Media Statement, Released by The National Society for the Defense of the Internally Displaced in Israel

Time after time, Dr. Sari Nusseibeh, responsible for the PLO Jerusalem file, is slandering the Palestinian right of return. The first time occurred during a lecture at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, when he also condemned the Intifada and described it as a violent circle of bloodshed that will never obtain any achievements.

He claims that a peace agreement providing for Palestinian statehood can be reached only if Palestinians stop demanding the refugees' right of return to Israel. Last week, he stated to the press that the demand for the right of return only means wasting more time, a statement that caused Israel's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shimon Peres, to anoint him as a member of the "legion of brave men".

In this context, we, the Committee for the Defense of the Internally Displaced Inside Israel, would like to affirm the following:

First: Dr. Nusseibeh represents only himself. We consider his defeatist statements as an aggression against our national rights, foremost our right to return to our homes and lands which we forced to leave by force of Zionist terror. Our right to return is sacred, inalienable, non-negotiable and indivisible. It is a fundamental right that never expires. Dr. Nusseibeh and individuals like him cannot extinguish our right of return. We consider his statements as synonymous with the Israeli position that refuses to take responsibility for the crime of forced displacement and denies recognition of the right of all refugees and displaced Palestinians to return.

Second: We, the displaced in our homeland, reaffirm the right of return of all refugees and displaced wherever they are now; each person to his village or town. We reject all substitutes, including compensation, re-settlement, and exchange of territory or populations. We do so based on our natural right to return and based on the decisions of the conferences of the internally displaced Palestinians held in Tamra (1995 Palace of Peace Conference) and Nazareth (2000), in which all participants declared that they would cling to their right to return and that no substitute would be accepted. Our right to return is also based on international law, and, foremost UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which has been reaffirmed by the General Assembly more than 110 times. We would like to reiterate that Israel's acceptance as a member of the United Nations was conditioned by its recognition and implementation of UN Resolution 194.

Third: Dr. Nusseibeh's statement is not a matter of individual freedom of opinion and expression. A people's collective and individual rights are not a subject for games played by privileged intellectuals and academics. The right of return is one of the most important Palestinian national rights that affects the fate of 72 percent of the Palestinian people in Palestine and in exile, most of whom still suffer from poverty and poor conditions in refugee camps, waiting for their hopes of return to become a reality.

Fourth: Those who are looking for peace will find it only if all refugees and displaced Palestinians are permitted to return to their towns and villages. Therefore, any interim or final agreement that denies the right of return is vein, irrespective of the signatories.

Fifth: We call upon the PLO to take all actions and procedures necessary in order to stop the statements of Dr. Nusseibeh, and to dismiss him from his position as responsible for the Jerusalem file. A person who cannot be trusted on the issue of Palestinian refugees and displaced persons can also not be trusted on Jerusalem and its holy sites.

The National Society for the Defense of the Internally Displaced in Israel

Shafa'mr, 19 January 2002