Campaign for the Defense of Palestinian Refugee Rights

Campaign for the Defense of Palestinian Refugee Rights

2003 Year of al-Nakba Awareness and al-Awda Activism

(1) Palestinian Land Day, 30 March 2003

The commemoration of Palestinian Land Day this year coincided with the ongoing Israeli reoccupation and military siege of Palestinian cities, villages, and refugee camps in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories and the US-UK led war against Iraq. The so-called ‘preemptive war’ provided yet another example of the double standard that governs US-UK foreign policy in the region. Both the United States and the UK have emphasized the importance of upholding Security Council resolutions and international law in the months since the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1441. UN resolutions affirming the right of Palestinian refugees and IDPs to return and repossess their properties meanwhile remain unimplemented.  

 Land Day and Ongoing Palestinian Dispossession

 In the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories expropriation and damage to property continued unabated. Since Land Day 2002, over 200 homes were demolished for punitive reasons (Btselem). Since the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada in September 2000 it is estimated that Israeli military destruction of homes has affected some 5,500 Palestinian refugees. In addition, Israeli military forces destroyed 400 refugee shelters in Jenin refugee camp in April 2002. According to UNRWA, Israel demolished an average of 38 refugee shelters per month in the Gaza Strip in 2002. Demolition of Palestinian homes built without a permit (which are difficult and often impossible to obtain) in eastern Jerusalem and so-called ‘Area C’ of the West Bank continues; the number of ‘administrative demolitions’, however, now pales in comparison to homes demolished during Israeli military operations. Thousands of Palestinian homes in the 1967 occupied territories have been damaged during Israeli military operations. As of March 2003, more than 15,000 dunums (15 sq. km) of Palestinian-owned land was targeted for expropriation to construct the new ‘apartheid wall’ to separate Palestinian residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip from Israel.

BADIL’s Hebrew Language Packet/The Right of Return inlcudes:

1. Main Reader, ‘Palestinian Refugees:’ overview of the issue and demands of Palestinian refugees; law and principles guiding solutions to refugee problems; answers to frequently asked questions; obstacles to be tackled by a law- and rights-based solution (24 pages);
2. Legal Brief, ‘Palestinian Refugees and their Right of Return, an International Law Analysis’ (16 pages);
3. Executive Summary, ‘The Right of Return:’ Report of the Joint British Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into Refugee Choice (28 pages; translation from the English original published in London, March 2002);
4. Readers’ feedback sheet and background information about BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights.

The BADIL Hebrew-language Information Packet is availablefor NIS 30.
· For postal orders inside Israel, please send a check to Andalus Publishers, PO Box 53036, Tel Aviv 61530 ([email protected]).
· If you are interested in additional information and discussion of the BADIL Information Packet, please contact Zochrot (Eitan, tel. 056-314229);
· Your feedback and comments are welcome. Please send them to BADIL at: [email protected].

Land Day Activities 2003
For the first time ever, the annual Land Day Conference organized in Nazareth on March 26 by the Arab Center for Alternative Planning (ACAP) and the National Forum of Arab Mayors was dedicated to the problem of internal displacement of Palestinians in Israel. The program included presentation of recent academic research (BADIL, Usama Halabi, Hilel Cohen, a.o.), a presentation of lessons learned from IDP return and restitution in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Paul Prettitore, OSCE), and commentary by Wakim Wakim, head of the Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced in Israel (ADRIC). Additional experts spoke on a range issues related to Israel’s current campaign against the Bedouin and house demolition. For information on papers presented at the conference and follow-up see the ACAP website,

March 30 was a day of general strike called by the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee in Israel to commemorate Land Day and protest ongoing demolition of Palestinian homes and military attacks on Palestinians in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories. Thousands, including several Jewish-Israeli initiatives (Ta’ayoush, Bat Shalom, a.o.) participated in the two central Land Day rallies held in the Palestinian towns of Sakhnin and Kufr Qassem.

