(19 June 2020) On the Occasion of World Refugee Day: The Dismissal of Palestinian Refugee and IDP Rights in US President Trump’s Vision threatens the International Legal Framework for Refugees

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For the past 72 years, the Palestinian people have been exposed to ongoing forcible displacement and transfer coupled with the denial of their rights to return and reparations. The policies, mechanisms, and practices employed by Israel and its unwillingness to fulfill its responsibilities towards the Palestinian people have augmented and perpetuated this displacement. As of 2018, Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) constitute 8.7 million – amounting to 66.7 percent of the Palestinian population worldwide. This predicament is further reinforced by the reoccurring efforts of the United States (US) to liquidate the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), to erode the rights of displaced Palestinians, and to terminate the Palestinian refugee issue all-together.

 

A recent culmination of these efforts is seen in the US’ “Peace and Prosperity: A Vision to Improve the Lives of the Palestinian and Israeli People” (also known as the Deal of the Century, hereinafter, the Vision). Similar to Israel’s strategy, the Vision terminates Palestinian refugees and IDPs rights to return to their homes or places of origin and properties in what became Israel. It completely  contradicts international law aiming to deny Palestinian refugees and IDPs their right to just and durable solutions, namely voluntary repatriation (return), as well as their right to reparations (i.e. right of return, property restitution, and compensation) – all of which constitute serious breaches of international law. Moreover, while it completely ignores the existence (and rights) of 760,000 of Palestinian IDPs, its sets out vague and illegal criteria of the definition of Palestinian refugee. The Vision proposes such a definition with the aim to not only reduce the number of refugees who might be considered eligible for durable solutions, but also to eliminate the current status of millions of Palestinian refugees.  The Vision  reflects US-Israeli strategy to transfer international responsibility for Palestinian refugees to host states, in particular Arab states, and the elimination of the UNRWA.    

 

As stipulated in international law and embodied in United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 194 (III) and United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 237, the primary durable solution for Palestinian refugees and IDPs is return to their homes, real property restitution, and compensation for losses and damages.  In direct violation of these resolutions, the Vision attempts to deny the rights guaranteed to IDPs by completely neglecting their existence, while also attempting to limit the actual number of Palestinian refugees and prohibiting them from exercising their right of return to their homes – located in what is now Israel. Instead, the Vision proposes that the three options available to Palestinian refugees are: absorption into the new Palestinian entity, local integration in current host countries, and the acceptance of 50,000 refugees in individual Organization of Islamic Cooperation member countries.  Through this, the Vision presents solutions that deviate from the right of displaced Palestinians to voluntary, just and durable solutions as it denies return and formulates compulsory absorption, integration, and resettlement under the guise of pragmatism and in an approach that is devoid of rights.

 

The Vision’s denial of the right of return is in direct violation of international refugee law (IRL). IRL emphasizes that refugees are entitled to freely and informatively choose of one of the three just and durable solutions available to them, with voluntary repatriation as not only the preferred solution, but also the only one that constitutes a right, as the other two options – local integration and resettlement — are solutions subject to states’ consent and  discretion.

 

The current state of affairs, including the denial of the Palestinian refugee and IDP issue specifically and the denial of Palestinian self-determination generally, is a manifestation of the ongoing failure of the international community to hold Israel accountable and to provide Palestinians with the protection to which they are entitled. The proposed US peace plan attempts to buttress this failure by providing Israel with blanket impunity for its ongoing crimes towards the Palestinian people – threatening to dismantle the established international legal framework for displaced persons. Conclusively, the Palestinian refugee and IDP right to return is neither exceptional nor impractical as other refugee flows have desired to return to their homes and have had the opportunity to do so with the aid of the international community. For Palestinian refugees to exercise the same opportunity to access their rights constitutes not only a practical and viable solution but a just solution, as enshrined in international law.

 

On this basis, and on the occasion of World Refugee Day 2020, BADIL and the Global Palestinian Refugee Network (GPRN) call on:

  1. Third party and UN member states to reject the US’ Vision and recognize it as a plan that directly violates the rights of Palestinian refugees and IDPs as enshrined and guaranteed in numerous UNGA resolutions, international conventions, and customary international law.
  2. Third party and UN member states to uphold the international legal framework for refugees by fulfilling their responsibilities to hold Israel accountable for its wrongdoings by cooperating to bring an end to Israel’s denial of displaced Palestinians’ right to just and durable solutions, particularly voluntary repatriation, property restitution, and compensation.
  3. Third party and UN member states to take measures to ensure Palestinian refugees are afforded the international protection to which they are entitled and that UNRWA has the financial and political support to fulfill its mandate.  
  4. The international solidarity movement to implement actions to support Palestinian initiatives that challenge Israeli annexation, colonization and apartheid practices and policies that exceed the limits of moral solidarity.


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For more information, see BADIL, “Trump’s so-called Vision/Deal of the Century: A Move to End the Palestinian Refugee Issue through Serious Breaches of International Law,” Position paper, 15 May 2020, available at:

https://www.badil.org/en/publication/press-releases/92-2020/5074-pr-en-150520-21.html.

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