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Coping with the Final Status Negotiations: Palestinian Refugees Set Their Own Agenda

With the re-opening of the final status negotiations between the PLO and Israel, Palestinian refugees continue to raise their voice in defense of their internationally recognized right of return to their homes and restitution of their property (UN Resolution 194), as well as their right to compensation for material and non-material damage incurred as a result of their massive eviction by Israel in 1948.  

The Palestinian-International Campaign for the Defense of Palestinian Refugee Rights - launched by Palestinian refugees in the occupied West Bank, inside the territory of the Israeli state and in exile – aims to: a) raise awareness about the ongoing legitimacy and practicality of the demand for the right of return; b) support all forms of refugee self-organization, which strengthen the steadfastness of Palestinian refugees in this difficult era of political negotiations and provide continuity to their demands. This Campaign effort is facilitated by BADIL Resource Center with the assistance of Palestinian researchers and international partners in Europe, the USA-Canada, and Australia. 

Campaign for the Defense of Palestinian Refugee Rights –NETWORKING:  

1. Expanding the Network of Refugee Partner Organizations in Palestine (BADIL Friends Forum) 

1.1 Connecting the Southern and Northern West Bank: 

Following the presentation of our Campaign initiative to the community organizations and activists in the northern West Bank on 27 May 99 (see workshop report in AL Majdal magazine/2, June 99), Yafa Cultural Center/Committee for the Defense of Palestinian Refugee Rights in Balata refugee camp and activists from other refugee camps in the northern West Bank decided to join the BADIL Friends Forum established earlier in the south in order to promote the Campaign among the local refugee community. 
Contact/BADIL Friends Forum:   
Northern West Bank: Fayez Arafat, Hussam Khader,   
tel/fax: 09-2385930 (Balata Camp);  
Southern West Bank: via BADIL Resource Center;  

1.2  Re-Building the Ties with Palestinian Organizations Inside the Territory of the Israeli State: 

Between 5-7 August, BADIL held meetings with the National Committee for the Defense of the Internally Displaced in Shafa Amr, with the Association of the Forty in Haifa, with Raja Ighbariyeh (fomer secretary of the Committee for Defense of Arab Lands, currently inactive) in Nazareth, and with Al-Baqa’ Center in Majdal Krum. In these meetings, the important role of Palestinian organizations present in the homeland – especially of those concerned with the rights of the displaced and unrecognized communities – was emphasized. It was decided to cooperate, from now on, in networking, strategizing, and activities of the Campaign. A first follow-up meeting between the BADIL Friends Forum and the National Committee for the Internally Displaced was held on 19 August at the Youth Activity Center-Aida Camp/Bethlehem. 

Contact/National Committee for the Internally Displaced: Wakim Wakim, coordinator; tel. 04-9921220, 053-752601;   
fax. 04-9925754 (Haifa);  

1.3  Coordinating with Palestinians in Exile:  

Following a BADIL fact finding mission to Lebanon in early 1999 and extensive preparatory discussions, a formal group of Palestinian Campaign partners in Lebanon (contact list, Campaign web-page for Lebanon, etc.) is currently under establishment.  

1.4  MECC (Middle East Council of Churches) gets involved: 

On July 5, a workshop on the Palestinian refugee question was organized by the MECC/DSPR in Jerusalem. This workshop aimed at briefing the Executive Committee of DSPR (MECC Department operating development projects for the refugee community) on current developments in regards to refugee issues. Presentations were made by Salim Tamari, Lex Takkenberg (international law expert), and Ingrid Jaradat Gassner/BADIL. The Executive Committee concluded that: 

    a) representatives of the Executive Committee in the West Bank, Gaza, 1948 Palestine, Jordan and Lebanon were ready to serve Palestinian refugees by coordinating its development projects with the Palestinian institutions and initiatives working in the refugee camps; 
    b) DSPR would undertake awareness raising and information work for the Palestinian right of return based on the resources prepared by BADIL and its partners in the framework of the Palestinian-International Campaign for the Defense of Palestinian Refugee Rights. 

Contact/MECC-DSPR: Dr. Bernard Sabella, Executive Secretary; tel. 02-6271715, fax. 02-6271716 (Jerusalem); email:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
1.5 International Partners 

Numerous NGOs, solidarity groups, and the ECCP (European Coordinating Committee of Solidarity Groups on Palestine) are currently working on the production of Campaign materials in several European languages and collecting signatures for BADIL’s Petition for the Palestinian Right to Restitution. This petition is to be presented to the European Parliament in the framework of an ECCP-NGO meeting with the EP in November 1999. 
Contact/European Campaign: Hilt Teuwen, Oxfam Solidarity;   
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

USA and Canada:  
An advisory committee for networking and promotion on behalf of the Campaign was formed; collection of signatures for the Petition for the Palestinian Right to Restitution continues. 
Contact/Advisory Committee: Jennifer Moorhead,   
email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

AUSTRALIA and New Zealand:  
Contact for the Campaign and Petition signature collection: 
Asem Judeh, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
Cecily Michels, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

Throughout the summer, BADIL Friends Forum, composed of  some 30 activists of organizations and initiatives based in West Bank refugee camps, undertook a number of activities among the Palestinian public in general, and refugees in particular, to promote awareness and mobilization for the Campaign: 

  • Visits of refugees from West Bank refugee camps (eyewitness of the 48 Nakba, youth and children) to their villages of origin in order to study the past and the present situation of their homes and lands. 
  • Media projects (in cooperation with QUINOA, a Belgian volunteer group): these projects included a children’s photo workshop and photo exhibition in Aida camp, a video documentary about the experience of Aida camp refugees evicted from their homes in Beit Jibrin, and a promotion clip of IBDA Children Center and Folklore Dancing Troupe of Deheishe Refugee Camp. A video documentary and radio program for use in the framework of the Campaign in French speaking European countries will be completed by Quinoa in Belgium. 
  • Additional media work currently under implementation by BADIL Friends includes: a radio and a video series on the Palestinian refugee question titled “Natreen Awdeh” (Awaiting Return) to be broadcast in cooperation with Radio Bethlehem 2000 and local TV stations in Palestine, and a poster for the promotion of the right of return.
  • Two broad public meetings with Palestinian researcher Salman Abu Sitta were organized by the BADIL Friends Forum in Deheishe camp (24 August) and Balata camp (25 August). In these meetings, entitled “Return is Legal, Possible, and the Only Way to a Just and Stable Peace in the Middle East”, some 500 refugees discussed aspects of international law, the practical implementation of the right of return and current Israeli positions. On 26 August, a smaller forum of Palestinian activists (BADIL Friends Forum, National Committee for the Internally Displaced) met with Dr. Salman Abu Sitta in Bethlehem. This meeting served to clarify future strategies of the Campaign for the Defense of Palestinian Refugee Rights. 

For additional information, PLEASE ORDER:  

  • BADIL Packet for Information and Mobilization/Campaign for the Defense of Palestinian Refugee Rights (US $10);
  • Al MAJDAL magazine for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights (quarterly; annual subscription fee: US $20);

Or contact: BADIL Resource Center, PO Box 728, Bethlehem, West Bank, Palestine; tel/fax 274-7346 or 277-7086; email, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..