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Home al-Majdal Failure to Address Root Causes of the Conflict (Summer 2001)
Failure to Address Root Causes of the Conflict (Summer 2001)

The "Mitchell Process"
and the Failure to Address Root Causes
of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

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
return?

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.

Community Mobilization:

"Al-Awda - Al-Nakba"

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.

of 145 Palestinian victims of Israeli violence between 28 March and 26 June 2001. Forty of those killed were below the age of 18. Between 29 September 2000 and the 26 June 2001, 529 Palestinians were killed by Israeli military forces and more than 14,500 injured.
Source: Palestinian Ministry of Information.
For the names of Palestinian Killed between 29 September and 21 March 2001, see al-Majdal, Issues No. 7 ,8 and 9

In June 2001, UNRWA issued a third emergency appeal to cover outstanding programs initiated to address increased refugee needs since the beginning of the al-Aqsa intifada. Some 60% of
Palestinians surveyed in the second half of March 2001 reported receiving assistance from UNRWA, followed by the PNA with 17.8%, with the remaining assistance provide by al-Zakat Committees (Charity), the Ministry of Social Affairs, other charity
institutions and political parties. (Impact of the Israeli Measures on the Economic Conditions of PalestinianHouseholds, 10/3/2001 to
5/4/2001, PCBS).

Previous emergency appeals in November 2000 and February 2001 have been met with strong donor response [check and put percentage of funds delivered]. The ongoing crisis, however, has
necessitated a third emergency appeal to cover the period between June and December 2001.Emergency contributions to date have been spent on emergency employment creation, food aid and smaller amounts on cash assistance, physical rehabilitation and
community relief operations.

I am a Palestinian child. I was born to find myself without a home or identity. I heard my grandparents describing our village with its vast fields and ever green olive trees. I wonder with pain and agony "Is it our destiny to be deprived of our childhood, our identity, and our dignity?"
We lost our tranquility, the brutal and savage shelling and bombing of the usurper Israeli army kills children and women without mercy, and leaves us sleepless and horrified. All this happens under the sight of the whole world.

Information Packet (3rd Edition) - Includes Right of Return, Campaign for the Defense of Palestinian Refugee Rights Brochure, Palestinian Refugees in ExileCountry Profiles, and BADIL Information & Discussion Briefs. (English & Arabic)
The Packet is also available on the BADIL website.
Follow-Up Information Submitted to the Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Regarding the Committee's 1998 "Concluding Observations", Regarding Israel's Serious Breaches of its Obligations under the International Covenant on
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, for the 13 November 2000 Convening of the Committee, With Special Documentary Annex (Prepared by Dr. Salman Abu Sitta), Quantifying Land Confiscation inside the Green Line.(English and Arabic), 65 pages Report to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 25th Session, 23 April 2001, General Item: Follow-Up Procedure (Israel). (English and Arabic), 28 pages

1. Letter by the Chairperson of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to the President of
ECOSOC and Letter to Israel

Your Excellency,
1. The voluminous material from United Nations as well as NGOs' sources [Commission on Human Rights mechanisms;
Adalah: Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel Association of Forty (Israel), Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights (Bethlehem, Palestine), Boston University Civil Litigation Program (USA), Habitat International Coalition, Housing and Land Rights Committee (Middle East/North Africa), LAW Society for the Protection of Human Rights and Environment (Jerusalem, Palestine), Organisation Mondiale contre la Torture (OMCT), Palestinian Center for Human Rights (Gaza, Palestine)] made available to the Committee at its 25th session (23 April-11 May 2001) under the Follow-up procedure with respect to its consideration of the initial report of Israel in 1998, confirm that the present situation of the Palestinian population in the occupied territories (OPT) of West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza Strip is dire.

 In the light of the on-going crisis and State party's continuing refusal to apply the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to, and report on the OPT, the Committee makes reference to rule 64 of its rules of procedure. This rule provides that the Committee may make suggestions and recommendations of a general nature on the basis of its consideration of reports submitted by States parties and the reports submitted by specialized agencies, in order to assist the Council to fulfil, in particular, its responsibilities under articles 21 and 22 of the Covenant.

