BDS activists call on elected of cials to Stop Blocking New Yorkers from boycotting Israel and its human rights abuses, December 2013 (Source: psfcbds.wordpress.com) BDS activists call on elected of cials to Stop Blocking New Yorkers from boycotting Israel and its human rights abuses, December 2013 (Source: psfcbds.wordpress.com)


In BADIL’s Survey of Palestinian Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons 2013-2015, a questionnaire was conducted to examine the perceptions of Palestinian refugees residing in UNRWA camps with regards to their knowledge of international protection and their preferred paths to durable solutions. Specifically, this article analyzes the results of one of the most significant questions of the questionnaire: what are the three most important pathways to achieve durable solutions for the Palestinian refugees? The questionnaire was completed by Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon, who were given ten options to choose from (see table below). This article examines the overall results in all the areas, the results of each area separately and provides possible interpretations for the variations.












 
Measure for achieving durable solutions Percentage* of Palestinian refugees selecting the measure
Supporting the BDS Movement 51%
Security Council sanctions on Israel 50.8%
The International Criminal Court 42.4%
Using other forms of resistance 41.8%
Reforming the PLO 39.3%
Expanding the mandate of UNRWA 24.9%
Convening an international conference 16.3%
Continue with the negotiations track 16.2%
Reactivating the UNCCP 11.3%
Other 5.8%
* These numbers were calculated by summing the responses for all the regions and dividing by the total number of Palestinian refugees surveyed.
 
 

Taking the overall results first, several interesting outcomes appeared concerning refugee views towards the various means to achieve a permanent solution to their plight. Half of those surveyed selected the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and the imposition of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions on Israel. Given the recent significant successes of the Palestinian BDS campaign it can be deduced that there is a high level of positive expectations for further success. The support of the BDS movement also may reflect an inclination to generate genuine political will through mobilizing civil society to influence decision makers and duty bearers such as the UNSC. Calling for UNSC sanctions may stem from a belief in international responsibility toward the ongoing refugee plight, and the necessity of the UNSC to act according to its obligations. However, the selection of these two pathways implies other important dimensions: the success of BDS and UNSC sanctions which took place in other countries such as the banning of the apartheid regime in South Africa and intervention in former Yugoslavia - mainly in the case of Serbia; and that refugees recognize that in order for Israel to come into compliance with international law, international pressure must be exerted to hold it accountable. In other words, this could be attributed to refugees’ belief that international intervention is required to overcome the imbalance of power which makes just peace unachievable.
 
Furthermore, 42.4 percent of refugees chose using the ICC as one of their preferred options. While this could be a direct reflection of the recent accession of Palestine to the ICC, it demonstrates once again their belief that international intervention is necessary to hold Israel accountable.  Only 16.2 percent of those surveyed chose continuing with the negotiations track - making this path the second to last preferred path – which probably stems from the lack of trust in this track because of its failure to end Palestinian daily humanitarian suffering and to realize their fundamental rights. Moreover, only 11.3 percent chose reactivating the United Nations Conciliation Commission on Palestine (UNCCP), which is the agency specifically mandated to pursue protection for Palestinian refugees, including durable solutions, as one of their three top preferences. This low percentage is probably derived from the prolonged inaction of UNCCP, which ceased to operate since the early 1950s. Additionally, a significant number of Palestinian refugees (64 percent in Jordan, 42 percent in the Gaza Strip and 38 percent in the West Bank) were unaware of the existence of the UNCCP.

The Gaza Strip

On the regional level, there is variation regarding the most desirable path to a permanent solution for Palestinian refugees. In the Gaza Strip, 55.6 percent and 52.8 percent of the refugees surveyed said that putting sanctions on Israel by the UNSC and supporting the BDS movement, respectively, were two of their top three preferred pathways. This orientation towards sanctions and BDS was discussed above. Nevertheless, 43 percent of those did not choose BDS as the top choice, but as an alternative. This may be due to the fact that this movement does not provide a quick solution; it is a long-term commitment and strategy. As BDS aims to drive Israel to comply with international law and Palestinian rights in the long-term, Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip require and therefore seek more urgent and direct political action, and humanitarian and economic assistance to improve their current dire living conditions. As such, reforming the PLO and/or the imposition of UNSC sanctions on Israel were first choices. This might also be because Palestinians believe that the main path to achieve durable solutions necessarily requires the combination of strong and direct engagement by Palestinians themselves and the intervention of states – as in the case of reforming the PLO and UNSC sanctions – while the efforts of international civil society, such as supporting and joining BDS movement, should be complementary to these actions.
 
