On the annual commemoration of World Refugee Day, 20 June, the central issue to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict continues to be the mass displacement of Palestinians. Today, displaced Palestinians are more than 7.8 million i.e 66% of Palestinian population worldwide. The creation of refugees and refusing their Right of Return is a main component of the Palestinian ongoing Nakba: the violent uprooting of Palestinians from their homeland waged in 1947, and it continues to evolve in the present.
The ongoing Nakba, the forced population transfer of Palestinians, is an ideological and a structural problem targeting Palestinian communities in the entire area of Mandate Palestine (Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory). In addition to the biggest waves of displacement carried out though the use of military force (1947-1949; and 1967), many Israeli laws and policies combining the worst features of colonization, institutionalized discrimination and belligerent occupation were developed and applied over the years in order to facilitate control of maximum land with minimum Palestinians therein.
A new BADIL Series of 10 working papers on Forced Population Transfer: The Case of Palestine is intended to encourage debate, and to stimulate discussion and critical comment on the key components of Israel’s policies and mechanisms of forced transfer of the Palestinian population. Specifically, these components are as follows:
- Denial of residency
- Installment of a permit regime
- Land confiscation and denial of use
- Discriminatory zoning and planning
- Denial of natural resources and access to services
- Denial of refugee return
- Suppression of resistance
- Non-state actions (with the implicit consent of the Israeli state)
Despite its urgency, the ongoing Nakba, the forced displacement of Palestinians, rarely receives the appropriate response it deserves from the international community. While many individuals and organizations have discussed the policies of forced population transfer in Palestine, civil society lacks an overall analysis of the system of forced displacement that continues to oppress and disenfranchise Palestinians today.
Israeli legal responsibility for the forced displacement of Palestinians has two complementary sides. The first is that Israel is responsible for the creation of Palestinian refugee issue. The second refers to Israel’s denial to the right of reparation which includes the rights of return to the homes of origin for 7.8 million Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons, property restitution and compensation as enshrined in UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948 and UN Security Council Decision 237 of 1967. Moreover, Israel’s denial of refugees rights accompanied with lack of international protection and disrespect of Palestinian refugees rights in host countries have been generating ongoing secondary displacement.
In light of the current political balance of power between the Palestinians and the American-backed Israelis, Palestinian refugees are in dire need for international protection. The need for protection includes all Palestinian refugees, and most visibly, and painfully, the Palestinian refugees in Syria. Palestinians previously seeking refuge in Syria are living a multiplied catastrophe. Latest UNRWA estimates show that “over 50% of the 550,000 Palestine refugees in Syria have been displaced by the fighting. Over 52,000 are estimated to have crossed into Lebanon, 14,000 into Jordan and a few thousands into Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, Gaza [Strip] and Europe.” Palestinian refugees in Syria are undergoing war, further displacement, and the destruction of their lives in Yarmouk, Nierab, Sit Zainab, Khan Al Shiekh, Dar’a and other locations throughout Syria where Palestinian refugees resided. Palestinians doubly displaced to countries including Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and Egypt face further humiliation and unbearable conditions leading many Palestinians to attempt escape by sea – a desperate act resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Palestinian refugees and those who disappeared without public acknowledgment.