During the past ten days, some 60 institutions and community organizations, as well as some one thousand individual activists, in the Palestinian refugee camps of the West Bank signed on a memorandum which, on 27 June, was presented to the head of the Palestinian National Council, Salim al-Z'anoun. In their memorandum, the signatories demand that the PNC take concrete steps for the defense of Palestinian refugees' right of return. Yesterday's meeting with the PNC-head coincides with the PLO's preparations for the convention of the PLO Central Council scheduled for early next month in Gaza.
The memorandum and yesterday's meeting with the PNC-head are an initiative of the Follow-up Committee in Commemoration of the 52nd Anniversary of Al-Nakba (Palestinian eviction in 1948). The memorandum was presented to Salim al-Za'noun in the West Bank headquarters of the PNC in Nablus by a delegation representing the Follow-up Committee. It was headed by Taysseer Nasrallah (Yafa Cultural Center/Balata Camp, Adnan Ajarmeh (Union of Youth Activity Centers, 'Aida Camp) and political activist Khaled Mansour.
The memorandum affirms the importance and indivisibility of Palestinian refugees' right to return, restitution and compensation. It emphasizes the popular demand for a Palestinian negotiation strategy in the final status negotiations with Israel which clings to international law and UN Resolution 194 (see full text of the memorandum below).
In response to the memorandum, PNC head al-Z'anoun affirmed the important role of community action. He promised to present the memorandum and the signatures to the upcoming convention of the PLO Central Council and added: "We will consider this meeting here in Nablus as an expression of the refugee voice in Palestine and in the Diaspora."
"You are right to worry, and your worries are legitimate", said al-Z'anoun, "because even our friends in the European Community suggest to us that financial compensation should replace our return and argue that the right of return is outdated. We have been making major efforts, on the international level, in order to build a position supportive of our right of return. A good example for our efforts is the recent annual Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union held in Amman. There we succeeded to pass a strong resolution concerning the Palestinian refugee question which affirms UN Resolution 194." PNC head al-Za'noun also promised to place on the agenda of the upcoming PLO Central Council meeting the issue of a proper Palestinian response to the recent Israeli Knesset bill aimed at barring Palestinian refugees' right of return to their homes and properties.
Memorandum (full text):
In Commemoration of the 52nd Anniversary of Al-Nakba
To: Salim al-Za'noun, Palestinian National Council
Respected PNC Members,
Deeply concerned about the national and inalienable rights of our people and the dangers which threaten our national program of return and self-determination in accordance to international legitimacy, we re-affirm that international law and principles are the only basis for the final status negotiations.
Based on our belief in liberation, independence and the establishment of the independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we demand the right of return, according to UN Resolution 194, for our entire Palestinian people to the lands of pre-1948 Palestine. We here re-affirm the following principles which we consider as the red lines that must not be crossed in the political negotiations:
1. The refugee question, in Palestine and in the Diaspora is one issue and must not be divided.
2. UN Resolution 194 is the reference for the solution of the Palestinian refugee question.
3. The Right of Return is sacred and non-negotiable. It is an individual and collective right.
4. There is one meaning for the right of return: the return of the entire Palestinian people to the lands and properties from which they were evicted in 1948, and compensation for loss and damage caused to their properties.
5. All plans aimed at refugee resettlement or at the liquidation of the Palestinian refugee issue in the Diaspora are to be rejected and resisted.
6. Compensation as a substitute for the right of return is to be rejected, and all bargaining about the right of return in exchange for other political benefits must be stopped.
7. Any final solution for the refugee question, or any final peace agreement signed by the PLO with Israel, is not a just solution and will not be binding, if it does not include the implementation of our right of return according to UN Resolution 194.
8. The massive commitment of the Palestinian people, in the past and in the future, to the PLO is based on the PLO's adherence to the program of liberation and return.