In yesterday’s NY Times, Hassan M Fattah reports from
But maybe the Isr
Resolution 194 says, “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 calls for them to be compensated if they choose not to return.
After all, their descendants are doing just fine.
…Abdallah Zalatimo, 41…returned to
In the late 1980s he opened a business making Arabic sweets that has grown to include shops in several Arab countries with several million dollars in revenues. “What right do I have to ask for awda when I am here and content?”…
Most Palestinians who fled to
But he is content to generalise on the basis of interviews with prosperous business owners in
Almost no Palestinian questions the demand for
In reality, of course, it was never feasible, if by feasible we mean acceptable to an Isr
that the problem could be solved satisfactorily only in connexion with the final peace settlement, and that it was not a question of the rights of certain individuals but of the collective interests of groups of people. It was not enough to allow these individuals to return when and where they desired, for the question arose as to who was to assume responsibility for their integration in their new environment. The final solution, which could be worked out only after the peace settlement had been concluded must be one to which all Governments would lend their support and co-operation.
In the latest version, Fattah reports that PM Olmert and FM Livni ‘expressed reservations’ about the right of return.
In 2003, the
And here’s where it starts to get interesting. For starters, Fattah has taken a number and reinterpreted it. The PSR survey really did find that only 10% of the some 4500 refugees they surveyed said they would return to live in
That was one of five options. In reality, only 17% said they would stay in their current host country, which must be what Fattah means by ‘unlikely to move’. So his assertion is fundamentally false. The proportion who would move either to
To put the survey into context,
Based on several previous surveys showing that the overwhelming majority of the refugees (more than 95%) insist on maintaining the "right of return" as a sacred right that can never be given up, PSR surveys sought to find out how refugees would behave once they have obtained that right and how they would react under various likely conditions and circumstances of the permanent settlement.
The question was couched explicitly in terms of the Taba negotiations of January 2000.
The establishment of a Palestinian state in the
1. Return to
2. Stay in the Palestinian state that will be established in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and receive a fair compensation for the property taken over by
3. Receive Palestinian citizenship and return to designated areas inside
4. Receive fair compensation for the property, losses, and suffering and stay in the host country receiving its citizenship or Palestinian citizenship
5. Receive fair compensation for the property, losses, and suffering and immigrate to a European country or the
There are a number of factors that could easily lead to the small proportion saying they would move to
None of the options allowed for the possibility of returning to a united Palestine, which I think it is reasonable to speculate would have provided an attractive option. Finally, after sixty years in the wilderness, it seems likely that many have relinquished hope that a just solution is forthcoming and therefore selected an option that seemed a lesser evil.
A more recent qualitative study may shed some light on this. Juliette Abu Iyun and Khalid Nabris, of the Palestinian Center for the Dissemination of Democracy and Community Development (Panorama), in their "Time For Them to Speak and For Us to Listen": The Final Report of a Participatory Research and Education Project with Palestinian Refugees in Jalazon Refugee Camp, based on research undertaken in 2004 and 2005, found that
Most participants were sceptical about the possibility of realizing a just solution through negotiation given Isr
In both the first and second rounds of the study [i.e. before and after an educational component], the majority of the participants expressed strict adherence to the Right of Return and rejection of any formula that does not enable them to exercise this right, though younger participants and particularly women were more open to discussing alternatives as long as the Right of Return was not compromised. However, many participants were unsure if Palestinian decision-makers share their resolve. They favored holding a referendum before action over any proposal, and regardless of the outcome, most of the participants insisted on their inalienable individual rights as refugees.
And those were refugees in Ramallah. In the 2003 PSR survey, the proportion who said they’d become Isr
Finally, Fattah knows that Resolution 194 provides for the refugees to choose whether or not to return. But he has not thought carefully about what refugee choice actually entails. Others have, like BADIL, the
Determination of refugee choice cannot be undertaken prior to a peace agreement, which explicitly recognizes the right of refugees to return to their homes and provides guarantees for the voluntary character of return – i.e., refugee choice. Without guarantees for implementation of the right of return as codified in a peace agreement, refugees cannot make an informed, free choice about whether they wish to return. In other words, refugee choice cannot precede recognition of the right of return by the country of origin, and provisions for its implementation.
Refugees must be supplied with information about the conditions in their country of origin, provisions for safety and protection from the authorities in the country of origin, and details about the procedures for repatriation.
So it seems a bit premature for anybody to start celebrating the permanent exile of those 4.3 million. The conditions don’t even exist yet for them to make the informed choice required by Resolution 194, if that is to be the criterion. And in truth, 194 does not go far enough. When, in December 1948, it said, ‘at the earliest practicable date’, I don’t think it envisaged fifty-nine years of exile, and counting. Surely, a truly just solution would have to compensate the victims for that, as well as for the property losses 194 expressly provides for.
A lot of people and a lot of organisations claim that they are working for a just peace. What most of them are principally concerned to ensure is that
[Thanks to Sol Salbe for sending the NY Times article and Juliette Abu Iyun for her prompt response to my request for her report.]