Right of Return

I got this from Israeli historian and activist Ilan Pappe, who I interviewed in Toronto last year after hearing him give a really superb speech advocating boycott tactics and the Palestinian right of return. This is, as you can imagine, not a popular position to take in Israel, and he has had problems as a result. From what I have seen, he handles them with great integrity and a sense of proportion. I don’t know him well, but based on everything I know, I respect him greatly.

Below is the final declaration of the Right of Return conference which I believe he helped organize. It took place over the weekend.

The Second Right of Return and Just Peace Conference in Nazareth, December 16-18, 2005.

Hundreds of Palestinians and Jewish activists gathered on a cold and rainy day in Nazareth for a three days conference on the Palestinian Right of Return. This was the second one, following the successful first ever such conference in Israel that took place in March 2004 in Haifa.

The first day was devoted for the opening session, overshadowed by the refusal of the Israeli authorities to allow Qasim Qasim, a representative of the refugees’ network in Europe, to enter the country and participate in the conference. Nonetheless, the participants could listen to his speech through a phone call. Other guests came from the occupied territories and the exilic communities around the world.

The second day was a fruitful day of discussions that produced the following declaration (the third day is dedicated to visits to the destroyed villages of Palestine).

Final Declaration

The conference was organized by the Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced Persons in Israel, Zochrot (Remembering the Nakbah in Hebrew), The Emil Touma Institute for Palestinian Studies and in cooperation with Ittijah – Union of Arab Community Based Associations

By proposing the Right of Return, the organizers wished to reinforce the Palestinian cause and to develop projects for the return of refugees who find themselves in a situation of statelessness. They also wished to put this question into the center of the political debate in Israel, and to counteract a historical policy in Israel that aims to delegitimize the Right of Return. In their view, these attempts are the main obstacle for a just peace.

The Second Right of Return and Just Peace Conference in the city of Nazareth took place simultaneously with a number of similar conferences in Europe, the United States and the Arab world. It was the result of unified efforts and coordination between numerous Palestinian refugee institutions and solidarity movements, who together aimed to face the challenges of Israeli and international peace plans that will prevent the implementation of the Right of Return. Together, the institutions aimed to reinforce a Palestinian and international movement in favor of the return of Palestinian refugees to their towns and villages, of the return of the refugees’ property, and of the implementation of international resolutions, most notable the UN resolution 194 for the return of Palestinian refugees that is based on international human rights.

The conference has affirmed the commitment of the organizers and the participants to the rights of the Palestinian people, which they are convinced is not negotiable. They have raised their united voice against each plan, whatever party may propose it, that tries to weaken the Right of Return and the rights of the Palestinian people for an end of the occupation, for freedom and independence.

The organizers of the Right of Return and Just Peace Conference are proud of the participation of their Palestinian sisters and brothers from the occupied territories and the Diaspora. They are also very proud of the greeting messages of many Palestinian institutions from the West Bank and Gaza, and refugee camps in Lebanon and in the Diaspora, who have excused for not being able to attend the conference. The conference considers these messages and the participation as a sign for the importance of a new unification of the Palestinian people, wherever they may live, under a shared aim.

The conference also appreciates the participation of progressive Israelis who aim for a Right of Return of Palestinian refugees and Internally Displaced People. They are our partners in developing this project and changing the opinion of the Israeli public, in order to build a foundation for the return project.

The discussions and lectures of the conference insisted on the necessity to revive the memory, and to draw future visions on the human, legal, public and political level. They showed that there exists a potential that will be important to use for developing actions and institutional efforts, and for realizing envisioned projects.

The conference has affirmed its rejection of all projects that will abolish, avoid and destroy the Right of Return of Palestinian refugees. The conference reiterates in front of the world at large that there will be no just peace without the unconditional implementation of the Palestinian Right of Return. The organizers alert the world against the Israeli campaign to obtain international, Arab and Palestinian recognition in Israel as a Jewish State through the elimination of the Palestinian Right of Return.

The conference condemns the Israeli authorities for preventing the representative of the Palestinian refugees’ networks in Europe from entering the country and from participating in the conference. We pledge not to let go of the issue and we will take all the necessary steps to confront this Israeli policy. We also affirm that the deportation of our brother Qasim Qasim is only going to reinforce our ties with our people in exile and in the homeland; we will all stand together in our campaign for the implementation of the Right of Return.

We call upon the world public opinion to acknowledge that an ethnic cleansing operation took place in 1948 against the Palestinian people and that this policy continues unabated until today.

