Dispossession and Displacement 1948 - 2002:
The Root Cause of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
In 1948 Palestinians owned more than 90 percent of the land in historic Mandate Palestine. Today, the indigenous Palestinian Arab population owns and controls just over 10 percent of the land within the borders of their historic homeland (i.e. inside Israel and the 1967 occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip). A total of three-quarters of the indigenous Palestinian population have been displaced either outside or inside their homeland since 1948. All Israeli governments have upheld a policy aimed at mass dispossession and displacement of the Palestinian people in violation of international law. All Israeli governments have denied displaced Palestinians the right to return, real property restitution and compensation in accordance with UN General Assembly Resolution 194 (11 December 1948) and numerous recommendations by UN human rights bodies.
For Israel's political and military establishment, the death of hundreds of Israelis and more than a thousand Palestinians since September 2000 - and perhaps thousands more, as well as the mass destruction of Palestinian property is a price that it is willing to exact in order to impose a solution on the Palestinian people that preserves both, the post-1967 colonization program in the occupied territories and the "Jewish character" of the Israeli state (i.e. a Jewish demographic majority and Jewish control of refugee lands).
At the time of the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations at Camp David (July 2000) and Taba (January 2001) numerous Israeli politicians and analysts commented that violent confrontation, including war, was preferable to accepting the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their places of origin inside Israel. In March 2002 Israel's Prime Minister Sharon stated, "It won't be possible to reach an agreement with [the Palestinians] before the Palestinians are hit hard. Now they have to be hit. If they aren't badly beaten, there won't be any negotiations. Only after they are beaten will we be able to conducts talks." (Ha'aretz, 5 March 2002) The events on the ground have proven that these statements were not simply empty talk.
THE PALESTINIAN DEMAND for the RIGHT OF RETURN, REAL PROPERTY RESTITUTION and COMPENSATION, however, WILL NOT BE SILENCED. Racist legislation and policies directed against the Palestinian community in Israel, and bombing and shelling from F-16 fighters and Apache helicopters in the 1967 occupied territories will not silence the rightful demands of more than five million Palestinian refugees and
internally displaced persons. The 54th anniversary of Israel's massive displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people in 1948 (Nakba) will be commemorated on 15 May 2002 by Nakba memorials to be held in Israel, the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria and in every place of Palestinian exile. These 2002 memorials will symbolize Palestinian resilience and steadfastness as well as the determination to end the ongoing Nakba and to stand up for a peace based on justice and international law.
2002 NAKBA MEMORIALS IN ISRAEL
(Organized by the Association for the Defense of the Rights of Internally Displaced in Israel in cooperation with Palestinian community organizations, political parties and NGOs)
April 17: "Your Independence Day is the Day of our Nakba!" Nakba memorials of the Palestinian community in Israel start traditionally on April 17, the day on which Israel celebrates its independence day according to the Hebrew calendar. On the morning of 17 April 2002, collective visits were organized to several depopulated Palestinian villages, among them Suhmata (Upper Galilee), Miska (Southern Triangle), and Umm al-Zeinat (in the Carmel Mountain). In the afternoon, the fifth Al-Awda (Return) March took participants to the depopulated village of al-Birwa (near Acre). Around 7,000 marched from the Acre-Safad intersection to the village raising the names of the destroyed Palestinian villages and banners demanding the right of return for internally displaced Palestinians and refugees in exile. Other slogans called for the end of Israel's military occupation and Sharon's war crimes committed against Palestinian towns and refugee camps. Participants were internally displaced Palestinians and their supporters, Palestinian NGOs, community organizations and public representatives. Most noteworthy was the first-time participation of Jewish-Israeli groups, such as Zikhrot, Sawt Badeel, Re'out, Bat Shalom and others. The participants marked the sites of the four cemeteries of al-Birwa village with signs in English, Arabic and Hebrew language.
15 May 2002, noon (Wednesday, 12:00): a call was issued to Palestinian public institutions to arrange for one minute of silent commemoration of Palestinian and Arab martyrs fallen in the struggle for Palestinian freedom. The religious leadership was asked to participate by calling from the mosques and ringing church bells at the same time.
16 May 2002 (Thursday, 17:00): the Haifa Popular Committee against the Occupation will organize guided tours through the Palestinian neighborhoods of Haifa to educate participants about the forceful eviction of the city's Palestinian residents (participants will gather next to the Istiqlal Mosque).
17 May 2002 (Friday, 10:30 AM): the Committee of the Sons of Miska Village calls for participation in the cleaning of the village cemetery (participants will gather in al-Tira, at the home of late Aqel Shobeita, at 9:30).
18 May 2002 (Saturday, 15:00): internally displaced Palestinians will meet with their Jewish supporters on the land of the depopulated village of al-Ghabsiyya. Signs will be posted to mark the village cemetery and the mosque. Participants will be offered a guided tour about the geography and history of the village.
*Public debates and discussions on issues related to the Palestinian Nakba and the right of return will be organized in various locations, including schools, universities and community centers throughout the week. Detailed information can be obtained from the organizers (see contact, below).