2. Accordingly, the Committee wishes to draw attention of the Council to its self-explanatory letter addressed to the State party (see Attachment) as well as to the nature of the situation relative to the monitoring functions of the Committee with respect to implementation of the Covenant in "crisis situations", which may require action by the Council under articles 21 and 22 of the Covenant:
• While discharging its monitoring and reporting functions, the Committee remains limited in the enforcement aspect required
to maintain the integrity of the Covenant in such a situation;

• The "…international measures likely to contribute to the effective progressive implementation of the Covenant" (article 22 of the Covenant) required to uphold the integrity of the Covenant in such a case therefore fall within the purview of other bodies of the international system ;

• In view of the Committee's responsibility to uphold the Covenant and effectively monitor the implementation of the rights recognized therein, the Committee would be remiss not to underscore the need for protection measures for the population in the OPT. The Committee adds its recognition of these facts as a matter of course in its monitoring work, and with particular reference to the tragic loss of life and limb, the senseless destruction of property, and the deliberate starving and economic strangulation of the Palestinian people by the Occupying Power;

• The Committee recognizes with special appreciation the recommendations of the UN Commission on Human Rights Special
Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the Commission on Inquiry, the United Nations High Commissioner for
Human Rights mission report, reliable information from other source and eye witness accounts; and the Committee notes that
these recommendations for effective measures for protection and upholding human rights, in particular economic, social and cultural rights, remain outstanding. Please accept assurances of my highest consideration.
Sincerely,
Virginia Bonoan Dandan
Chairperson
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Attachment
LETTER TO ISRAEL 11 May 2001
S.E. M. Yaakov Levy
Permanent Representative,
Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations Office andSpecialized Agencies at Geneva
Your Excellency,
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights acknowledges with appreciation the receipt of additional information to Israel's initial report as requested by the Committee in its Concluding Observations.
However, the additional report was submitted beyond the date requested by the Committee and as a result the additional information could not be translated into the required working languages in time for its consideration on 4 May 2001 during the
Committee's 25th session.

Your Excellency will recall that in its Concluding Observations in relation to the initial report of Israel, the Committee requested
the submission of additional information in time for its 24th session in November-December 2000. The Committee wishes to emphasize that some of the additional information in particular where it concerns the occupied territories was requested "in order to complete the State party's initial report and thereby ensure full compliance  with its reporting obligations" (para. 32). The Committee therefore regrets that this current delay in submitting the additional information has resulted in another postponement of its consideration to the forthcoming 26th session of the Committee in August 2001.

The Committee reiterates the legal position shared by other treaty bodies that Israel's international treaty obligations as with this Covenant, apply to territories within its internationally recognized borders as well as other areas under its jurisdiction and effective control, including Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The State party's argument that jurisdiction has been transferred to other parties is not valid from the perspective of the Covenant, particularly in view of Israel currently besieging all the Palestinian territories it occupied in 1967. In response to Your Excellency's letter of 19 April 2000, the Committee reaffirms the principle that political processes, domestic legislation, scarcity of resources, or agreements with other parties do not absolve a State from its obligations to ensure the progressive realization of economic, social and cultural rights as provided for by the Covenant.

At its 25th session, the Committee had at its disposal a variety of recent reports including those of the Commission of Inquiry
(E/CN.4/2001/121 of 16 March 2001), of the Special Rapporteur (E/CN.4/2001/30 of 21 March 2001) and of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (E/CN.4/2001/114 of 29 November 2000), as well as the letter of the Permanent Representative of Israel addressed to the High Commissioner for Human Rights (E/CN.4/2001/133 of 23 February 2001). In light of these and other available reports, the Committee reiterates its deep concern over accounts that Israel's recent actions in the occupied territories in violation of international human rights law and humanitarian law have resulted in gross violation of the economic, social and cultural rights of Palestinians.

The Committee regrets that the ongoing conflict has resulted in the loss of Palestinian and Israeli lives. The Committee is particularly concerned about the lack of protection for Palestinian civilians in the OPT and the renewed maltreatment of Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel. Among a number of issues, the Committee expresses grave concern about the following situations, which have serious implications for the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights:
• The violation of the Palestinian people's right to self-determination through the continuing occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

• State party's continuing expropriation of Palestinian national resources including land and aquifers for exclusive Jewish control.

