By Hanin Abou Salem
“We have to do everything we can so that Palestinians never come back…the old will die and the new will forget” Ben Gurion (Former Foreign Minister of the Zionist State)
The above quote provides us with an insight into the mind-set of the Zionist regime. Zionists have consistently rejected our right of return as Palestinian refugees because our return will ultimately destroy the Zionist myth which claimed that Palestine was a land without people for a people without a land. Palestine wasn't empty of Palestinians and Zionists were not people without a land. The so called Zionists emigrated from their countries of origins with the intention of exterminating us the Palestinians within Palestine and planting themselves in our land and homes.
As Palestinians we continue to endure the consequences of the Zionist occupation on a daily basis, not just in Palestine but around the world. Despite this fact many have failed to take into account the plight of Palestinians beyond the Middle East context.
Palestinians beyond the Middle East context have been facing the biggest threat of all when it comes to protecting their Palestinian identity and their right of return to the land and homes from which they and/or their parents were forcibly removed. I've personally met Arabs who speak with a Zionist tongue by claiming either that a) Palestinians beyond the Middle East context don’t want to return or b) that Palestinians beyond the Middle East context should be grateful that they ended up living beyond the Middle East and that they should forget their right of return to Palestine.
Some even go further and support the claims that were made by the Palestinian ambassador in London who during a conference in the British Parliament claimed that Palestinians in the “west whom live in luxury have no right to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people.”
Sadly all of these voices fail to recognize that while Palestinians in the Middle East context possess documents that prove their identity as Palestinians and their status as Palestinian refugees, Palestinians beyond the Middle East context on the other hand don’t possess any documents that prove that they are Palestinians who have a right to exercise their right of return.
Put simply the descendants of Palestinian refugees beyond the Middle East context are going through a process of slow motion extermination on the hands of the same powers that gave birth to the Zionist regime! These powers opened there doors to Palestinian refugees in order to turn them and their children into citizens of a new State which in effect eradicates their right of return under international law on the basis that they are no longer Palestinian refugees.
In order for us to be able to end our Nakba first we need to recognize that the Nakba is not just about Palestinians who ended up becoming refugees within Palestine or within Arab countries. Secondly we need to recognize that the Palestinian Nakba will only end through immediate action on the Palestinian, Arab and Islamic front.
I call for immediate action because in the context of the on-going Arab spring the threat to our right of return has become imminent. The Zionist octopus is actively trying to put into action the new middle east plan which, according to Condoleezza rice, aims to unleash the forces of ‘constructive chaos’ to redraw the map of the middle east in such a way that would benefit America and its Zionist ally. In other words America and its allies will try to direct the Arab spring in such a way that would ultimately erase our right to maintain our Palestinian identity and our right to return to Palestine.
In order to be able to protect our rights of return we need to recognize that we have played a role in the continuation of our tragedy by relying on the political rhetoric of politicians who were willing to turn our legitimate rights into a negotiable commodity and a bargaining tool during the Oslo Accords which ultimately sought to turn us from rightful owners into beggars who should be grateful for the willingness of the Zionist regime to recognize that we do in fact exist as people.
This recognition was made in exchange for Arafat recognizing that the Zionist occupier has a right to exist in our land in the form of Israel. The Oslo accords were preceded by a discourse that claimed that international law would protect our right of return. This discourse led some to renegotiate their position from one based on entitlements to one based explicitly on agreements and rights guaranteed under international law.
This position failed to recognize that the international system cannot guarantee our rights because it was ultimately devised to eradicate our existence as a nation. It also failed to recognize that one does not compromise with justice to achieve a negotiated settlement. The dominant discourse which argues that the right of return for Palestinian refugees is protected by UN resolutions and international conventions has played a key role in blinding us to the ultimate truth: Palestinians and Arabs cannot depend on those who gave birth to the Zionist settler colonial enterprise to suddenly decide to help us exercise our right of return as Palestinian refugees because this will ultimately bring the destruction of their adopted child Israel.
