- Established in 1998, the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian
Residency and Refugee Rights (BRC) "defend(s) and promote(s) the rights
of Palestinian refugees and IDPs (to) advance (their) collective rights."
In January 2010, BRC published a report titled, "Survey of Palestinian
Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons, 2008 - 2009."
- Its web site explains the problem:
- -- Palestinian refugees and IDPs are "the largest
and longest-standing case of forced displacement in the world today;"
- -- in 2007, of a global 9.8 million Palestinians, about
seven million are refugees and another 450,000 internally displaced;
- -- they include 1948 Nakba victims, more from the 1967
Six Day War, new ones from continuous dispossessions for settlement expansions,
and land seizures inside Israel;
- -- many thousands were displaced from the Jordan Valley,
East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and within Israel to cleanse Arab neighborhoods
for Jewish only development;
- -- Palestinians in host countries like Lebanon, Jordan,
Egypt and Syria are also vulnerable to displacement; further, the 2003
Iraq war forced 34,000 Palestinian refugees to leave the country; and
- -- over six decades after their 1948 displacement, Palestinian
refugees and IDPs are still denied solutions and reparations for their
rights under international law and UN resolutions.
- Relevant International Law
- Article 13 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human
- "(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement
and residence within the borders of each state.
- (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including
his own, and to return to his country."
- Article 11 of UN Resolution 194 (1948) states:
- "....refugees wishing to return to their homes and
live at peace with their neighbors 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 the loss of or damage
to property which, under principles of international law or in equity,
should be made by the Governments or authorities responsible."
- The 1951 Refugee Convention defines who is a refugee,
their status, rights, and legal obligations of states. Assistance is to
include asylum, food, shelter, health, education, human rights, travel
documents, and durable solutions, including repatriation, resettlement,
and integration. The 1967 Protocol removed geographical and temporal restrictions.
- After the 1948 Nakba, refugees were to get special aid,
protection, and reparations, initially from the UN Conciliation Commission
for Palestine (UNCCP), UN Relief and Works Agency in the Near East (UNWRA),
and later the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
- UNCCP ceased operating in the mid-1950s. UNWRA was to
provide temporary, emergency help for 1948, 1967, and subsequent Palestinians
displaced. Overall they've done little for those in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan,
or the Territories (OPT) under military occupation.
- Security Council Resolution 237 (1967) called on Israel
to ensure the rights, safety and welfare of inhabitants of areas affected
by the Six Day War, and to help those who fled return.
- UN Resolution 3236 (1974) affirmed the right of return
as an "inalienable right."
- Despite established laws, no international agency is
mandated to aid and protect displaced Palestinians in Israel, and in the
OPT, only limited aid is provided. In addition, UN agencies and world nations,
in deference to Israel, have avoided durable solutions, including their
obligation to enforce the right of return. As a result, displaced Palestinians
have been denied effective remedies and reparations, and continue to be
among the world's most neglected, persecuted people.
- Israel's Proposed Nakba Law
- Haaretz once called Israel's ultranationalist Foreign
Minister, Avigdor Liberman, "unrestrained and irresponsible"
with good reason. On May 15, 2009, his party, the far right Yisrael Beitenu,
proposed banning Nakba commemorations, then introduced legislation to do
it, calling for jail terms of up to three years for violators.
- Party spokesman, Tal Nahum, said "The draft law
is intended to strengthen unity in the state of Israel and to ban marking
(the day after) Independence Day (May 15) as a day of mourning." Representatives
of Israel's 20% Arab population accused Lieberman of racism.
- In December, a softened bill was introduced, and on March
16 it passed its first reading with a majority of 15 to eight. If it passes
second and third readings, it will deny financing to municipalities that
support the Nakba, including allowing commemorative mourning days.
- The revised proposal omits imprisonment, not its repressive
racism by denying Israeli Arabs their free expression right to commemorate
their most defining historic event. A Haaretz editorial scorned the legislation,
- "The Knesset should be ashamed of passing the law
at first reading. The Kadima and Labor factions should be denounced for
not opposing it. But it's not too late to block the harmful law in (subsequent)
readings, before it stains Israel's body of law."
- The Badil Research Center (BRC) refers to the:
- "ongoing Nakba....caused by Israel's system of institutionalized
racial discrimination which is composed of laws, policies and practices
that have resulted in second-class citizen status of Palestinians, more
land confiscation, discriminatory development planning, segregation of
Palestinian communities, home demolitions and forced evictions, in order
to ensure Jewish privilege and domination."
- In its current form, the proposed Nakba bill prohibits
government-supported organizations from financing activities that commemorate
the event, and will deduct up to ten times the amount spent from group
budgets. The bill requires Israeli Arabs to renounce their history and
heritage, identify with Zionist values, accept their dispossession and
second class status, and face the possibility that a proposed amendment
to Israel's Citizenship Law for Jews may one day apply to them; namely
a loyalty oath stating:
- "I pledge to be loyal to the State of Israel as
a Jewish... Zionist and democratic state, to its symbols and values, and
serve the State, as required, be it by military service, or alternative
- Last June, the Knesset rejected a Lieberman-proposed
anti-Arab loyalty oath measure, requiring Jews, Muslims, Christians, and
others to pledge loyalty to the Jewish state.
- However, last November, the Mitzpeh Aviv community, under
the jurisdiction of the Galilee Misgav Regional Council, passed an amendment
to its bylaws, stipulating that land allocation be conditional on residents'
placing the "highest priorities (on) Zionist values and the values
of the state as a Jewish and democratic state."