Also on March 30 the Mossawa Center and the Regional Council for the Unrecognized Negev Arab Villages (RCUV), in cooperation with the residents of several unrecognized villages in the Naqab/Negev, organized a day of olive tree planting.
In North America, the Al-Awda - Palestine Right To Return Coalition organized Land Day commemorations in Atlanta, Harrisburg, New Jersey, San Francisco, Boston, and New Haven. For more information see the al-Awda website,
(2) April 2003: One Year Since ‘Jenin’

BADIL Launches Special Memorial
The first week of April marked the 1st anniversary of the
destruction of large parts of Jenin refugee camp that left more than 400 families homeless, more than 50 dead and hundreds injured. The Israeli military attack on Jenin refugee camp, a protected civilian area under international law, took place in the context of Israel’s massive assault and reoccupation of Palestinian cities, towns, villages, and refugee camps across the West Bank in April-May 2002.

Despite documentation of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israeli military forces during this period no one has been held accountable. UN Security Council Resolution 1405 (19 April 2002), calling for an international and impartial investigation into events in Jenin refugee camp has never been implemented due to Israeli non-cooperation. Examples of war crimes include extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity, the use of protected persons as human shields, and intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects.

On the first anniversary of the atrocities committed by Israeli military forces in Jenin refugee camp, numerous memorial events were organized in Palestine and abraod. BADIL launched a special memorial webpage dedicated to the memory of those Palestinians who lost their lives and homes in the camp. The webpage also serves to remind that those responsible for the commission of serious human rights violations and grave breaches of international humanitarian law should be held accountable.

(3) 55th Anniversary of the Massacre at Deir Yassin, Jerusalem
On 9 April, some 100 Israelis and Palestinians gathered at the main gate of Kfar Sha’ul Hospital, Jerusalem, the site of the infamous massacre committed by Zionist forces against the Palestinian villagers in 1948. The memorial commemorating the massacre and depopulation of Deir Yassin was organized by the Deir Yassin Remembered Committee, Zochrot and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition. Participants convoyed by an equal number of Israeli police and right-wing protestors gave personal testimonies, read out the names of the victims and posted signs on the village site. Testimonies of the massacre and more information in Hebrew language can be found on the Zochrot website:

The Nusseibeh-Ayalon Plan: Totally Rejected by the Palestinian People
A full-page paid advertisement of the “People’s Campaign for Peace and Democracy” published in the Palestinian on 5 June represented the most recent attempt by Dr. Sari Nusseibeh to make believe that there is support among the Palestinian people for the more than one-year old “agreement” between the Palestinian academic and the former head of Israeli intelligence, Ami Ayalon. The list of some 360 signatories included in the advertisement, however, is hardly worth the money paid. It shows clearly that Nusseibeh-Ayalon are unable to recruit support among influential sectors of Palestinian society (

Back in early May and coinciding with the popular preparations towards the 55th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba of 1948, public anger was stirred by massive publicity for this Campaign – also called ‘the Destination Map’ – falsely suggesting in its headlines that a Palestinian compromise on the refugees’ right of return would “guarantee a [Palestinian] state in the 1967 borders free of settlements and sovereignty over the capital Jerusalem” (paid advertisement, Nusseibeh-Ayalon, al-Quds, 7 May 2003).

Insult was added to fury by the fact that Palestinian activists, especially non-refugees, were individually targeted to sign on to this initiative aimed at dividing Palestinian public opinion on the right of return. All Palestinian political groups responded with a stream of alerts warning the public to “not fall prey to the tricky ambush of the Zionist intelligence” (Fatah-Hebron District, 4 May 2003) and published statements denouncing the initiative. An official launching-conference scheduled for 5 May in Ramallah was eventually canceled due to these protests.
(Samples of public statements issued by Fatah-Hebron District and the Union of Youth Activity Centers-Palestine Refugee Camps are included in the Document Section.)

