A Condition for a Just and Durable Peace in the Middle East
A Joint Statement issued by Organizations and NGOs of Internally Displaced Palestinians and Palestinian Refugees in Palestine and Lebanon
51 years after the massive eviction of the Palestinian people by the Zionist forces, the Palestinian refugee question remains unresolved. Israeli governments, past and present, have obstructed the return of the Palestinian refugees and maintained exclusive Jewish control of refugee lands and properties by means of racist laws and policies. As a result, some five million Palestinian refugees, i.e. some 70% of the Palestinian people, have been forced to remain in exile. Others have remained 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 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.
"No Final Status Agreement with Israel without Implementation of the Refugees' Right of Return!"
Some 600 Palestinian activists, representatives of national institutions and camp organizations, as well as children and youth from West Bank refugee camps gathered at the Khadouri Technical College in Tulkarem on 25 November, in order to state their demand for the implementation of the Palestinian refugees’ right of return to their homes and properties in the framework of a final settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
(Translation from the Arabic)
I know that I woke up early after their departure; and that some time later I realized that they were gone. Their departure was like rain pounding my bones; like a home awaiting its owners. I know that they were now called refugees, dispersed among camps, in exile, and that their letters were lost. Lost just like the small notebook, the youths, and the picture of the mother. I know that condolences are offered in public speeches, international resolutions, and in the tender faces of the Red Cross nurses. I know that they all love as fiercely - and killed us fiercely. How am I to catch my shadow that is filled with blood and joy, while I am besieged by a refugee's relief-card?
TULKAREM, OLD CITY/JERUSALEM
Photo Exhibitions: Children of Aida camp/West Bank exhibited a photographic account of their lives and perspectives at the BADIL Friends' Right of Return Rally (Khadouri College, Tulkarem) and in Jerusalem. The exhibition in Jerusalem was coordinated in cooperation with the African Community Club in the Old City and open to the public between December 7-10, 1999.
Video Presentation: On 2 December 1999, the video documentary "Beit Jibrin: A Visit of Hope, a Visit of Sorrow" (BADIL Friends and Quinoa/Belgium, 1999) was presented to the people of 'Azza Refugee Camp/Bethlehem who had participated in the production of this video both in 'Azza Camp and in their town of origin, Beit Jibrin. A copy of the documentary was sent to the refugees of Beit Jibrin currently residing in refugee camps in Jordan.
A Call for Support issued by BADIL Resource Center and the BADIL Friends Forum on the 51st Anniversary of UN Resolution 194
Our Petition for Palestinian Restitution was drafted in conjunction with Palestinian researchers, discussed with Palestinian refugee organizations and activists in Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan in early 1999, and endorsed by many of them. The petition campaign aims to raise international awareness of Palestinian refugees’ right to restitution (right of return, return of properties, compensation for material and non-material losses) in the context of the broader, current debate about restitution of victims of past and present ethnic cleansing policies, such as victims of the Nazi crimes, Bosnian and Kosovar refugees, and others.
By mid-December, Palestinian and Israeli negotiating teams had met some ten times to discuss issues pertaining to the framework agreement to be signed in February 2000 as a first step towards a future comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian final status agreement. US Foreign Secretary Albright's visit gave rise to strong official Palestinian protests against the ongoing Israeli settlement activities in the 1967 occupied territories, including a Palestinian threat to halt the final status negotiations. Following Albright's departure, however, negotiations resumed.
The adaptation of Palestinian refugees exiled to Syria after 1948 was eased by the historical connection between Syria and Palestine ("Greater Syria"). Despite political differences between the two countries after 1920, many Syrians had participated in the defense of Palestine against Zionist colonization, especially during the 1936-39 Arab Revolt. Damascus was a stronghold of Palestinian revolutionaries and, following the defeat in the 1939 revolt, became their shelter. This relationship continued until well after the 1948 Nakba.
Palestinian Refugees from the Demilitarized Zones (1949-1956)
The armistice agreements between Israel and the neighboring Arab states included the establishment of Demilitarized Zones (DMZs) in the north along the cease-fire lines with Syria and in the south along the cease-fire lines with Egypt. Israeli expulsion campaigns, most of them headed by Ariel Sharon, were undertaken mainly in the years 1949 - 1951 and were completed by 1956.
Speaking on the 50th anniversary of the establishment of UNRWA, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan noted that "despite the urgent need to create economic and social conditions conducive to peace, UNRWA today finds itself in a state of financial strangulation." The assessment is born out in the Agency's latest annual report, which describes 1998-99 as a year of achievement but also one of continued austerity and anxiety. According to the report, "existing services were sustained only by retention of prior austerity and cost reduction measures."
"In our Holy Land, peace is still a difficult process. In these recent days it has extended to include all parties concerned. Peace will be the fruit of justice. In our context, it should restore to the refugees their dignity and their rights, to the political prisoners their liberty, and to Jerusalem it should guarantee its sacred character. Peace with the Palestinian people remains at the heart of the problem and the essential condition for peace in the whole region." (Christmas Message, 1999)