- Earlier, Manof and Yuvalim (also under Misfav Regional
Council jurisdiction) passed similar measures. Other communities may follow,
then the Knesset for more than housing.
- As Israel gets more hardline, it's more likely that extremist
laws like these will pass, marginalizing non-Jews, threatening their security,
and decreasing chances for Palestinian refugees ever to return home as
international law allows.
- It's a short leap from current racist laws to repressive
ones like Nazi Germany's Gleichschaltung (standardization under which total
societal control was imposed) and the 1935 Nuremberg Laws that:
- -- protected "German Blood and German Honour";
- -- prevented marriage or sexual relations between Jews
- -- declared persons with any Jewish blood no longer citizens
and denied all rights;
- -- banned Jews from holding professional jobs to exclude
them from education, politics and industry;
- -- segregated Jews from Aryans;
- -- punished them financially, effectively bankrupting
- -- prohibited Aryan doctors from treating them;
- -- prevented Jews from becoming doctors;
- -- excluded Jewish children from state-run schools; and
- -- effectively denied Jews all rights afforded solely
to Aryans - a prelude to Nazi genocide, what Palestinians have incrementally
endured for decades by racist laws, persecution, dispossession, exclusion,
isolation, mass imprisonment, torture, targeted assassinations, violence,
wartime slaughter - most recently, Operation Cast Lead.
- Decades of Forced Displacement
- Besides the internally displaced, Palestinians have lived
in forced exile for decades throughout the world, the majority within 100
kilometers of their original home. Those in camps comprise about 21% of
the total. Hundreds of thousands of others are in 17 unofficial camps in
the OPT, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria. About 79% live outside UNRWA's 58 camps,
including many in West Bank villages and cities, about 100 localities in
all comprising over half the population.
- Operation Cast Lead internally displaced around 80 -
90,000 people, while forced displacements on both sides of the Green Line
continue, for many resulting in multiple uprootings over the years, and,
of course, no permanent home because new ones can happen any time for any
- Communities most vulnerable lie in the path of the Separation
Wall (affecting around half a million Palestinians in 92 communities),
as well as Bedouin Arabs in the Negev, residents of the Jordan Valley,
East Jerusalem, Hebron, the Galilee, Southern Gaza, the Gaza buffer zone
(extending from 500 meters to a kilometer or more within the Strip's border),
and Israeli Arab communities in major cities being forced out to make way
- Under international law, world nations are obligated
to stop this, but instead are silent in support of Israel, affording Palestinians
no advocate on their behalf.
- Durable solutions require repatriation (based on the
well-established right of return) for refugees seeking it, but haven't
up to now gotten. The key principle is "voluntariness" for well-informed
refugees and IDPs. Solutions also include housing, property restitution,
and compensation for damages and losses. Currently, however, no international
agency handles this problem equitably, so it festers unresolved.
- Internally displaced Israeli Arabs also aren't helped.
In the OPT, the ICRC has aided IDPs while UNRWA has provided emergency
help, but no durable solutions, for displaced refugees. Since 2008, OCHA's
Displacement Working Group (DWG) provided international protection for
Palestinian IDPs, with little in the way of tangible results to show, especially
to prevent new forced displacements as well as medium and long-term protection
and durable solutions.
- As a result, living conditions in 2008 and 2009 declined,
especially in Gaza because of war and the ongoing siege, inflicting severe
collective punishment on 1.5 million people at the mercy of a ruthless
occupier denying them enough essential to life supplies.
- Political power-brokering, issues, events, and special
interests guide international efforts, not people needs ignored. Without
help, Palestinian refugees and IDPs do what they can, and used the 2008
60th Nakba anniversary to commemorate their condition worldwide in Europe,
North America, Australia, and the region.
- Arab Israelis are also more vocal, demanding political
and legal reforms, including democratization and recognition of Israel's
Nakba responsibility. Israel reacts negatively with measures like those
- But counter efforts have gained traction, including for
boycotts, divestment and sanctions (the Global BDS movement) and initiatives
like the Goldstone Commission and Russell Tribunal on Palestine revealing
systematic Israeli crimes, and calling on world nations to fulfill their
international law obligations by holding Israel accountable.
- College campuses are also responding, including in America.
On December 14, 2009, Harvard Crimson writer Abdelnasser Rashid wrote:
- Evidence shows "Israel deliberately targeted civilians
during (Operation Cast Lead), deliberately targeting educational institutions,
destroying or damaging at least 280 schools and kindergartens (besides
killing) over 1,400 Palestinians," mostly civilians.
- On "November 23, Harvard extended an invitation
to Michael B. Oren - the Israeli ambassador to the United States - to speak
at the Kennedy School. Fittingly, he was rejected by students who attended
the event. Oren is a former officer and paratrooper who (was) an Israeli
army spokesperson during the unwarranted and illegal attacks on Lebanon
in 2006 and Gaza in 2009. (Students) took a clear stance against impunity
for war crimes." He was pilloried for the actions during a Q &
- They "showed (their) unwilling(ness) to stay silent
when an (Israeli) spin doctor tries to rewrite recent history" to
absolve his country of systematic war crimes. If the university won't do
it, they will and did. Moreover, "welcoming those whose actions deny
students in Palestine their academic freedom....inevitably trivializes
their struggle for human rights and collective freedom."
- Growing efforts like these tell oppressor and victims
that impunity won't ultimately prevail. What can't go on forever won't
when enough determined people say no more.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the
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