Abu Mazen: Don’t Mess with the Right of Return

In recent days, the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority (PA) Mahmoud Abbas made two extremely worrying pronouncements with regard to the paramount issue of the Right of Return.

Last week, he told Al-Arabiya TV that he couldn’t demand that all Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to their homes and towns from which they were uprooted when Israel was created in Palestine more than sixty years ago.

This week, the PA President uttered even more daring remarks in an interview with the Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, published Sunday, 14 September.

He suggested that Israel was justified in refusing to allow the repatriation of the refugees.

“We understand that if we demand of you that all the five million refugees be allowed to return to Israel, the State of Israel would be destroyed. But we must talk about compromise and see what numbers you can accept,” Abbas was quoted as saying.

He added: “We have to talk with Israel about the number of refugees who will return to Israel. I am criticized for not demanding the return of all the five million refugees, but I say that we will demand the return of a reasonable number of refugees to Israel. ”

Needless to say, the loose tone of Abbas’s words seems to reflect a certain propensity on his part to effectively sacrifice and trivialize the right of return, which more or less represents the heart and soul of the Palestinian problem.

Well, I have a few words of advice for Abbas and his aides: Don’t mess with the right of return. Don’t play with fire.!

It is true that you were elected President of the PA in 2005. However, this doesn’t give you the right to compromise on the core of Palestinian cause, the inalienable right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and villages from which they were ethnically cleansed and subsequently dispersed to the four corners of the globe by organized Jewish terror.

Indeed, you yourself, Mr. Chairman, during your election campaign four years ago, stressed repeatedly that the only solution acceptable to the Palestinians with regard to the refugee plight would have to be based on UN resolution 194.

I am not asking you to emulate Saladin or Omar ibnul al Khattab This is obviously beyond your ability.

But the Palestinian masses do expect you to honour your undertaking and keep your word. This is certainly not beyond your ability.

Let me remind you Mr. Chairman of paragraph #11 of resolution — 194 in case you have forgotten it.

“It (the resolution) resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”

Some of your friends and advisors may have advised you to “show flexibility” in this regard, and you may have harboured a certain tendency to view the right of return as somewhat anachronistic given the existing hard political realities.

However, it is equally valid to argue that any resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli strife excluding a genuine implementation of the right of return would be disingenuous, fragile and short-lasting.

I am not indulging in sooth-saying or far-fetched prognostication. Ask the refugees themselves from Nahr al-Bared in Lebanon to al-Wihdat in Jordan to Jabalya in the Gaza Strip and al-Amaari near Ramallah, not far from your office. Ask them if they are willing to cede their right to return to their original homes and villages even in return for a Palestinian state or quasi-state, and they will communicate to you their true feelings. Don’t listen to the hangers-on around you whose main preoccupation is to make money and appear on TV screens every evening.

As a Palestinian, I was particularly disquieted by your remarks that “the return of five million Palestinians would lead to the destruction of Israel.”

Well, Mr. Abbas. Has Israel’s survival as an exclusive Jewish state become a pressing Palestinian preoccupation?

As a Palestinian leader, your main preoccupation should be first and foremost to protect and effect the right of return for these tormented Palestinians who have been suffering the agony of homelessness for more than sixty years.

Yes, sixty years of homelessness, pain and dispersion should be enough for these miserable people who had inherited misery and suffering generation after generation after generation.

Hence, ending this most obscene and sinister scandal would not be an act of charity to the Palestinians. It would rather be a belated application of relevant UN resolutions which call for the repatriation and indemnification for these refugees.

The uprooting of these innocent victims of satanic Zionism, now numbering five million human beings, was a collective act of rape and ethnic cleansing with very few parallels in history. It will remain an enduring act of rape as long as the wrongs done to the victims are not rectified and corrected.

Indeed, the bulk of the Zionist establishment doesn’t even recognize the occurrence of these crimes, and whenever a conscientious Israeli academic speaks up against these wrongs, he or she is usually vilified and threatened by a society dominated by racism and hatred.

This is why the Right of Return, at least as far as Palestinians are concerned, shouldn’t be a subject of dispute and controversy just as the rightful owner’s right to recover his stolen property from a thief is not a subject of dispute and property.

As to Zionist arguments about the need for maintaining Israel as a Jewish state, it is obvious that such arguments constitute a brazen moral insult to every human being that values justice and honesty.

First, it is well known that the term “Jewish character of Israel” is nothing short of a euphemism for the continuation of Israel’s racist policies against non-Jews. Apartheid and racism can’t be legitimate even if practitioners are Jewish. Jewish racism is no less virulent than German racism.

Second, it should be axiomatic to all that the conscience of the world is under no more legal or moral obligation to maintain Zionism in Palestine than it was to maintain apartheid in South Africa.

More to the point, one is always prompted to ask the following question with regard to this issue: Does Israel’s alleged right to religious and ethnic purity override the Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their homes and country?

Finally, it is clear that denying the Palestinian refugees their inalienable right to return to Palestine/Israel is beyond the pale of simple rectitude.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN in 1948, states in its Article #13 that “everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

To reiterate, the right of return is the heart and soul of the Palestinian problem. It is actually more paramount than the issue of Palestinian statehood and even Jerusalem, despite the latter’s immense national and religious importance.

Hence, it should be amply clear that any agreement or understanding between Israel and the PA ignoring or overlooking this central issue of the right of return will be treated as null and void by the Palestinian people.

This is not only a message to the PLO leadership. It is also a message to the insolent Israeli state which might be tempted to think that the current weakness of the Palestinian position vis-à-vis Israel would prompt the Palestinians to retreat from their national constants.

Khalid Amayreh is a journalist living in Palestine. Read other articles by Khaled, or visit Khaled's website.