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On the Occassion of the 52nd Anniversary of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194: The Right of Return - Joint Statement Issued by Palestine Right-of-Return Initiatives in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, Canada-USA, and London

On 11 December 1948, the UN General Assembly adopted in its third session Resolution 194, whose Paragraph 11 clearly states the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their original homes and villages from which they were displaced during the war. The Resolution does not only affirm this right, but also establishes the mechanism for its implementation. Paragraph 2 established the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine - UNCCP, which - based in the city of Jerusalem, was to carry the responsibility for the implementation of the right of return. Moreover, Paragraph 11, also emphasized the necessity to assist those refugees until they return. This task was to be carried by the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees - UNRPR, a commission which preceded UNRWA, established a year after the adoption of Resolution 194 by General Assembly Resolution 302 (4th session on 8-12-1949).

Resolution 194 was adopted only six months before Israel's admission as a member of the United Nations (GA Resolution 273, 11 May 1949). Israel's admission was conditioned by an Israeli commitment to carry out the obligations under the UN charter and United Nation resolutions, including Resolution 194.

Since then, Resolution 194 has been reaffirmed more than one-hundred times by the General Assembly. It has been included in subsequent resolutions, such as Resolutions 513 (1952),  2452 (1968), and 2936 (1972), and in General Assembly resolutions that consider the refugee problem caused by the denial and the neglect of the inalienable rights defined under the UN charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These resolutions link the right of return with the right to self-determination and establish the right of return as a condition for the implementation of the right to self-determination. In this context, we particularly point at  Resolution 3236 of 1974, which is called by some international legalists "the bill of rights of the Palestinian people."

It a paradox, and ironic, that Israel - which was established by one of the UN resolutions - has refused implementation of all resolutions issued by the same international body, especially Resolution 194 adopted 52 years ago.

This year's anniversary of UN Resolution 194 coincides with the blessed al-Aqsa Intifada, which has continued for more than two months. Now that it is clear, based on the results of the latest Camp David summit, that negotiations over the issues pertaining to the final settlement of the conflict (e.g. Jerusalem, Israeli settlements, refugee question) have failed, we wish to re-affirm here that the right of return is one of the Intifada's national aims.

In this context, we confirm that the provocative visit of the terrorist Sharon to Al-Aqsa Mosque represented the spark which set the whole region on fire. It was an opportunity imposed by necessity - the necessity to rise up against the logic of Oslo and its destructive results, among them the by-passing of the legal framework of Palestinian rights as enshrined in international law and UN resolutions.

On the occasion of this anniversary, we reaffirm:

  • The Palestinian people's right of return and restitution is a sacred historical right, based on the principles of justice which were valid, even before they were anchored in international law. We therefore affirm that our right of return is not only based on UNGA Resolution 194, but also on our historical right in Palestine. In this sense, our inalienable right is non-negotiable and not a subject for opinion polls. Along this same line, all suspect calls for refugee resettlement, migration, absorption, and even calls for compensation as an alternative to return are in contradiction with this historical right. 
  • Refugee rights are indivisible. This principle is expressed in the international legal framework of Palestinian national rights on the one hand, and in the unity of the land and its people in occupied Palestine since 1948, in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, and in the near and distant exile. We therefore reject any type of division of this issue under any circumstances.
  • We strongly oppose all plans aimed at the liquidation of UNRWA's role, whether via gradual reduction of its services, or via attempts to transfer these services to the responsibility of donors or the Palestinian Authority. This because UNRWA embodies the moral, legal and political responsibility of the international community for the creation of the Palestinian refugee issue, in addition to the international obligation to enforce implementation of the Palestinian refugees' right of return to their homes and properties expropriated from them in 1948. UNRWA's establishment is part of the political context of the Palestinian issue, because the text of UNGA Resolution 302 (1949; UNRWA establishment) includes explicit reference to Paragraph 11 of Resolution 194 (right of return). In this context, we emphasize the necessity for the continuation and expansion of UNRWA services, until the refugees return to their original homes.
  • As Paragraph (1D) of the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention and Paragraph 7 of the Statutes of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) have been interpreted to exclude Palestinian refugees from the international protection scheme provided to other world refugees, and because UNRWA's mandate does not include the provision of the political and legal protection provided by the Convention and UNHCR to other world refugees, we demand from the international community to provide and facilitate temporary, international protection for the Palestinian people based on international refugee law, and without preempting UNRWA's role and mandate.
  • The urgency of the above demand, and our insistence, are heightened in the time of the current Intifada and the savage policy of repression applied by the Israeli military machine against the unarmed Palestinian people. 

The undersigned call upon:

  • All Right of Return committees, groups, and centers in Palestine and in exile to raise the level of coordination among them, in order to strengthen the unity of the return movement especially in this stage of the Palestinian struggle; to unify our speech which must raise the right of return as part and parcel of the framework of Palestinian national rights and avoid the creation of contradictions between the various forms of struggle carried out by the different groups of the  Palestinian national movement, now or in the future.
  • All national and Islamic forces involved in the Intifada to work together, in order to resist all attempts at liquidating the Intifada, as well as pressure aimed at forcing the Palestinian people to get involved again in a vain and useless negotiation process, which tries to replace our legitimate rights with so-called "possible" or "realistic" solutions and will finally release - based on  the terms and expressions of the Oslo culture - the international community and Israel from their moral, legal and political responsibilities for the creation of the Palestinian problem  and provide international legitimacy for the crime of the century committed by the Zionist movement against the Palestinian people.

Lets work to build the Return Intifada in the exile and Al-Aqsa Intifada in Palestine, all of Palestine, an Intifada which will ultimately achieve the implementation of the national rights of the Palestinian people, foremost the right of return and the right of self-determination. 
  Glory, Honor and Eternity to our Brave Martyrs We Will Return A'idoun Group, Lebanon;
A'idoun Group, Syria;
Al-Awda Committee, Jordan;
The Society of Internally Displaced in Palestine 1948 (Israel);
Union of Youth Activity Centers in Palestine Refuge Camps-Gaza South, Palestine;
Popular Service Committees-Gaza South, Palestine;
Popular Committees of 'Aida, Beit Jibrin ('Azza), Deheishe, al-Arroub, al-Fawwar camps, Palestine;
Youth Activity Centers of 'Aida, Beit Jibrin, Deheishe camps, Palestine;
Shahida Amal Cultural Center, 'Aida camp, Palestine;
Palestinian Prisoners' Society, West Bank; Palestine;
Al-'Oud Sports Union, 'Aida camp, Palestine;
Al-Rowwad Theater, 'Aida camp, Palestine;
BADIL Resource Center, Bethlehem, Palestine;
Awlad Albalad; Ebal for Arabic Affairs; Canada;
Aidoun Group-North America;
Al-Awda London;