‘People’s Peace Campaign … Dear citizen, decide by yourself … The Goal Plan guarantees a state in the 1967 borders free of settlements, sovereignty over the capital Jerusalem, and the return of the refugees to the Palestinian state.’ (Paid advertisement, Nusseibeh-Ayalon, al-Quds newspaper, 7 May 2003)

Community Workshops: Towards a Clear Vision on the Right of Return

At the same time, it was understood that recognition of basic Palestinian rights, foremost the right of return to homes and properties lost in 1948, are threatened not only by the Nusseibeh-Ayalon initiative, but even more so by changes in the regional and international balance of forces resulting from the US-led war and occupation of Iraq and the new ‘Road Map’ to peace launched by the ‘Quartet.’ Therefore, Palestinian community organizations in the West Bank requested the support of BADIL for a series of community workshops and debates aimed at tackling the ideological and political challenges of the new era. Despite ongoing Israeli military incursions and curfews, 21 workshops were held between April – May 2003 in the refugee camps of Kalandia, al-Am’ari, Jelazoun, Tulkarem, Nur Shams, Camp. No. 1, Deheisheh, Arroub and Fawwar, in the towns of Nablus and Hebron, and in the Hebron area villages of Ithna and Doura.

While BADIL provided publications and relevant background information, speakers and logistic arrangements were organized by a variety of community organizations, among them local Youth Activity Centers, Popular Service Committees and Committees for the Rehabilitation of the Disabled, Yafa Cultural Center/Balata camp, Hiwar Center/Deheishe Camp, and the Nakba Memorial Committee-Hebron. Speakers included representatives of PLO and PNA institutions (PLO Refugee Department, PNC, PLC) and political groups, academics and activists.

Workshop topics included: the Palestinian refugee issue from a legal perspective; Jerusalem refugees; Christian refugees; the ‘Road Map’ and the refugee issue; the Palestinian state and the refugee question; the right of return between consensus and diversity; future perspectives of the Palestinian refugee issue; the Palestinian Nakba in the current political context; the Palestinian Nakba and the Nusseibeh-Ayalon initiative; the PLC and the right of return; the role of the PLO Refugee Department; the role of refugee initiatives in serving the community; challenges to refugee community organizations, and an organizing workshop for refugee community organizations in the Tulkarem area.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,

First, I wish to apologize for having invited you to attend this ceremony here yesterday, 14 May 1948, in vain. I have decided yesterday in the last minute not to read out the document that was prepared for the event. In our view the said document could have been used as a basis for violent usurpation by the Jewish collective of the territory where over one million Palestinians have lived for over many hundreds and thousands of years.

[…] In Palestine/Eretz Israel live the Palestinian Arab people. Here their spiritual, political and national identity was shaped. Here they created cultural values of national, Arab and universal significance.

[…] Jews live in numerous places around the world, where they developed rich and unique cultural traditions in relation to the human environment in which they were situated. I truly hope that also in Palestine we are able to develop a unique culture in continuing dialogue with the Arab Palestinian people living here.

[…] We proclaim that as of the termination of the British Mandate midnight tonight, a the commencement of Saturday, the 6th Day of the Month of Iyar 5708, 15 May 1948, and until the elected regular institutions of government of the projected state are put in place, the “People’s Council” will act as the primary representative of the Jewish public wishing to negotiate with the Palestinian Arabs living in the country, as well as with the relevant trans-national bodies, the establishment of a sovereign state in the framework of the above UN resolution [181 of 29 November 1947]…

[…] The state that will be established will offer shelter to Jews and Palestinians who are in distress anywhere in the world, as well as to refugees and persecuted  people everywhere; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit  of all its inhabitants; it will be based on the principles of freedom, justice  and peace; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all  its inhabitants, irrespective of nationality, religion, race or sex; it will  guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it  will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the  principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

In witness our endorsement of this we affix our signatures to this Proclamation  in the city of Tel Aviv, today, 13 Iyar 5763, 15 May 2003
(Excerpts from the NOT-Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel, Zochrot, 15 May 2003.)

