Now they want to impose democracy, reform and their view of the future on the Middle East as witnessed by recent pronouncements by the United States and Israel. Only an indigenous plan for regional reform, beginning with the issue of Palestinian refugees and including Palestinians in the planning process, will work says the latest issue of BADIL’s quarterly magazine Al-Majdal.
This idea is addressed in the summary report of the third BADIL Expert Seminar held in Cairo with the participation of UNRWA, UNHCR and the European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and representatives of Palestinian/Arab human and refugee rights groups from Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Egypt. The seminar focused on closing the gap from protection to lasting solutions to the Palestinian refugee issue. A feature article on past approaches to crafting durable solutions also draws conclusions about reform of the Middle East peacemaking process.
This issue also provides updates on Palestinian organizing and right-of-return initiatives, including refugee community workshops with Dr. Karma Nabulsi (Oxford University) about rebuilding Palestinian civil society structures and participation of refugees in exile, Palestinian responses to the Geneva Accord and a report on a joint Israeli-Palestinian conference in Haifa on the right of return and a just peace.
On protection and assistance to refugees, Al-Majdal reports on the impact of Israel’s separation/apartheid wall, renewed calls for restitution in Iraq and Libya, ongoing dispossession in the Negev and Israel’s massive destruction of refugee housing and livelihoods in Rafah, Gaza.
Refugee Rights and an Indigenous Agenda for the Promotion of Human Rights and Democracy
Refugee rights and refugee participation are key elements of an indigenous agenda for the promotion of human rights and democratic reforms in the Middle East. An inclusive process that addresses protection concerns and simultaneously works to create the conditions in which Palestinian refugees and internally displaced may freely choose to exercise their right to return and repossess their homes and properties can enhance respect for human rights in the region and pave the way for broad democratic reforms in the Arab world and Israel.
The greater Middle East
Recent U.S. plans to promote political reform and democratization in the Middle East are widely perceived in the Arab world as the second round of an offensive launched after 11 September 2001 to reshape the political landscape of the region. The "Greater Middle East Initiative", apparently inspired by UN Arab Human Development Reports, was tentatively scheduled to be discussed and endorsed by members of the G-8, the EU, and NATO in June 2004. The plan for political, judicial, economic and social reform of Arab states has been met with widespread criticism.
"Enhancement of legislative and constitutional reform in Arab states, and closing the gap between national legislation and international standards and human rights laws in general and refugee rights in particular, will result in a more dignified life for Palestinian refugees under Arab patronage until they return to their lands” states the Palestinian Right-of-Return Coalition. The Coalition initiated a joint appeal to Arab states for respect of Palestinian refugees’ right of return and their right to physical and legal protection in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories and in Arab host countries.
The Building Blocks of a Viable Solution for Palestinian Refugees
A Reform Agenda for Middle East Peacemaking
The basic principles governing durable solutions for refugees and displaced persons are well-known. All refugees and displaced persons have the right to voluntarily return to their homes of origin in safety and dignity and repossess their properties.(1) Those not wishing to exercise these rights may opt for integration into host countries or resettlement in third countries.(2) Host countries should not push refugees to return; countries of origin should not prevent their return.(3) In other words, the starting point in crafting durable solutions is the wish of the refugee herself. While implementation is often imperfect, these basic principles are sine qua non for the crafting of durable solutions for refugees and displaced persons.
Closing the Gaps: from Protection to Durable Solutions for Palestinian Refugees
Report from the Third BADIL Expert Forum, 5-8 March 2004, Cairo
Hosted by the Al-Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies
evere gaps exist in protection currently available for Palestinian refugees, mainly due to the absence of mechanisms – international and regional – with an explicit protection mandate, as well as lack of clarity about strategies that could link day-to-day protection with efforts for rights-based durable solutions for Palestinian refugees.
Old Refugees, New Refugees and the Separation/Apartheid Wall
More than 220,000 Palestinians, one-third of whom are registered refugees, have been affected by the first 123 km stretch of Israel’s separation/apartheid wall in the occupied West Bank. Limited access to goods, services, natural resources, market and job opportunities is causing further impoverishment. According to UNRWA, the construction of the wall around Jerusalem, now underway, will affect thousands more.
Refugees and the Arab Charter on Human Rights
The Arab Charter on Human Rights was adopted in 1994, but as of March 2004, no member of the Arab League has ratified it. Recent efforts to re-draft the Charter to bring it in line with international human rights law provide an opportunity to strengthen regional provisions for refugee rights.
The Question of Jewish Property in Arab Countries
“More than fifty years after the holocaust, Jews around the world continue to fight for an receive restitution for material and non-material losses inflicted by the Nazi regime throughout Europe. More than fifty years after the Palestinian people were displaced and dispossessed by an exclusive Jewish state established in Palestine in the aftermath of Nazi atrocities in Europe, Palestinians are still being dispossessed, dispersed, and denied any kind of restitution. Restitution is a universal human right. Persons now fighting for restitution are therefore to be supported.”
‘Message Received?’ Opinions on the Geneva Accords
This summary was originally published in Arabic in Haq al-Awda (January 2004). To read the full version, see the BADIL website. The summary was drawn from more than 300 statements issued by individuals, institutions, and Palestinian national organizations.
A complete list of Palestinian victims of Israeli violence between 19 December 2003 and 31 March 2004 was not available at press time. In total, 206 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces during this period. Between 29 September 2000 and 31 March 2004, 2,828 Palestinians, including 23 inside Israel, have been killed by Israeli security forces. (PRCS)
Between 29 September 2000 and 31 March 2004, 593 Israeli civilians and 265 members of the Israeli security forces were killed. (B’tselem)
Forthcoming BADIL Publications
Survey of Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Palestinians 2003
The Survey provides basic historic and current information on Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons. The Survey includes 6 chapters covering the historical circumstances of Palestinian displacement, population, legal status, socio-economic profile, international protection and assistance, and durable solutions. Available in English and Arabic. 200 pages. ISSN 1728-1679.