After all how can we depend on the UN which gave birth to the 1947 partition plan? The UN didn't only give legitimacy to the Zionist regime but also proposed in General Assembly resolution 194 (III) of 11 December 1948 that compensation should be offered to Palestinians who didn't want to return. In doing so the resolution was trying to promote a lie by claiming on our behalf that some Palestinians didn't want to return to the land and homes from which they were evicted. This is the same resolution which some claim protects our right of return!
The dominant and hegemonic discourse has been a key obstacle to our understanding of the Zionist octopus and the impact that it has on our ability to exercise our right of return. The reality is harsh but we must be willing to acknowledge that the UN and the US are part of the Zionist octopus that seeks to de-legitimize our rights.
When we recognize this reality we will be able to revolt against our oppressors, and establish the process of liberation. And for us to succeed we must face the threat as one people, put what divides us aside, and unite against the occupier who caused our division in the first place. We need effective organizations, a unified political programme, and simultaneous mobilization at all levels- domestic, regional and international.
Today we remain hostages to the institutions that the imperialist powers created to give legitimacy to the Zionist occupier and to lock us Palestinians into a perpetual exile through ethnic cleansing, occupation, colonization. Therefore we have a duty to protect our identity as Palestinians by affirming the right of return for Palestinian refugees and Palestinian descendants. We must affirm that no circumstances should anyone have the right to deny any Palestinian the right to return to our ancestral home Palestine.
As Palestinians we must reaffirm our connection to Palestine from one generation to another. We must cement our bond between us and the land with the confidence that the only viable solution to our current situation is the liberation and creation of a single Palestinian state. The disappearance of a Palestinian nation for good will only come about if we allow the identity of our people to be erased. The Zionists are trying to destroy us by locking us Palestinians into our exile by preventing our return.
We must encounter this threat by building a legal wall that protects our right of return. The legal structure must be designed in such a way which will serve to protect our right to continue to be recognized as Palestinians who have a right of return no matter where we exist in the world. This structure could start by us formulating a law of return for Palestinian refugees.
This law must facilitate the acquisition of Palestinian refugee passports by Palestinians throughout the world. All Palestinians around the world should have an automatic right to receive a Palestinian refugee passport which confirms that the individual holding the passport is a Palestinian refugee on the basis that he/she can’t exercise their right of return to their ancestral homeland as a consequence of the Zionist occupation.
The passport should mention the original area from which the person descended from in Palestine. The passport for Palestinian refugees should extend to Palestinians who have never set foot in Palestine. The passport for Palestinian refugees should mention that it will automatically become the official passport of the state of Palestine upon the liberation of Palestine. This part should indicate that this will only be the case for the person holding the passport if the area from which he originated from in Palestine has been liberated. The passport should start with a declaration that affirms that:
• The Right of return for all Palestinians is non-negotiable
• The land of Palestine is the inalienable property of the Palestinian people of the world
• There is no Palestine nation separate from the Palestinian people
• All Palestinians around the world have a right to return to their ancestral land and homes in Palestine. This includes Palestinians who are not recognized as refugees by international law
In addition to the legal structure which we must start building immediately and get all Arab and Islamic countries to recognize we must also cement the undying relationship between every Palestinian in the world and Palestine. We can achieve this by creating an international Palestinian organization of which every Palestinian is an automatic member.
The international organisation for Palestinian co-operation must function as an arm for a future Palestinian state. Its sole purpose should be to provide benefits and privileges to Palestinians wherever they might be in the world. Benefits and privileges will be provided with the aim of protecting the Palestinian identity, the right of return and to help Palestinians within Palestine to remain strongly rooted within their land and homes. If each one of us donates whatever he or she can afford to the International organization for Palestinian co-operation we will have enough money to support our aims and objectives without needing to compromise on our right and step on our pride in order to receive financial aid from States and institutions that seek to legalize the illegal occupation of the Zionist regime.