Palestine’s Ongoing Nakba is the Responsibility of Israel and the International Community

Joint statement on the 64th Anniversary of the 1948 Nakba, May 14, 2012

For nearly a century the great powers of the international community have continued to unjustifiably marginalize and ignore the will of the Palestinian people, effectively stripping them of their fundamental rights. In 1922, the League of Nations rubber stamped the British Mandate in Palestine, paving the way for the implementation of the colonial Balfour Declaration and the establishment of a Zionist homeland in Palestine at the expense of the Palestinian people. In 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations issued resolution 181, the partition plan for Palestine, under which the state of Israel was created, and which effectively led to the attempted destruction of Palestinian society, including the displacement of nearly two-thirds of the indigenous population. Since 1967, the UN Security Council has debated the meaning and validity of resolutions calling for Israel’s withdrawal from territories occupied by force in the 1967 War. Since the “peace process” was launched in the early 1990s, not only has the international community been unable to compel Israel to respect the agreements it has signed, but has also been unable to stop grave violations of Palestinian rights. The impotence of the international community, which initially enabled the trampling of Palestinian human rights , continues to allow for the continuation of the ongoing Nakba; for the constant deprivation of the Palestinian people from the enjoyment of their fundamental rights.

For sixty-four years the Palestinian people have suffered the Nakba, the effects of which have escalated and the consequences of which have varied, to the point where it has become an ongoing Nakba because of the colonial and racist policies practiced by Israel against all Palestinians, whether they reside in Palestine or in exile. In 1948, the UN General Assembly—the same body that facilitated the partition of Palestine through resolution 181—passed Resolution 194. This resolution has called for the return of Palestinian refugees to their homes from which they were displaced, the restitution of their properties and compensation for the injury done to them. Since its adoption, the international community has failed to implement this resolution. Beyond this, it refrained from providing international protection for Palestinian refugees, protection that refugees in the rest of the world are entitled to under international law. In 1967, the UN Security Council issued resolution 237 demanding that Israel allow the return of those displaced by the Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula. Since then, the international community has avoided even reminding Israel of that binding resolution.

Since the launch of the so-called “peace process,” the international community has been unable to muster the will to hold Israel accountable for its refusal to fulfill its international obligations and its violations of international law. At most, international actors chastise “both sides” instead of demanding that the occupier ceases its illegal practices. Reports, including those of the various United Nations agencies, confirm the ongoing displacement of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line; the systematic and institutionalized racial discrimination that Israel inflicts; the continuation of settler implantation; the Judaization of Palestinian villages and towns; the confiscation and seizure of natural resources; the oppression in all of its forms, including collective punishment; the blockade on the Gaza Strip; and other colonial and racist policies. Indeed, Israel’s crimes and violations have only increased and intensified since the launch of the so-called “peace process”.

International shortcomings in the protection of Palestinians is evident in the continued reduction of the services provided by UNRWA, one indicator of an international, and mainly Western orientation towards liquidating this agency that has been responsible for providing humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees until they are able to exercise their right to return under Resolution 194. No less significant are the shortcomings evident in the work of UNHCR to provide international protection for Palestinian refugees, especially those who have been displaced from Iraq after the U.S. invasion and occupation of that country. Most of these Palestinians—dispersed to countries such as Norway, Italy, Cyprus and Syria—continue to face the instability of their condition, the denial of their rights to legal refugee status, and/or the absence of other basic services.

Now, as the Nakba has continued for sixty four years, the undersigned organizations stress the following:

1 – A just solution to the conflict is only possible if the causes, effects and driving forces behind the ongoing Nakba come to an end; and that a solution that rests on the fundamental principles of human rights and justice necessarily entails forcing Israel to submit to the rules of international law;

2 – The enforcement of international law and the implementation of international resolutions, including the realization of the principles of international accountability, require immediate and effective action on the ground to put a stop to Israel's daily violations of Palestinian rights;

3 – The inability of the United Nations and its agencies to implement its decisions, and particularly General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948 and Security Council Resolution 237 of 1967, does not relieve states individually or collectively, or civil society in general from assuming their responsibilities to enable and facilitate the return of Palestinian refugees to their original homes from which they were displaced, the restitution of their property, and compensation for the damages inflicted upon them as a result of their displacement;

4 – The continued use of avowedly “balanced” language by the relevant international bodies, those tasked with ensuring the enforcement of international law, and the United Nations in general through the use of vague formulas effectively equate the victim and the perpetrator, the oppressor and the oppressed. This contributes directly to the continuation of the Nakba and the violation of the rights of the Palestinian people by offering Israel the pretext and excuses to evade its responsibilities and escape accountability;

5 – The end of the UN Conciliation Commission for Palestine that was tasked with ensuring the protection for Palestinian refugees according to Resolution 194, and the restriction of the work and mandate of UNRWA, places a greater responsibility on UNHCR to provide such protection for Palestinian refugees by ensuring their enjoyment of their rights according to the 1951 Refugee Convention, and specifically the application of Article 1.D.

6 – More than at any other time in the past, the PLO is required to adopt a strategy that aims to put an end to the reduction of services provided to Palestinian refugees throughout their places of exile by working to ensure that the budget of UNRWA is not dependent upon donations and emergency grants; that it is treated like any other specialized UN agency by having its budget decided upon directly by the UN General Assembly.


BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights

Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights

ADDAMEER Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association

Defence for Children International - Palestine Section

Women’s Centre for Legal Aid and Counselling