same year, the equation of Zionism with racism is still valid. Apartheid is based on the principle of the establishment and maintenance of a regime of institutionalized discrimination in which one group dominates others. In the case of Israel, the driving-force behind the Palestinian reality of apartheid is Zionist ideology; its manifestation is population transfer and ethnic cleansing.
The return of displaced Palestinians to the lands from which they have been displaced and denied return for over six decades is the central issue around which the Palestinian struggle for freedom and self-determination revolves. Among those who value justice and respect for international law, there is no disagreement that refugee and IDP reparation ( return, Restitution, rehabilitation, compensation and non-repetition) is central to a just and lasting solution to the woes of the region. For both Badil and Zochrot, it is this aspect of the liberation of Palestine to which we have dedicated our efforts for over a decade since our organizations’ establishment. Through the course of our work, however, we have found that conceptions of “return” have remained somewhat superficial. This is true among the settler community that sees it as a calamity to be avoided at any cost as well as among the indigenous community that equates return to a reversal of six decades of settler-colonialism; the return to a paradise lost.
In what follows we offer an overview of the various dimensions and aspects of the work needed in preparation for the return of Palestinian refugees. In general, we believe that the struggle for return needs to be cumulative, flexible, and sustainable:
Some of the Lessons from the South African Restitution Experience
In the discussions, meetings and visits conducted as part of the BADIL-Zochrot study visit in Cape Town, several issues were raised that we saw as being of direct relevance to restitution and reparations in the case of Palestine. These included the following:
(note: some of these may not have been directly experienced in South Africa, but were raised as questions and concerns by study visit participants in their examination of the South African restitution experience)