With regard to choosing the expansion of UNRWA’s mandate, only 19.9 percent of those surveyed in the Gaza Strip chose it as one of their three preferences. This is perhaps because of refugees’ realization that UNRWA may not be the proper body able to provide protection and to lead to durable solutions for refugees even if it expands its mandate, especially because they witnessed its inability to compel Israel to fulfill its humanitarian obligations. Regarding reforming the PLO, 44.1 percent chose it as one of their three preferences and this may be an expression of the need for a national unified body more expansive than the Palestinian Authority (PA) which includes the development of a unified national vision and strategy for the future. Notably, this perspective prevails among youth: a little over half of the refugees supporting this option were aged between 18 and 29 years, while only 19.9 percent were aged 45 and above. This could be because the older generation may have a personal interest in their current socio-economic position within the PLO, and therefore are not motivated to reform and change this situation. On the other hand, the younger generation recognizes the need for and seeks change/reform of the PLO assumedly with the intent to participate in this reform.
 
9.8 percent of those surveyed stated that using other forms of resistance is their first preference for durable solutions; more than half of those who chose this option as their first choice were aged between 18 and 29, while only 22.4 percent were aged 45 and above. This might be a result of the recent three Israeli wars on the Gaza Strip, which had devastating consequences for its residents and once again highlighted the complacency of international duty bearers and states to hold Israel accountable and stop the suffering. As such the youth may have lost faith in traditional and official mechanisms of justice and accountability.
 

First preference for achieving a permanent solution for the refugee issue in the Gaza Strip:
Measure for achieving durable solutions Percentage of Palestinian refugees selecting the measure
Reforming the PLO 20.1%
Security Council sanctions on Israel 16.7%
The International Criminal Court 16.3%
Expanding the mandate of UNRWA 12.4%
Supporting the BDS Movement 9.8%
Using other forms of resistance 9.8%
Reactivating the UNCCP 5.1%
Continue with the negotiations track 4.8%
Convening an international conference 4.2%
 

The West Bank

In the West Bank, those surveyed responded differently than those in the Gaza Strip. More than half of those surveyed in the West Bank chose UNSC sanctions on Israel as one of their three preferences for achieving a permanent solution to the refugee issue. This orientation is consistent with the previous analysis on the historic successes of  sanctions in other countries and the need for international intervention.
 
Following a similar trend to that seen in the Gaza Strip, refugees in the West Bank see the BDS campaign as complementary to other paths, as only 2.5 percent of those surveyed answered that supporting the BDS is their first preference for durable solutions, while 43.1 percent chose it as their second and third preference.
 
One of the variations between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is that 32.5 percent of those surveyed in the West Bank chose expanding the mandate of UNRWA as their first preference, in contrast to 19.9 percent in the Gaza Strip. This implies that Palestinian refugees in the West Bank believe that after expanding its mandate, UNRWA could and would have the ability and desire to achieve a permanent solution for the refugee issue. Another variation between the Gaza Strip and West Bank results is that only 1.7 percent answered that reforming the PLO is their first preference. Because of the overwhelming presence of the PA in the West Bank, Palestinian refugees there might not differentiate between the PA and the PLO, and as a result, do not support the reform of either. Therefore the question that must be postulated is why. Is it because they have lost faith in both institutions or because they are satisfied with the role of the PA/PLO in the West Bank? This can be answered by the questionnaire result that only three percent of those surveyed in the West Bank (4.8 percent in the Gaza Strip) chose negotiations as their first preference for durable solutions for the Palestinian refugee issue. As such this is refugees’ expression of the lack of trust in the negotiations track and those spearheading it, as after 24 years of peace process no progress has been made and Israel has continued to expand its colonial enterprise. 
Jordan
In Jordan, in contrast to both the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinian refugees selected other forms of resistance as the first preference, with 37.6 percent of those surveyed indicating this option. This may refer to the fact that refugees in Jordan, not living under direct Israeli occupation have not experienced armed conflict with Israel, the catastrophic consequences of wars and Israeli assaults and the ongoing Israeli policies of oppression and suppression. The second most popular preference in Jordan was UNSC sanctions on Israel; chosen by 17.5 percent.
 