We ask the Palestinian leadership, on all levels, to relocate the Nakbah of 1948 at the center of its agenda and to derive the necessary and essential conclusions from what happened in the past so as to avert the occurrence of a new Nakbah.

We demand from the Israeli Academia to allow free and critical research – according to the international standards of academic openness- on the Nakbah. We call upon it to stop being a mouthpiece for the authorities while silencing any dissenting voices in it.

We leave this conference determined to strengthen our struggle for the Right of Return and to expand the popular participation in the efforts for its realization. We are looking forward to our next and third conference of the Right of Return and the Just peace – dreaming and hoping to see as soon as possible all the refugees returning to their homes and homeland.

Justin Podur

Author: Justin Podur

Author of Siegebreakers. Ecology. Environmental Science. Political Science. Anti-imperialism. Political fiction. Teach at York U's FES. Author. Writer at ZNet, TeleSUR, AlterNet, Ricochet, and the Independent Media Institute.

3 thoughts on “Right of Return”

  1. Ilan wants Israel, as a
    Ilan wants Israel, as a Jewish state, to die.

    He wants it taken over and the jewish state to cease to exist altogether.

    Why does anyone even listen to him? He only exists to help promote the stormfront/neo-nazi agenda.

  2. Valid criticism of Israel’s
    Valid criticism of Israel’s government or anything else is fine.

    Dishonest, exaggerated criticism of Israel is usually fueled by anti-semitism.

    And calls for Israel to “cease to exist as a Jewish country” while being OK with countless Muslim countries existing as Muslim countries is obviously discriminatory against Jews. The progressive left needs to rid itself of antisemities who pretend to be peace activists.

    Here’s a summary of what various anti-semites who pretend to be peace activists are trying to promote:

    1) Nationalism is wrong. Jewish nationalism is VERY wrong. But palestinian nationalism is FANTASTIC. But I’m not anti-Jew, no sir!

    2) Muslim countries are OK for existing as muslim countries. But the world’s only jewish country is WRONG for existing as a jewish country. But I’m not anti-Jew, no sir!

    3) Violence is wrong. Of course, every country on earth was formed via civil war, takeover, revolution and violence at one point or another. Antizionists are OK with this, EXCEPT in the case of the jewish people. Jewish people have no right to keep a country that involved any violence in forming. But EVERYONE ELSE gets to keep their countries, even if they were violent, which almost all of them were. But I’m not anti-Jew, no sir!

    4) Killing innocent people is wrong, except if you do it to israeli jews. THen it’s OK. But I’m not anti-Jew, no sir!

    5) Statehood in general is wrong! Except palestinian statehood on top of the jewish state. That’s FANTASTIC and we support it! But I’m not anti-Jew, no sir!

    6) Every single country on earth has immigration restrictions that make it easier for some people to immigrate than others. THis is fine, EXCEPT in the case of the jewish state. We are against the world having a country that opens its doors to jews above non-jews, yet we have NO PROBLEM with countries that are antisemitic against jews that CAUSE THE NEED for a place like israel in the first place. But I’m not anti-Jew, no sir!

  3. How is it neo-nazi to allow
    How is it neo-nazi to allow people (here, the Palestinian) to return to their home?

    Isn’t it those who refuse to allow DP (displaced persons) such as Palestinians to return that are being neo-nazi?

    > 1) Nationalism is wrong. …

    I care about people. Not nationalism.

    > 2) Muslim countries are OK for existing as muslim countries. But the world’s only jewish country is WRONG for existing as a jewish country.

    Governing country based on religion is wrong, regardless of the religion. But that’s not what the Israel/Palestine conflict is about.

    > 3) Violence is wrong. Of course, every country on earth was formed via civil war, takeover, revolution and violence at one point or another. Antizionists are OK with this, EXCEPT in the case of the jewish people.

    Violence is always wrong. How the US and Canada were created is wrong. But we can’t go back in history and that’s why the solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict is not to throw Israeli jews out of Israel.

    > 4) Killing innocent people is wrong, except if you do it to israeli jews. THen it’s OK.

    Killing innocent people is always wrong, regardless of their nationality/religion.

    > 5) Statehood in general is wrong!

    I care about people. Not about states.

    >6) Every single country on earth has immigration restrictions that make it easier for some people to immigrate than others. THis is fine, EXCEPT in the case of the jewish state.

    The case of Palestinian is one about DP (displaced people); not about ordinary immigration.

    Mind you, there’s a twist with Israel: It’s controlling/restricting immigration to jews-and-jews only… going to the israeli colonies in Palestine…

    I’m not anti-Jew, no sir!

    But feel free to call me anti-zionism.

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