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66 years of ongoing Nakba – Back to Basics: The Right of Return is a national and inalienable right

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On the 66th commemoration of the Nakba, the movement for Palestinian liberation is in disarray. Political parties are divided, the Palestine Liberation Organization is dysfunctional, the Palestinian Authority is dependent on foreign donors with ulterior agendas and a collective national strategy is absent. Institutions do not fulfill their purposes and the Palestinian people’s capacity for grassroots mobilization is frayed.

These elements provide an opportunity for the Israeli regime to unilaterally impose ‘facts on the ground’ and its advocate, the USA, to strong-arm an unjust political solution. Both developments undermine the Right of Return of the Palestinian refugees – the core of the Palestinian cause.

Israel denies the Right of Return to the homes of origin for 7.4 million Palestinian refugees and Internally Displaced Persons. Meanwhile, Israel maintains efforts to resettle Palestinian refugees in exile and its leadership increasingly demands international recognition of the State of Israel as an exclusive Jewish state. As the Oslo negotiations falter forward, Israel attempts to legitimize ‘land swaps’, annexation of Area C, and control over natural resources especially fresh water. Additionally, Israel displaces Palestinians particularly targeting the Gaza Strip, the Jordan Valley, East Jerusalem and the Naqab.

As a consequence, Palestinians live under military control in the West Bank, under siege in the Gaza Strip, under institutional discrimination within Israel-proper and East Jerusalem, and in heartbreaking conditions throughout the exile.

Palestinians previously seeking refuge in Syria are living a multiplied catastrophe. They are undergoing war, further displacement, and the destruction of their lives in Yarmouk, Nierab, Sit Sainab, 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.

66 years of continuous displacement instructs the Palestinian people to revert to our fundamental principles of justice and equality, and place faith in our people across the globe rather than incapacitated international and Palestinian institutions. This era calls for a return to the basics.

We, the undersigned organizations, affirm the following:

  1. After 66 years of targeted displacement by the Israeli regime, 66 percent of the Palestinian people are refugees or Internally Displaced Persons. Both in principle and practice, the Right of Return is a necessary condition for achieving self-determination of the fragmented and exiled Palestinian body politic;

  2. International law endows Palestinian refugees with the right to voluntary return to their homes, to restoration of their properties and to compensation. This inalienable Right of Return is not subject to negotiation, bartering, surrender or expiration;

  3. Displaced Palestinians hold the Right of Return collectively and individually. The right is only fulfilled when an individual is able to exercise his or her free choice;

  4. United Nations resolution 181 (1947) to partition Palestine into two states led to the displacement of between 750,000 and 900,000 Palestinians. Thus, the international community codified its responsibility to provide legal and physical international protection, humanitarian assistance and enable the Right of Return to the homes of origin for all refugees and displaced Palestinians through General Assembly resolution 194 (1948) and Security Council resolution 237 (1967);

  5. The Palestinian people’s heroic resilience and resistance to Israel’s denial of the Right of Return, to ongoing displacement of Palestinians and to absent international protection requires that an institution such as the Palestine Liberation Organization be based on authentic representation and inclusivity.

Longing for freedom and liberation, we say YES to Palestinian representation and holistic international protection, and NO to detracting from any of the rights of refugees.

Signed by the following organizations, institutions and coalitions:

BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI)
Defence for Children International - Palestine
Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association
Center for Defense of Liberties and Civil Rights 'Hurryyat'
Popular Struggling Coordination Committee (PSCC)
Palestinian Grassroots Anti-apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall)
Kairos Palestine
Civic Coalition for Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem
Union of Health Work Committees
Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights
Golan for development
Alternative Information Center
Alternative Tourism Group
Joint Advocacy Initiative
Land Research Center (LCR)
Palestine land Society
Environmental Education Center
Baladna - Association for Arab Youth - Palestine
The Palestinian Center of Youth Action for Community Development (LAYLAC)
Lajee Center, Aida Refugee Camp
Popular Committee for Refugees, Qalqeliah
Popular Committee for Refugees, Salfit
Social Youth Center, Aqbat Jaber Refugee Camp
Social Youth Center, Aida Refugee Camp
Muntada Al-Tawasol Association, Gaza
Shoruq Association, Dhiesheh Refugee Camp
Ansar Center, Walajeh
Ibda’a for the Development of Children Capacity, Dhiesheh Refugee Camp
Al- Rowwad Center, Aida Refugee Camp
International Women's Peace Service/ Palestine
International Organization for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (EAFORD)
Union of Arab Jurists- Geneva
General Arab Women Federation
Housing and Land Rights Network/ Habitat International Coalition
International Youth and Students Movement at the UN
Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples (MRAP)
Association Latino-Américaine Nueva Utopía
Geneva International Centre for Justice
Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel- Spain
Red Solidaria contra la Ocupación de Palestina (RESCOP) –Spain
Asociacion Palestina Biladi- Spain
Slovenia Solidarity Committee- Slovenia
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement- Slovenia
Greece Committee for the Right of Return- Greece
Association of Tunisians in Switzerland- Switzerland
Tamkeen-Arab Group- Switzerland
Association Belgo-Palestinienne- Belgium
Palestina Solidariteit- Belgium
Friends of Al-Aqsa- United Kingdom
Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Italia- Italy
Palestina Rossa- Italy
Fronte Palestina- Italy
Rete di Solidarieta’ con la Palestina – Milano - Italy
Friends of Sabeel - Sacramento Region- United States of America
Palestinian Association of Stockholm- Sweden
Committee for Fair Peace in the Middle East (CPJP) - Luxembourg
Finnish-Arab Friendship Society- Finland
French Jewish Union for Peace (UJFP) - France
Nederlands Palestina Committee (NPK)- the Netherlands
Palästinensische Gemeinde Deutschland (PGD) e.V.- Germany
Palästinensische Gemeinde Bonn e.V.- Germany
Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Group Bonn - Germany
Palestine Aid – North Ireland
Society for Austro-Arab Relations- Austria
Women in Black- Vienna- Austria
Services and Research Centre Palestine - the Netherlands
Solidarity for Development and Peace(SODePAZ)- Spain