• The expropriation and devastation of vast areas of Palestinian lands by Israelis in the occupied territories resulting in grave
hardships particularly for farmers and agricultural workers.

• Continued establishment and expansion of illegal Jewish settlements throughout the occupied territories of East Jerusalem,
West Bank and Gaza Strip including those straddling the "green line".

• The destruction of Palestinian homes, mosques, churches, hospitals, public buildings, power plants and commercial
establishments through various means including heavy weaponry.

• Closures imposed solely on Palestinians, impeding access to health care, education, economic activities pertaining to
employment and livelihood, and to the integrity of the family and the right to take part in cultural life through religiousexpression.

• The prevention by the State party military and security forces of medical aid and personnel from ministering to injured Palestinians and the attack of clearly marked medical vehicles and personnel.

• Discrimination in law enforcement practices, including the disproportionate use of force and procedures against Palestinians
in the occupied territories and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Your Excellency, the Committee welcomes the recent submission of additional information by Israel and appreciates this opportunity
to address the situation of the Covenant within its territories. The Committee looks forward to a constructive dialogue with State
party's delegation on 17 August 2001 when it considers the additional information already submitted by State party.
Please accept assurances of my highest consideration.
Sincerely,
Virginia Bonoan Dandan
Chairperson
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights


2. Amnesty International. The Right to Return: The Case of the Palestinians, Policy Statement
AI-index: MDE 15/013/2001
30/03/2001
www.amnesty.org
Amnesty International's position on forcible exile and the right to return 1. In line with international law, Amnesty International opposes forcible exile -- when a government forces individuals to leave their own country on account of their political, religious or other conscientiously held beliefs or by reason of their ethnic origin, sex, colour, language, national or social origin, economic status, birth, or other tatus, and then prohibits their return, or, if they are already outside their own country, prevents them from returning for the same reasons. Amnesty International also opposes deportation from territories under military occupation in all cases.

2. Accordingly, Amnesty International calls for the recognition of the right of those who are forcibly exiled to return to their country.
The right to return to one's own country is based in international law and is the most obvious way to redress the situation of those
who are in exile. Amnesty International advocates the right to return regardless of the circumstances in which people have been
exiled, whether, for example, it was the result of a decision relating to an individual or the product of mass expulsions, as in the
practice of ''ethnic cleansing''.
40 March 2001

3. Among the key human rights principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the right to return. Article 13 of the UDHR states: ''Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.''

4. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the treaty which gives legal force to many of the rights proclaimed in the UDHR, codifies the right to return, stating in Article 12.4: ''No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.''

5. The Human Rights Committee, which monitors implementation of the ICCPR, has given authoritative interpretation to the meaning of the phrase ''own country'', which clarifies who is entitled to exercise the right to return. The Committee asserts that the right applies even in relation to disputed territories, or territories that have changed hands. In General Comment 27 (1999, paragraph 20) the Human Rights Committee determined:
''The scope of 'his own country' is broader than the concept 'country of his nationality'.It is not limited to nationality in a formal sense, that is, nationality acquired at birth or by conferral; it embraces, at the very least, an individual who, because of his or her special ties to or claims in relation to a given country, cannot be considered to be a mere alien.

This would be the case, for example, of nationals of a country who have there been stripped of their nationality in violation of international law, and of individuals whose country of nationality has been incorporated in or transferred to another national entity, whose nationality is being denied them.''

6. Amnesty International believes that the right to return applies not just to those who were directly expelled and their immediate
families, but also to those of their descendants who have maintained what the Human Rights Committee calls ''close and enduring connections'' with the area. Lasting connections between individuals and territory may exist independently of the formal determination of nationality (or lack thereof) held by the individuals. General Comment 27 (paragraph 19) explains that:
''The right of a person to enter his or her own country recognizes the special relationship of a person to that country...
It includes not only the right to return after having left one's own country; it may also entitle a person to come to the country for the first time if he or she was born outside the country (for example, if that country is the person's State of nationality).''

