Palestinian Internally Displaced Persons (issue No.30-31, Summer-Autumn 2006)
Was it as a slip of the tongue - a ‘new order’? A new order allegedly bringing democracy, human rights and the rule of law to the Middle East. But how, and at what price? By ‘reshaping’ and ‘re-ordering’, a vision of self-determination is imposed upon the people of the region. A vision vested in the interest of the superpowers. A vision that calls for appeasement, alignment and acquiescence, not the expression of a people’s rights. It is this same vision that has undermined the capacity of the international community to intervene in Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt).
Israel’s failure to subdue the people of Lebanon and Palestine, in addition to the debacle of the United States and its coalition in Iraq, sends a clear message to the advocates of this ‘new order’: it is a failure. The people of the region have refused to submit.(1)
The Security Council of the United Nations has failed; failed to stop Israel’s war on Lebanon; failed, also, to implement all relevant UN resolutions to the conflict in the region. “When it suits Israel and the United States, United Nations resolutions such as 242 and 338 on Palestine or 638 on releasing hostages can be ignored for years. But other resolutions acquire a Biblical patina and instant compliance is required of them.”(2) Needless to say, all resolutions are intertwined and that in order to achieve ‘a just and lasting peace’ and respect for international law, they must be implemented in a comprehensive manner. This, it should be noted, is also what the people of the Middle East, including Palestinians, and the people of Lebanon and Iraq, want.
The dust had not yet settled on the rubble in Lebanon when Ehud Olmert announced: “this is no time for convergence.” Shimon Peres said there would be no withdrawal from the “territories” in the next 10 years.(1) Tzipi Livni’s extensive brainstorming visit with Condoleezza Rice in Washington apparently served to coordinate policies of regime change in Iran and the occupied Palestinian territories. Both parties, however, remained silent on the question what would replace Israel’s “convergence” plan from here on out. Two months after Israel’s war against Lebanon, the incumbent Israeli government expands rightward to survive. Avigdor Lieberman’s racist and right-wing Israel Beteinu party are the new partners to the ruling coalition and will guarantee that “convergence” plans and the like will remain in the drawer.
Today, it is almost as if there never had been such a plan. Forgotten are the days when Ariel Sharon succeeded to make his “painful concessions” and unilateral withdrawal, the only game in the global village of Middle East diplomacy. Nobody in Israel today appears interested in holding the Kadima party to account for abandoning the political project that had justified its creation.
Applicability to the Palestinian Case
The term, or more appropriately the use of the category of internally displaced person (IDP) at the international level is quite recent, although the phenomenon is not. The reasons for the emergence of this new category necessitate further explanation.
The welcome recognition of the IDP category, numbering nearly 25 million persons worldwide, is most likely imputable to the decreasing number of refugees around the world. Indeed, the “fortress policy” adopted by an increasing number of states has resulted in the containment of refugees, thus creating the need to provide assistance and protection to IDPs in order to prevent further movement, i.e. movement across borders. The goal could not be clearer: prevent liberalization in policy applying to the movement of persons.
“Israel has turned the Gaza Strip into a prison for Palestinians and have thrown away the key...life in Gaza has turned to be intolerable, appalling and tragic. Israel violates international law as expounded by the Security Council and the International Court of Justice and goes unpunished.... In other countries this process might be described as ethnic cleansing.”(1)
- John Dugard, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories Occupied Since 1967.
During the last Israeli aggression on Lebanon, thousands of Lebanese families fled to the Palestinian refugee camp of Ein el Hilweh in Saida, to escape the Israeli planes that chased them all the way. Palestinian refugees along with local NGOs in the camp sped to relieve the guests and provide them with food, mattresses and cover to live in dignity until they returned to their villages. This time, the Palestinian refugees and the displaced Lebanese shared not only the pains of exile and old histories but also the dream of return.
The Humanitarian Crisis in Lebanon
As a result of the two prisoners of war taken by Hezbollah, Israel began attacking Lebanon on July 12, 2006. Israel’s army immediately began bombing Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure. As of 1 September 2006, 1,187 had been killed, 4,092 injured, and about 970,000 persons had been displaced during the conflict. 40 Israeli civilians were killed in Israel. Civilians make up the majority of the dead in Lebanon.
Forced displacement is not a new phenomenon for the Palestinian people, whose displacement is ongoing and in fact, an incremental part of the conflict. The Wall and its associated regime are a continuation of this policy as they alter the demographic composition of the occupied Palestinian territories. The international community has however failed to recognize, prevent
and respond to forced displacement.