Debates and workshops resulted in a collective re-affirmation of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties and for a durable solution of their plight in accordance with UN Resolution 194(III). Numerous specific demands and suggestions were issued as reflected in the final recommendations issued by the participants of the workshop, ‘The Future of the Palestinian Refugee Issue in the Context of Current Political Developments’ held at the PNC-Nablus on 26 May 2003:
· Activate PLO institutions and the special refugee committees of the PNC and PLC;
· Work for stronger coordination among all refugee institutions, organizations and initiatives in Palestine and in exile;
· Intensify efforts at public education and awareness-raising about refugee rights among the Palestinian refugee and non-refugee community;
· A call upon the Palestinian political leadership to reject all proposals for solutions that violate the refugees’ right to return to their homes, villages and towns of origin that they were forced to leave in 1948, and to develop a transparent national strategy able to protect these rights in the current era.

Other than last year when all efforts at public organizing for the annual Nakba memorial in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories were paralyzed by Israel’s massive April-May military re-conquest, the 55th anniversary of the Palestinian Nakba in May 2003 was characterized by active grass-roots organizing in defiance of the ongoing Israeli military presence in Palestinian refugee camps, towns and villages. In the absence of official memorials in the occupied West Bank – a result of the destruction of the Palestinian Authority’s infrastructure – the 2003 Nakba commemorations were almost entirely carried by Palestinian community organizations on both sides of the ‘Green Line.’ A growing number of Jewish-Israeli participants at Palestinian memorial events, and creative efforts by some Jewish-Israeli initiatives to find new and compassionate ways of remembering the Palestinian Nakba at the sidelines of Israel’s independence celebrations, gave additional significance and depth to this year’s Nakba commemorations and the demand for recognition and implementation of Palestinian refugees’ right of return.

The 55th anniversary was launched on 1 May by a TV Campaign for the Commemoration of the Palestinian Nakba. This Campaign, an initiative of BADIL and the Palestinian TV network Ma’an, involved eight private Palestinian TV stations broadcasting in and beyond the West Bank. Aiming to raise awareness for the importance of collective history, memory and recognition of Palestinian rights, TV stations carried daily, between 1 – 15 May, video clips and feature films telling the story of Palestinian displacement, diverse Palestinian efforts at coping with life in exile and the struggle for return and self-determination.

7 May 2003 marked the day of the Palestinian Nakba – and Israel’s day of independence – according to the Hebrew calendar. Several thousand people, including internally displaced Palestinians, members of Palestinian political and social movements, parliamentarians and representatives of Palestinian national institutions in Israel and some 200 Jewish Israelis (Ta’ayoush, Zochrot, Bat Shalom, a.o.), participated in the 6th Annual Return March to the 1948 depopulated Palestinian village of Umm al-Zeinat located on Mount Carmel (Haifa). The march was organized by the Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced (ADRID). Participants posted signs marking historical village sites. Speakers at the final Nakba memorial rally in Umm al-Zeinat called for the right of Palestinian refugees and internally displaced to return to their homes and properties.

Nakba memorials in the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories peaked on 15 May with popular marches and rallies held in Bethlehem, Ramallah, Hebron, Tulkarem, Nablus and in towns and camps of the Gaza Strip. In Ramallah, a Nakba memorial address by President Arafat was broadcast life to the rally gathered on Manara Square. A series of popular activities, many of them facilitated by BADIL, preceded the 15 May memorials and continued until the end of the month: public call in TV-debates (Afaq TV, Nablus), discussion and handicraft with children (Askar camp, Hebron area villages and camps), ‘Week of Jerusalem and Return’ (al-Quds Open University, Tulkarem), cultural exhibitions and film screenings (Deheishe camp, Tulkarem), sports and an open-air festival for first-generation refugees (Deheishe camp).

The Israeli Zochrot (Remember) Association launched two initiatives aimed at encouraging Jewish-Israeli engagement with the Palestinian Nakba:

A guided visit to the 1948 depopulated and destroyed village of Miska (‘Triangle area’) was organized jointly by the Committee of Miska Residents and Zochrot on 7 May. This visit continued the tradition, formed under Israel’s military government in the 1950s – 1960s, of village visits by internally displaced Palestinians on Israel’s independence day, the only day in the year Palestinians were permitted access to their land and homes. Tens of Israeli visitors re-posted signs that had been destroyed after an earlier visit, listened to the memories of the Miska residents and joined their demand to return to their lands.