7. International law provides a standard for measuring the existence of a ''close and enduring connection'' between a person and his or her ''own country'' through a set of criteria established by the International Court of Justice in 1955. In the landmark Nottebohm case, which focused on the determination of nationality, the Court held that ''genuine'' and ''effective'' links between an individual and a state were based on ''... a social fact of attachment, a genuine connection of existence, interests and sentiments...'' The Court also noted that: ''Different factors are taken into consideration, and their importance will vary from one case to the next: there is the habitual residence of the individual concerned but also the centre of his interests, his family ties, his participation in public life, attachment shown by him for a given country and inculcated in his children, etc.'' Other criteria suggested by the Court include cultural traditions, way of life, activities, and intentions for the near future. The criteria established by the Court are likewise appropriate when determining a person's ''own country'' in that they are regarded as a standard measure of the effective existence of ties between the individual and the State.

8. Amnesty International supports the return of exiles to their own homes or the vicinity of their own homes, where this is feasible. The rights of innocent third parties who may be living in the homes or on the lands of the exiles, should also be taken into account. Exiles who choose not to return are entitled to compensation for lost property; those returning should also be compensated for lost property.

9. Amnesty International recognizes that the resolution of protracted conflicts involving the displacement of populations may require durable solutions alternative to the exercise of the right to return, such as integration into the host country and resettlement in a third country. However, the decision to exercise the right to return or to avail themselves of alternative solutions must be the free and informed decision of the individuals concerned. The right to return is an individual human right, and as such should not be used as a bargaining chip by any of the parties involved in negotiating a settlement.

10. Amnesty International has supported the right to return of people from countries in all regions of the world, including Bhutan,
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, East Timor, El Salvador, Guatemala, Kosovo, and Rwanda.

The case of the Palestinians
11. With regard to the specific issue of Palestinian exiles, Amnesty International believes that durable solutions respectful of their
human rights must be made available to them in any final peace agreement. Their right to return has been recognized by the United
Nations since UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948, which states:
''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 not 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.''

12. The right of Palestinians to return continues to be recognised by authoritative bodies within the UN system for the protection of
human rights. In March 1998 the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination examined the report presented by Israel. In its Concluding Observations (see Israel. 30/03/98, CERD/C/304/Add.45) the CERD was unequivocal about the obligations of Israel in relation to the right to return of the Palestinians. It stated: ''The right of many Palestinians to return and possess their homes in Israel is currently denied. The State party should give high priority to remedying this situation. Those who cannot repossess their homes should be entitled to compensation.''

13. The UN General Assembly in Resolution A/RES/51/129 of December 1996 affirms that ''Palestinian Arab refugees are entitled to their property and to the income derived therefrom, in conformity with the principles of justice and equity''. It ''requests the Secretary- General to take all appropriate steps... for the protection of Arab property, assets and property rights in Israel and to preserve and modernize the existing records.'' Regarding Palestinians in exile since the 1967 war, the General Assembly resolved in Resolution A/RES/52/59 of December 1997 that it: ''Reaffirms the right of all persons displaced as a result of the June 1967 and subsequent hostilities to return to their homes or former places of residence in the territories occupied by Israel since 1967.''

14. Any peace agreement reached should resolve the issue of the Palestinian diaspora through means that respect and protect
individual human rights. Amnesty International recognises that there are other considerations that must be addressed in the negotiations -- the security concerns of both sides, for instance -- but these issues must be resolved within a framework that does
not sacrifice individual human rights to political expediency.

15. Accordingly, Amnesty International calls for Palestinians who fled or were expelled from Israel, the West Bank or Gaza Strip, along with those of their descendants who have maintained genuine links with the area, to be able to exercise their right to return.
Palestinians who were expelled from what is now Israel, and then from the West Bank or Gaza Strip, may be able to show that they
have genuine links to both places. If so, they should be free to choose between returning to Israel, the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

16. Palestinians who have genuine links to Israel, the West Bank or Gaza Strip, but who are currently living in other host states, may
also have genuine links to their host state. This should not diminish or reduce their right to return to Israel, the West Bank or Gaza Strip.

17. However, not all Palestinian exiles will want to return to their ''own country'', and those who wish to remain in their host countries -- or in the West Bank or Gaza Strip -- should be offered the option of full local integration. The international community should also make available to Palestinian exiles the option of third-country resettlement. Whatever solution the individuals choose should be entirely voluntary, and under no circumstances should they be coerced into making a particular choice.