“I believed that we, the Palestinians, had the right to return only because we owned this land before Israel was established.
Now, I know that the Palestinian refugees’ rights are more than a national right; they are a human and legal right, that all people and states must ensure and respect.” Layan, 15, Lajee Children’s Center, Aida camp. Resilience, resistance and the ability to maintain the struggle for freedom and fundamental rights are based on the heritage and knowledge of older generations and the energy and new skills of the Palestinian youth.
The first years of displacement
Israeli officials who made the decision to prevent the return of the displaced to their villages, were guided by three main considerations: first, the state need for land for housing projects to absorb Jewish immigrants expected from Europe and the Arab states; second, some villages were located in areas considered of strategic importance by the military, and, fearing another war with Arab states (with the aid of the Palestinians), the Israeli authorities decided not to leave these villages in Arab hands. The third and last consideration had a vengeful and punitive dimension: Israel wanted Arabs to suffer the consequences of their rejection of the United Nations Partition Plan and of starting the war.
“This camp is a clear message to the Israelis that the Palestinian people are able to survive and maintain their national identity and collective memory even in the most difficult times”, said Salah Ajarmeh, director of the local Lajee Children’s Center and coordinator of the special summer-camp administrative committee which had worked hard for weeks to see this moment arrive.
Despite the fact that Israel’s brutal “Operation Summer Rain” against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip had just begun, causing much apprehension also in the West Bank, all groups arrived, from Fawwar camp in the south, Aqbat Jaber in Jericho, to Far’ah in the north.
In the Occupied Palestinian Territories forced displacement results from various types of pressure on Palestinians by Israeli occupying forces, settlers and/or more recently, the wall. Following the events in the village of Yanoun, was the first time an entire community had to flee because of settler violence Ta’ayush, the Israeli movement of Palestinians and Jews, wrote the following “[…] transfer isn’t necessarily a dramatic moment, a moment when people are expelled and flee their towns and villages. It is not always a planned, well organised move, completed by buses and truckloads of people, such as happened in Qalqiliah in 1967.
Recent developments at the site of a destroyed Galilee village should bring encouragement Rto all those investing energy in community action to preserve the remains of a Palestinian past on the Israeli landscape. After decades of struggle, the sacred land around the St. Nicholas Orthodox Church once more stands surrounded by a traditional white stone wall. Sadly now, situated in the heart of the Israeli settlement of Migdal Ha’emek, the church needs far more protection than it ever did when it stood in the Palestinian village of al-Mujaydil.
1948 Internally Displaced Persons Palestinians are an Integral Part of the Palestinian People and must be Included Equally in all Future Solutions
One cannot help notice that the Palestinian demand for the ‘Right of Return’, whether by individuals or communities, has not been silenced since 1948. The quest for return lives on, despite the fact that the majority of Palestinians have remained refugees, both inside and outside Palestine. Forced displacement which created the refugee issue, has been yet another dimension of the Zionist project to establish the state of Israel as a racist colonial entity.
A recently released report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) titled Nowhere to Flee: The Perilous Situation of Palestinians in Iraq” (September 2006) warned that Palestinian refugees in Iraq are particularly vulnerable. There has been an increase in “targeted killings by mostly Shi`a militant groups and harassment by the Iraqi government.” Militant groups, including Ministry of Interior officials have “arrested, beaten, tortured, and in a few cases forcibly disappeared Palestinian refugees.” Entire Palestinian refugee communities have received death threats, and dozens have been killed.
Recently published World Bank and UNCTAD reports give dire warnings about the state Rof the Palestinian economy and its ability to recover from the economic crisi tsh oef s tthaties year. Their calculations are indeed shocking. The World Bank predicts that if the current situation is allowed to continue through the end of 2006, 67% of the Palestinian population will be living in poverty, while Palestinians’ average income will fall by 40%. They warn that 2006 may be the worst year in Palestinian economic history.
Before the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
“But what did we do wrong? We were just at home.”(1)
These are the words of 14 year old Ghassan Ghabeen from Beit Lahia in Northern Gaza, spoken after his house was shelled by Israeli forces on April 10th, 2006 rendering Ghassan homeless
with his parents and six brothers and sisters. His sister Hadeel did not survive the attack.