On 15 May, dozens of Israelis gathered in central Tel Aviv to witness the ‘NOT-Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel’ by a ‘new Ben Gurion’ who changed his mind. The ceremony was followed by an evening discussion at the Rabita Club in Jaffa, entitled ‘1948: What was and what could have been.’ The discussion was attended by some 100 Palestinian and Jewish people.

Why this BADIL Initiative?

BADIL’s decision to publish this Hebrew-language Information Packet reflects our firm belief that a rational and constructive Palestinian-Israeli debate about Palestinian refugees’ right of return is a necessity and overdue. This, because the right of return as an individual right of millions of Palestinian refugees is here to stay. It can neither be relinquished by the Palestinian leadership nor cancelled by force. It can, however, be tackled based on international law and human rights conventions, which have guided solutions to complex refugee issues in many other parts of the world, and on the basis of UN resolutions applicable to the particular case of Palestine/Israel, especially UN Resolution 194.

Upcoming Events

BADIL Expert Forum on the Palestinian Refugee Question (2003 – 2004)
“Housing and Property Restitution in Durable Solutions for Palestinian Refugees”

Hosted by the University of Geneva,
Graduate Institute for Development Studies (IUED)
Geneva, 2-5 October 2003
The Geneva Seminar is the second in a series of four seminars to be held in the framework of BADIL’s Expert Forum on the Palestinian Refugee Question. This Expert Forum aims to convene legal experts, academic researchers, practitioners of refugee law, human rights activists and media workers, in order to examine obstacles to and strategies for rights-based solutions for Palestinian refugees.

The Geneva Seminar aims to challenge the almost complete absence of research, public debate and political efforts on behalf of Palestinian refugees’ right to housing and property restitution. The exclusive focus on financial compensation for Palestinian refugees will be analyzed in the light of international law and comparative practice, and strategies for the promotion of the Palestinian restitution will be elaborated.

The Geneva Seminar is hosted by the University of Geneva, Graduate Institute for Development Studies (IUED) and sponsored by the Swiss Federal Department for Foreign Affairs (PD IV), Stichting Vluchteling/Netherlands, ICCO/Netherlands and the APRODEV NGO Network.

BADIL’s Information Packet addressed to the Jewish-Israeli public aims to clarify the universal standards and principles that have guided implementation of refugee return, housing and property restitution and compensation elsewhere in the world. We hold that abidance with these standards and principles by the Jewish-Israeli society will not only open the door for a solution of the protracted Palestinian refugee question, but also for the normalization of Jewish-Israeli existence in the region. Moreover, the BADIL Packet aims to show that Palestinian refugees are not ‘irrational’ people demanding to restore a lost past at the expense of a present denied, but people who – if engaged on the basis of their right of return – are ready and able to contribute to reconciliation and the building of a just and durable peace in Israel/Palestine.
Dissemination and Follow-up
While a rational and constructive Palestinian-Israeli dialogue about the right of return is necessary and overdue, it may not be possible with Israel’s current political and ideological leadership, including major sectors of the Israeli academia and media. It is, however possible to engage sectors of Israel’s critical and progressive civil society. Along this line, two Israeli organizations will cooperate with BADIL in dissemination and follow-up debate of the Hebrew Packet/The Right of Return: Zochrot (Remembering) has agreed to introduce it to the Israeli-Jewish activist community and Andalus, a progressive Israeli publishing company will facilitate distribution among the Israeli media, parliamentarians and academia.

Seminar-1, Ghent: ‘The Role of International Law and Human Rights in Peacemaking and Crafting Durable Solutions for Palestinian Refugees,’ 22-23 May 2003
The University of Ghent/Department of Third World Studies acted as the host of the first in a series of four seminars to be conducted in the framework of the 2003 – 2004 BADIL Expert Forum. The Ghent seminar was convened by BADIL in order to revisit a decade of failed efforts at Middle East peacemaking and the role, or non-role, of international law in crafting durable solutions for Palestinian refugees. Thirty-three legal experts, researchers and human rights activists working in academic institutions, UN agencies and the NGO community, as well as delegates of the PLO, the Canadian government and the European Union, examined Palestinian refugee rights under international law, comparative experience with peacemaking and the role of international law in recent diplomatic Middle East peace efforts.