18. Where possible, Palestinians should be able to return to their original home or lands. If this is not possible -- because they no
longer exist, have been converted to other uses, or because of a valid competing claim -- they should be allowed to return to the
vicinity of their original home.

19. Palestinians who choose not to exercise their right to return should receive compensation for lost property, in accordance with
principles of international law. Those returning should likewise be compensated for any lost property.

20. Amnesty International calls on all parties to the negotiations to agree terms for the establishment of an independent, international body which, inter alia, will oversee the implementation of the return process, set criteria for individual claims, examine and determine claims and disputes, and establish a process for awarding compensation.

21. Amnesty International calls on the international community to provide all necessary assistance, including funding, for the implementation of such a return program.

22. The same principles apply to Israeli citizens who were once citizens of Arab or other countries and who fled or were expelled
from such countries. If they have maintained genuine links with such countries and wish to return, they should be allowed to do so.
They should also be entitled to compensation for any lost property.

3. Their Independence Day is the Day of Our Nakba, Statement by the National Society for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced

Our great people,

Another year has passed since the Palestinian people's Nakba, when some one million Palestinians were displaced from their homes and their country Palestine, and we are looking back on 53 years of forced eviction and massacres planned and implemented systematically by the criminal Zionist forces. Overnight, our great people were turned into refugees, with no cover but the sky. Their 531 villages and towns were consequently completely destroyed and their lands were confiscated by numerous unfair laws which consider our people "absentees" on their land. Our people, however, continue to see Palestine with the hope of return and reject proposals of compensation and re-settlement.

We, the internally displaced, suffer tremendously, because we continue to live so close to our destroyed villages and towns.
We look at the minarets of silent mosques and the bells of our churches that were forced into silence the day we were displaced.
Our holy sites have been transformed into stables serving the cattle of the Jewish settlers, and into bars and sites of crime and drug
abuse. For 53 years now, the desecrated graves of our grandparents have appealed to the human conscience.

Those who celebrate their independence day, are those who raped our land with force and massacres. They are those who uprooted two thirds of our people from their lands, demolished our homes, villages and towns, and confiscated our lands. They consider us absent; they continue to desecrate our respected holy sites and to commit more and more massacres and mass displacement. Sharon, the killer of Sabra and Shatila, who included in his government the propagator of "transfer", Rehavam Ze'evi
and the fascist Avigdor Lieberman and other racist killers, aims to turn the Palestinian citizens of Israel into his next target.

They and their servants and collaborators are celebrating their independence day, the day of our Nakba. Determined and loyal to Palestine, we renew our oath and promise to return and to reject alternatives of compensation and resettlement. We call upon our people inside the "green line", the sons of our villages and towns and our political and social institutions to participate in the activities organized by the National Society for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced on 26 April 2001:

1. Thursday morning: Committees and local organizations organize visits to the destroyed villages, especially al-Barwa, Um
Al-Zeinat and Suhmata.

2. Public rally "Al-Awda March" organized by the Society for the Rights of the Internally Displaced from the western Nazareth
neighborhood of Jaffa to the destroyed village of Ma'alol located in the Haifa district. This activity is organized in coordinationwith the Ma'alol Heritage Association.
We call upon all our people to boycott all formal and informal celebrations of the Israeli independence day and to participate
in the national activities that confirm our loyalty to our people and land.
Yes to the Return of All Displaced, Yes to the Right of Return The Right of Return is Never Outdated, The Right of Return is Inalienable The National Society for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced

4. Open Letters to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson,
foreign governments and the European Union

In the framework of the popular rallies and marches held in Palestine and in exile on the occasion of the 53rd anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba, refugee organizations and national institutions are delivering open letters to representatives of the United Nations and foreign governments in order to voice their demand for immediate international protection of the Palestinian people and support for the refugees' right of return to their homes and prope rties in accordance with UN Resolution 194. Attached is a sample of these open letters addressed to the European Union and foreign governments.

International Protection and Implementation of the Right of Return of Palestinian Refugees - Conditions for a Just and Durable Peace in the Middle East
Your Excellencies,
Representatives of foreign governments and the Council of the European Union,
53 years after the massive eviction of the Palestinian people by the Zionist forces, the Palestinian refugee question remains unresolved.