But these words could have been uttered by one of the 400,000 alestinian refugees living in Lebanon, many of whom have been ade refugees or internally displaced yet again by Israel’s ombardment that is continuing in Lebanon as I write.(2)
Entry to the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) through the only available route, via Israel, has always been a nerve-racking,tire some and extremely invasive affair. Unbearable delays, grueling interrogations, strip searches and other forms of humiliation are amongst the best case scenarios. For internationals attempting to enter Palestinian territories, the ever increasing threat of deportation is always looming overhead.
Trying to draw parallels between two conflicts is a complex and perilous undertaking which has, however, important virtues. Taking a step back to do so, can offer a broader understanding of a situation and inform one’s analysis. Taking analogous elements
from a different context can shed light on aspects and dynamics which may have previously been overlooked, and help assess the relevance of envisaged solutions.
Help build the Campaign, endorse the Palestinian civil society civil society BDS
The following new BDS initiatives, have been compiled between the months of May and October, and have come from all over the world, frome many diffirent sectors of society.
Israeli Arab MPs Urge World to Boycott Govt. over Far-Right Party Israel, October 2006 - Israeli Arab MPs on Wednesday called on the world to boycott Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government over its plans to include an ultra-nationalist party in the cabinet. The call came after Olmert struck a deal with Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beitenu party, to include him in the government -- a move that still has to be approved by the cabinet and parliament. ‘Lieberman’s entry is a blatant message that the government is legitimising racism and fascism and turning it into the mainstream of Israeli society,’ said Ahmed Tibi, chairman of the Raam-Taal party. The international community should pressure the Israeli government and boycott it,’ Tibi told AFP. Yisrael Beitenu is a dangerous extremist party with Zio-fascist tendencies that has openly advocated the “transfer” of Palestinians, including the transfer of Palestinians within Israel to a Bantustan-like future Palestinian entity. Lieberman advocated for harsher measures against the Palestinians in Gaza, and the Israeli onslaught on Lebanon.
In an interview with an Israeli newspaper in September, Yisrael Beitenu leader Lieberman said: “The vision I would like to see here is the entrenching of the Jewish and the Zionist state. I very much favor democracy, but when there is a contradiction between democratic and Jewish values, the Jewish and Zionist values are more important.” (Scotsman, October 23, 2006)
Boycott Campaign Moves Forward in Landmark Conference in Toronto Canada, October, 2006 - Over 600 people attended the landmark conference, Boycotting Israeli Apartheid: The Struggle Continues, held from 6-8 October in Toronto. The conference was organized by the Coalition Against
UN International Conference of Civil Society in Support of the Palestinian People Adopts a Plan of Action, Geneva, 7-8 September 2006 - Conference participants called on the United Nations and its Member States to act to provide immediate international protection to the Palestinian people living under occupation. Also highlighted was the need to bring justice in the International Criminal Court, or in another international or national legal forum, those guilty of war crimes against the Palestinian people. Noted of particular importance was to encourage imposing sanctions, in the form of ending the murderous arms trade with Israel, and to end sanctions that have been imposed against the elected Palestinian Authority and the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.
British Trade Unions: “Tear down the Apartheid Wall”.Britain, September, 2006 - Britain’s largest trade union body, the TUC, has passed a motion calling on Israel to tear down its ‘apartheid wall’. The Trade Union Council, which represents 66 affiliated unions and nearly seven million workers, passed the motion at its annual conference in Brighton, UK, calling for the withdrawal of Israeli troops from all occupied territories, for the British government and EU to restore funding to the Palestinian Authority and for the Israeli government to restore withheld tax revenues due to the PA. The TUC motion upholds the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and condemns the recent Israeli attack on the Gaza City power station, the use of sonic booms over Gaza, and the seizure of members of the democratically elected Palestinian government.
National boycott action targets Irish stores selling Israeli goods - Report, IPSC, September 2006 Shops across Ireland were picketed on Saturday as the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) commemorated the anniversary of the Sabra and Shatila massacres with a National Boycott Israel Day. IPSC members targeted retail outlets in Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Limerick, Galway and Sligo, to send a message to Irish retailers that continuing to trade with Israel while it obliterates Palestine is grossly unethical and gives both financial support and legitimacy to Israel’s unchecked violations of Palestinian human rights.
Cricket Canceled!. Scotland, August, 2006 - An Israeli cricket tour of Scotland is being denounced by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the first game has been canceled.
Dublin Festival.Ireland, August, 2006 - The Festival of World Cultures held in Dublin in late August every year had accepted sponsorship from the Israeli embassy, for the transport of an Israeli group (Toy Vivo Duo) to the festival. After pressure from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, however, the sponsorship was rejected a nd alternative arrangements were being made.
