While the collapse of the Oslo process in the latter half of 2000 and the outbreak of the al-Aqsa intifada focused international attention for the first time since the beginning of the Madrid/Oslo in the
early 1990s on the root causes of the Palestinian/ Arab-Israeli conflict - i.e., denial of the right of return for Palestinian refugees and denial of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination - the international community, in general, has yet to
address these fundamental issues. As in Kosovo in the 1990s, the escalation of armed conflict in the Middle East stems in large part from the continued failure of the international community to effectively and efficiently address political and legal repression
of the Palestinian people by Israel.
Efforts by Palestinian, Arab and Non-Aligned states' to intervene for Palestinian rights through the UN system have been successfully marginalized for the time being. The deployment of international forces under the auspices of the UN remains stymied by US veto in the Security Council. The absence of international will has also rendered ineffective the affirmation by the UN Commission on Human Rights at its 57th session in March/April of the need for international protection for the Palestinian people.
BADIL: Could you analyze for us briefly how you see the relation between various social sectors of Israel and the Palestinian right of
Tikva Honig Parnass: I have recently come to the conclusion that there is an inevitable connection between the 'two-state' approach and the negation of the right of return. You cannot speak about two states in terms of a Jewish state and a Palestinian state and accept fully the right of return and its implementation. Moreover, contrary to the conclusion of Matzpen(1) in the 1980s that you can end the Israeli occupation without ending Zionism, due to what was considered then as new circumstances in the imperialist system, the facts have shown since then that this was a false assumption. What we get is an apartheid regime all over historic Palestine, which was Israel's plan from the beginning when they went to Oslo.
7 April Rallies: Building on the success of previous marches and rallies, such as the one simultaneously held in Palestine, Lebanon, Washington/DC and London in mid-September 2000, (See al-Majdal, Issue No. 7) members and partners of the worldwide al-Awda (Return) Network held marches and rallies in Palestine, North America, Australia, Europe, Japan, and in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon on 7 April under the common slogan: "No Peace without Return to Our Homes!"
BADIL Exploratory Trip:
In late April and early May 2001, representatives of BADIL and partners traveled to Geneva for exploratory consultations and discussions about how to effectively and efficiently advance Palestinian refugee rights in various UN and international fora. During meetingswith numerous organizations including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR), Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM),
Nine months after the beginning of the al-Aqsa intifada and nearly half a year since the collapse of final status talks at Taba, Egypt, the lack of international political will to intervene in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the basis of international law leaves little room for optimism about the immediate future of the region and the more than 5 million Palestinian refugees who remain in exile more than 50 years after their displacement/ expulsion.
BADIL: What has led B'tselem to take on thisissue of the Palestinian refugee question and the right of return?
Yael Stein: Formally speaking, the issue of refugees is outside our mandate because our mandate is restricted to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. When the final status negotiations started we thought that it would be impossible not to deal with the final status issues because an agreement will be signed on them and these issues have a human rights dimension.
Dr. Randa Farah is a Research Associate based at the Refugee Studies Center (RSC), University of Oxford.
Most of her writing and research pivots around forced displacement, exile, nationalism and children living with the effects of prolonged conflict. Dr. Farah has conducted several seminars on diasporas and refugees in different academic institutions, and was involved in developing and teaching a short course on Palestinian refugees and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the University of Oxford. Her current research and interest are of a comparative nature, mainly, in Africa (South Africa and Western Sahara), Cypriot refugees and Latin America, primarily Guatemala.
The issue of international protection for the Palestinian people in the 1967 occupied territories, including Palestinian refugees who comprise over 50% of the population in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip, has continued to be a focal point of refugee mobilization and lobbying. Under international law, all refugees have the right to international protection to ensure access to the full panoply of basic human rights including those associated with durable solutions - i.e., right of return, restitution and compensation - as affirmed in international law. International protection is particularly crucial for refugees when host states are unable or unwilling to protect the rights of refugees.
The Mitchell Committee recommendations, which were released in mid-May 2001, include an immediate and unconditional cessation of violence, immediate resumption of security cooperation, a meaningful cooling-off period to be followed by confidence building measures and a resumption of political negotiations. Unlike other UN and international reports issued since September 2000, the Mitchell Committee does not call for an investigation of Israeli violations of international law nor does it call for the deployment of international protection forces.
The redeployment of Israeli military forces, moreover, is connected to the termination of the intifada, resumption of security cooperation and a cooling-off period. While the Mitchell committee does recommend that Israel "freeze all settlement activity, including the 'natural growth of settlements'", the parameters of such a settlement freeze remain undefined, and it seems up to the
parties to decide, or in reality, up to Israel to impose.
Revocation of Jerusalem ID Cards: According to information released by the Israeli Interior Ministry, 818 Palestinian Jerusalemites had their residency rights restored in 2000 as compared to 183 Palestinians in 1999. In the first three months
of 2001, some 100 Palestinians from Jerusalem regained their residency rights. (Amira Hass, Haaretz, 2 April 2001) While the policy of Jerusalem ID card revocation was altered in October 1999, over the five-year period that the more restrictive policy was in place more than 3,000 Palestinians had their residency rights in Jerusalem revoked by Israeli authorities. Over the course of more than three decades of Israeli occupation, it is estimated that some 6,300 Palestinian Jerusalemites had their residency rights revoked with an additional 30,000 others who lost their residency rights because they were not registered in Israel's first census of eastern
Jerusalem after the 1967 occupation of the city.