On the other hand, only 0.4 percent of those surveyed in Jordan chose reactivating the UNCCP. This comes as no surprise since 44.3 percent of surveyed participants claimed to have no knowledge of the UNCCP. Further, it could refer to the fact the UNCCP, which was specifically created to provide Palestinian refugees with effective protection, has been inactive since 1952. The table in this page indicates the most popular preferences among refugees in Jordan.
 
As for supporting the BDS movement, only six percent of those surveyed in Jordan chose it as their first preference, while 52.4 percent chose it as their second and third preference. Palestinian refugees in Jordan seem to follow a similar trend to those in the oPt; they believe in supporting the BDS movement as a complement to other paths.
 
Measure for achieving durable solutions Percentage of Palestinian refugees selecting the measure
Using other forms of resistance 73.9%
Supporting the BDS Movement 58.4%
Security Council sanctions on Israel 43.3%
Reforming the PLO 37.2%
The International Criminal Court 22.9%
Other 20.5%
Convening an international conference 18%
Continue with the negotiations track 14.1%
Expanding the mandate of UNRWA 10.8%
Reactivating the UNCCP 0.9%
 

Lebanon

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon did not have consensus in their choices but rather exhibited a fairly even spread of selection of different solutions: 16.4 percent choosing UNSC sanctions on Israel, 15.6 percent going to the ICC, 15.4 percent expanding the mandate of UNRWA, 13.4 percent using other forms of resistance and 12.7 percent supporting the BDS movement. This could indicate a lack of a united vision among the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. In other words, Palestinian refugees do not have a coherent and collective opinion on their preferred avenue for achieving a permanent solution for the refugee issue. This might be the result of the lack of a united and coherent Palestinian agenda, which is the responsibility of the Palestinian political parties and the PLO.
 
Unlike the Palestinian refugees in Jordan, less refugees chose other forms of resistance in Lebanon, as only 13.4 percent chose it as their first preference. This is most likely for the same reason that only 9.8 percent of Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip chose it as their first preference; because refugees in these areas are still suffering the consequences of the wars and armed conflict of the past two decades.
 
Similar to the other three areas, Palestinian refugees in Lebanon showed little hope in the continuation of negotiations, as only 3.2 percent chose it as their first preference. This again refers to the lack of trust in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations because of the lack of any successful outcome in the last 24 years.
Conclusion 
In sum, BADIL posed this question of choosing the most important avenues for achieving permanent solution for the Palestinian refugee issue to the refugees themselves in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Jordan and Lebanon. Recognizing that it is essential to know their position in this regard, as this is the main issue affecting Palestinian refugees. After analyzing the answers of this question, several common outcomes are shared between the four surveyed areas. Refugees generally seek effective international intervention as a means to achieve durable solutions, whether through UNSC sanctions on Israel, ICC decisions or successful outcomes from the BDS movement. Furthermore, using other forms of resistance is one of the most preferred avenues by refugees, as it was the most popular first preference among those surveyed. The answers of those surveyed also showed a lack of trust in the current negotiations track and very few chose it as an effective path to resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue.
 
While there seems to be strong preferences for international intervention of some sort in multiple locations, there was also a lack of a singular unified choice or preference among Palestinian refugees. This may be because of the lack of a unified Palestinian national strategy or lack of coordination between the areas, which is mainly due to the fragmentation on the political and geopolitical levels. This situation might have led to the variety of opinions regarding many core issues such as the protection received by refugees and the preferred avenues to achieve their rights.
 
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*Ezees Silwady is a legal researcher at BADIL Resource Center and a lecturer at al-Quds University. She has a bachelor of Law from Birzeit University in Palestine, Master of Laws in Comparative Law, Economics and Finance from Torino University in Italy and a second Master of Laws in International Trade from Barcelona University in Spain. For the last four years, Ezees has been engaged in Jessup, the largest international moot competition in the world; participating, coaching and judging in the international rounds.