Participants generally agreed that the right to return, restitution and compensation represent the core rights of Palestinian refugees under international law, that durable solutions must be based on the individual choice of the refugees and that international law was subverted by the Oslo process. Participants also expressed the view that the degree to which international law is incorporated into the peacemaking process, particularly in the Palestinian-Israeli case, is dependent on the political will of the relevant actors. The lack of political will to craft durable solutions for Palestinian refugees in conformity with international law and UN Resolution 194(III) was identified as the key problem.

The final session was dedicated to the question of how to create political will, i.e. how to put legal principles into action. The seminar concluded with a series of suggestions, which lay out a broad framework for concerted interdisciplinary action, including the need to:
· Strengthen the Palestinian message about Palestinian refugees’ right of return by highlighting the discriminatory character of the state of Israel as a ‘Jewish state;’
· Intensify the Palestinian debate about the right of retur

n among refugees and non-refugees and guarantee active involvement of the Palestinian exile in the debate about Palestinian political agenda and priorities;
· Engage in a systematic effort at public awareness-raising;
· Build stronger and broader alliances with the media, political leaders and anti-colonial movements;
· Engage Israeli society in a principled debate about the circumstances of the creation of the Palestinian refugee issue (Nakba 1948) and the requirements for a durable solution;
· Develop research and tools for the advancement of a rights-based solution for Palestinian refugees.

Commemoration of the Depopulation and Destruction of Palestinian Villages in 1948 and 1967
In continuation of efforts at engaging the Jewish-Israeli public in new awareness an debate, Zochrot, Neve Shalom-Wahat al Salam and the Association of the Palestinian Villages of Yalu, Imwas and Beit Nuba marked the anniversary of Palestinian displacement and dispossession in 1967 (al-Naksa) with two events under the title,  “Let’s Have the Courage to Get to Know and Share the Pain of our Collective Memory, in order to Set the Basis for Better Neighborly Relations, Cooperation, Reconciliation and Peace.”

Additional Seminars/BADIL Expert Forum are scheduled as following:
· Seminar-3:
Cairo (spring 2004)
Topic: International and Regional Mechanisms for Palestinian Refugee Protection (with focus on protection mechanisms in the Arab world/Arab host countries)
· Seminar-4: Palestine (summer 2004)
Topic: Implementation of return, housing and property restitution and compensation for Palestinian refugees (stocktaking of resources/mechanisms available vs. technical and political obstacles)
· Closing Conference: Geneva (autumn 2004); topics to be determined.

In the context of an Israeli activism festival held at Ofer forest on 6 June 2003, Zochrot organized a tour to the 1948 depopulated Palestinian village of Ayn Ghazal located on Mount Carmel south of Haifa. The tour was guided by a Palestinian refugee originating from Ayn Ghazal. A pamphlet with information about the Palestinian village was distributed, and the visitors posted memorial signs at historical village sites.

A Commemoration of the 1967 Conquest and Destruction of Three Palestinian Villages in the Latrun Area – Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba – was held on Saturday, 7 June. Participants first gathered in Neve Shalom-Wahat al Salam to visit an exhibition and slide show by photographer Yosef Hochman, an eyewitness of the 1967 destruction and depopulation of the three villages, and to hear personal testimonies by villages residents (Nihad Abu Ghosh of Imwas, a school principle at the time of the occupation; Ahmad Abu al-Rob of Yalu; Ismail Zaid  of Beit Nuba), the Abbot of the Trappist Abbey of Latrun, Israeli writer Amos Keinan, who participated in the occupation as a soldier, a.o. Later on, participants proceeded to the nearby site of the three destroyed Palestinian villages now located in the so-called ‘Canada Park’ and posted signs to mark historical villages sites.
(Zochrot:, [email protected])