When Palestinian refugees and internally displaced talk about the right of return they speak about return to a specific place – a village, a piece of land and a home. No one really knows how many refugees would choose to return if given the chance to do so. There are simply too many factors to consider. But like refugees from Guatemala, Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere, displaced Palestinians that wish to return to homes, lands and properties should be allowed to do so.
When Palestinian refugees and internally displaced talk about the right of return they speak about return to a specific place – a village, a piece of land and a home. No one really knows how many refugees would choose to return if given the chance to do so. There are simply too many factors to consider. But like refugees from Guatemala, Bosnia, Kosovo and elsewhere, displaced Palestinians that wish to return to homes, lands and properties should be allowed to do so. The new international Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons endorsed by the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in August (reprinted in this issue of al-Majdal) provide a universal set of guidelines to resolve Palestinian claims. Prepared by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Housing and Property Restitution, Paulo Sergio Pinheiro of Brazil, the ‘Pinheiro Principles’ provide the first consolidated global standard on the housing, land and property rights of the displaced.
The Pinheiro Principles will come as no surprise to Palestinian refugees and internally displaced. The UN enunciated the same general principles in 1948 when the General Assembly reaffirmed (Resolution 194/III) that all persons displaced as a result of the conflict in Palestine should be permitted to return, not just to their homeland, but to their homes. The General Assembly reiterated the right of the refugees to restitution in 1974 (Resolution 3236/XXIX) and again in 1981 (Resolution 36/146C) when it also said that they have a right to the revenues from their properties.
In August, the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights endorsed the UN Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and Displaced Persons and encouraged their application and implementation by all States, intergovernmental organizations, and other relevant actors. The ‘Pinheiro Principles’ are directly relevant to all refugee and displaced persons, including Palestinian refugees and IDPs.
Any Atlas is a graphic representation of data. Unless you are an explorer charting new territory, all atlases are based on existing data. In this sense, the Atlas of Palestine 1948 is not unique. But it is the firsttimethat such massive data on Palestine was assembled in one volume. That is in addition to the analysis of results. Let us not forget that compilation of all this data has a historical-political meaning.
Israel is obliged to make reparation for damage caused to all natural or legal persons harmed by the construction of the Wall in the West Bank, including in and around eastern Jerusalem. This was one of the primary conclusions of the July 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the legal consequences of Israel’s construction of a Wall in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories.
Israel has dismantled all of its colonies and redeployed Israeli military forces from the Gaza Strip, but it still controls the land borders, coastal waters, and airspace over Gaza as well as the construction of essential infrastructure (e.g., sea and air ports). The Strip thus remains occupied. Several colonies in the northern West Bank were also evacuated. For the first time Palestinians are confronted with having to deal with restitution of land expropriated to build Jewish colonies in the OPTs in contravention of international law.
The name of Kafr Bir’im is well-known in the context of Palestinian displacement. This Palestinian Christian village is located 4 km south of the Lebanese-Israel/Palestine border. In mid-November 1948, two weeks after Israeli forces occupied the village, residents were ordered to leave with a promise from Israeli officials that the people of Kafr Bir’im would be able to return to their homes within two weeks. Fifty-seven years later they remain in forced exile.
Palestinian refugees may be one of the longest-standing refugee cases in the world today; they are also one of the most documented group of refugees. Recent years have seen the digitization of housing and property records held by the United Nations. But there remains a gap in documentation – registration of those records still held by refugees themselves.
In this working paper, refugee law expert Michael Kagan develops the idea of conflicting rights as a means of addressing Israeli objections to Palestinian refugee return. Rather than explore Palestinian arguments for the right of return, this paper starts from the assumption that the right of return exists and must be accepted by Israel in order to reach a just peace that complies with international law.
Since 1995 Jewish organizations have been leading an aggressive restitution campaign to reclaim dormant assets belonging to Jewish victims of the Nazi regime in Europe. In 1997 the same issue was raised in Israel but it has not been pursued with similar ferocity nor success.
In November 2004 BADIL Resource Center organized a study tour of Cyprus for Palestinian refugee activists (See Majdal 24, December 2004). During the visit participants met with Ms. Titina Loizidou, a tour guide and displaced person from the northern Cyprus port town of Kyrenia. After the division of the island in 1974 Ms. Loizidou became active in a movement called ‘Women Walk Home’ which held regular demonstrations calling for a united Cyprus, return home and human rights for all.