Ken Loach Joins the Cultural Boycott of Israel. Britain, August, 2006- Acclaimed British director and winner of this year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes Film Festival, Ken Loach, an artist known for his politically and socially engaged films, endorsed the cultural boycott of Israel.
Greece pulls out of Israeli film festival. Greece, August, 2006 - The governing body for film has decided to pull out of Israel’s autumn Haifa film festival in protest over the Lebanon crisis.
Edinburgh Film Festival. Scotland, August 2, 2006 Edinburgh Film Festival has returned a donation to the Israeli Embassy on account of Israel’s war crimes in Lebanon.
Locarno Film Festival Drops Israeli Government Sponsorship. Italy, July, 2006 - The Locarno International Film Festival 2006 renounced financial support from the Israeli Ministry
of Foreign Affairs. The logo of the Israeli Ministry was removed from the website of the Festival, as well as from the downloadable press release and brochure for the Festival.
Anglican Parish Divests from Central Board of Finance over Caterpillar Shares. United Kingdom, October 2006 - An Anglican parish withdraw £140,000 from the Church of England’s Central Board of Finance investment account. The unanimous decision by Virginia Water PCC, in the Diocese of Guildford, was taken because the CBF has refused to implement a decision by the General Synod of the Church of England in February to heed the call from the sister church of Jerusalem and the Middle East and disinvest from companies such as Caterpillar which are profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.
Somerville Residents and Rabbis Earn Call for Divestment & Right of Return. United States, September 2006 - Residents of Somerville, MA and two Orthodox Rabbis of the Neturei Karta affirmed in a press conference the Right of Return of all Palestinian refugees and divestment from Israel. Guest Speakers Rabbi David Weiss, and Rabbi Webbermen, scholars of Judaism spoke in favor of Palestinian human rights along with Somerville residents; Rabbi Weiss noted that Judaism rejects Zionism- the project of colonial conquest of indigenous Palestinians to form a Jewish state.
For more on Somerville Divestment Project see: www.divestmentproject.org
Irish Academics Call on EU to Stop Funding Israeli Academic Institutions. Ireland, September 2006 - In a letter published in the Irish Times, (16 September) 61 Irish academics from a wide variety of disciplines call for a moratorium on EU support of Israeli academic institutions until Israel abides by UN resolutions and ends the occupation of Palestinian territories.
“We feel it is time to heed the Palestinian call to take practical action to pressure Israel to comply with international law and basic human rights norms. Many national and European cultural and
research institutions, including those funded by the EU regard Israel as a European state for the purposes of awarding grants and contracts. We call for a moratorium on any further such support to
Israeli academic institutions, at both national and European levels. We urge our fellow academics to support this moratorium by refraining, where possible, from further joint collaborations with Israeli academic institutions. Such a moratorium should continue until Israel abides by UN resolutions andends the occupation of Palestinian erritories.” (http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article5736.shtml)
University of Michigan Student Government Demands Divestment from Israel. United States, September, 2006 - University of Michigan Dearborn Student Government (www.umdsg.com )unanimously adopted General Assembly Resolution 2006-001 at its September 26th General Assembly meeting. The Resolution calls on the university to “cease all investment in companies that financially benefit from the actions of the Israeli military in illegally occupied territories.”
Belgian Hi-tech Firm Boycotts Israel over ‘war crimes’ . Belgium, September 2006 - Belgian hi-tech company specializing in development consulting notifies manager of Israeli company seeking cooperation that ‘your country has conducted war crimes and is an apartheid regime’.
The company, U2U, refused to cooperate with the Israeli businessman because of what they called “Israel’s war crimes and apartheid regime.” U2U manager Wim Yotrasprot wrote in a statement to Avner obtained by Ynet that “I appreciate your interest in my company, but after the devastating and inhumane war crimes Israel perpetrated in Lebanon, and because of the apartheid regime it rules on Palestine, U2U does not wish to tie itself with Israeli products.”
52 Organizations call for Sanctions Against Israel in South Africa (partial text). South Africa, August 2006 - We demand that the ANC government immediately order all South
As Jews of conscience living in the United States, we are outraged by the violence being perpetrated in our name both as Jews and as U.S. citizens. We, the undersigned, represent Jews across the United States who are choosing to stand in solidarity with the peoples of Gaza and Lebanon.