As in the past, during the recent political negotiations t Camp David and Taba, the Israeli government objected to the
return of Palestinian refugees, in order to maintain exclusive Jewish control of refugee lands and properties by means of racist laws and policies. For 53 years now, the United Nations has affirmed in numerous UN resolutions, foremost UN Resolution 194 (11 December 1948), the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties and to receive adequate compensation.
At the same time, the United Nations and its member states have refrained from taking action against Israel's consistent breaches of
its obligation - under UN resolutions (UNGAR 181 of 1947 and UNGAR 194), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international law and human rights conventions - to respect the individual and collective rights of the Palestinian people and to enact appropriate remedies, return, restitution and compensation, for its refugees.

Since the beginning of the al-Aqsa Intifada in September 2000, Palestinians, among them refugees and their camps, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been subjected to indiscriminate and targeted attacks by Israeli military forces. More than 450 people,
approximately half of them refugees, have been killed and tens of thousands injured in the Palestinian towns, villages and camps of
Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem, Qalqilya, and Jericho; in the Gaza Strip alone some 250 refugee shelters
were reported damaged by March 31.

The brutal character of recent Israeli attacks on the camps of Khan Younis and Brazil (Rafah) follow the long line of attacks lead by Ariel Sharon against refugees beginning in the Gaza Strip in 1953 and in the early 1970s, and against refugees in Lebanon (Sabra and Shatila, 1982). Over the course of many decades, the UN General Assembly and Security Council have considered measures to provide for the physical protection of Palestinian refugees. However, as in the past, such UN initiatives in 2000 and 2001 were either voted against or vetoed by the United States, and the High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions have failed to respond.
53 years of failure by the United Nations and its member states to live up to its responsibility have resulted in a situation where
over five million Palestinian refugees, i.e. some 70% of the Palestinian people, have remained in forceful exile.

Some 250,000 live in their homeland as internally displaced persons, deprived of access to their homes and properties by Israel. Lacking social and political security, Palestinian refugees continue to face displacement - and they continue to demand their right to return home, regain access to their properties, and receive adequate compensation for material losses and damages, as well as for the psychological suffering inflicted upon them.

Honored representatives of foreign governments and the EU, On the occasion of the 53rd anniversary of our forceful displacement in 1948, an event which lives on in the Palestinian memory as "al-Nakba" (catastrophe), we - Palestinian refugee organizations and national institutions - urge you to take the following steps in order to bring justice and stability to our region:
1. Reaffirm the commitment of your governments - in the framework of the United Nations and the European Union - to a durable solution of the Palestinian refugee question based on international law and UN resolutions, especially UN Resolution 194, and support the formation of UN mechanisms which will safeguard a rights-based approach to the Palestinian refugee question in future final status negotiations between Israel and the PLO.

2. Undertake, on the level of your governments and in the framework of the United Nations, an immediate and special effort
at solving the structural crisis of UNRWA's budget, in order to stop the deterioration of education, health, and welfare services for Palestinian refugees until a just and durable political settlement is reached in accordance with UN Resolution 194.

3. Initiate, in your countries and in the framework of the United Nations, a revision of the residency and asylum policies applicable to Palestinian refugees in accordance with the standards set by the 1951 Refugee Convention, UNHCR and international agreements on the rights of stateless persons, in order to provide Palestinian refugees with legal and social protection until the achievement of a just and durable solution.

4. Respond immediately to the recommendations submitted by the Commission of Inquiry of the UN Human Rights Commission
in March 2001, and support the establishment by the United Nations of an adequate and effective international presence in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories to monitor and regularly report on Israeli compliance with human rights and humanitarian law as a first step towards ensuring the full protection of the Palestinian people, including its refugees, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

5. Respond to the current situation of emergency in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories by convening, as soon as possible, the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Conventions in order to establish an international mechanism for the protection of Palestinian civilians, including refugees, under occupation, and to decide measures to ensure Israel's compliance with its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Conventions.

53 years after al-Nakba,
We renew our call, from Palestine and the Palestinian exile, for freedom, self-determination and return!
We call upon the international community to break 53 years of silence!

Al-Majdal Authors