Sent: Sunday, November 18, 2001 3:32 AM
Subject: Right of Return
There is a new and rather refreshing intensive debate taking place amongst
Palestinians today on the question of the Right of Return of Palestinian
refugees. The debate began following the disclosure by LeMonde of the
nature of the agreement reached in Taba by Nabeel Shaath and Yossi Beilen (which
by the way is very much based on work conducted by IPCRI with Nabeel Shaath
prior to the Taba Conference in January 2001). Prof. Sari Nusseibeh has
received quite a lot of attention because of his call to "exchange"
the right of return for a fully indpendent sovereign Palestinian state in all of
the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem (with a full withdrawal of Israeli
A good friend of IPCRI's, Ms. Ahlam Akram, a Palestinian woman from Nablus who
is living in London has now written another such call. Ahlam publishes
op-ed pieces frequently in the London based Arabic press such as Al-Hayat and Al
Sharq al Awsat. Ahlam has allowed us to distribute this piece to our
Please feel free to send your comments directly to Ahlam (firstname.lastname@example.org)
with a copy to IPCRI.
Thursday 8th, Nov
An open letter to President Arafat….
Dear Mr. President,
For the past 53 years the suffering of the Palestinian refugees has never
ended. Turning their misery into a political tool has merely
the essence of the conflict.
Our rejection of Jewish suffering and our adamant refusal to share as fellow
human beings, have been taken by the International community as doubtful
marks against our own humanity. The result is that most members of
International community have ignored OUR CRY FOR JUSTICE.
Enough .. WE WANT PEACE… based on International acceptance of us as EQUAL
human beings, unfortunatly to insist on implementing UNSC 242 and at the
same time insisting on UNGA 194 does not reflect a true intention for peace.
The return of 4.5 million refugees does present a threat to the
the Jewish State. Even assuming that the land space is available, the return
of so many people will surely duplicate the situation of Jewish settlers in
the West Bank and Gaza, and we all know how it proved to be such a disaster!
To have Palestinian refugees replacing Thai and other Asian
could be useful for both and could be achieved through agreement
settele them on the eastern side of the green line.
What we need now is a COMPLETE SEPERATION, with secure borders for both
peoples, and the relationship between the two resultant sovereign
to be governed by international law.
We all know that refugees have been used and abused throughout the whole
region, yet we know that the Arab world has accepted the right of Israel to
live within secure borders, by virtue of accepting resolution 242.
Arab States are getting tired of the whole issue .. because it is
beginning to threaten their own regimes, and want to rid themselves of the
moral responsibilty, and the burden they have been under, and have abandoned
any policy that may lead to regional war .. because no one can afford
a war… ..with its human loses .. and horrible results..
Its time to divert all attention to building a new Middle East with
Palestine as a sovereign State in its midst. A SOVEREIGN, RESPONSIBLE STATE,
contributing to world PEACE, not a threat to anyone else!
We can play it both ways: either we interpret 242 as including 194
Nusseibeh said, or we grant the refugees themselves a referendum that
them the right to choose.
It is time to end that suffering. The truth is that our strength is our
weakness. It lies within our willingness to share. The simple truth is :
the International community will never accept the return of 4.5
Palestinian refugees … as two wrong will not make it right.
I am fully aware that no single person has the right to take such a
decision without consulting those whose lives will be concerned. It is too
much to ask for any leader and too much to demand of any people . With all
respect, that choice is theirs, not mine or yours. And we cannot deny them
that choice. It is about time we heard from them. And judging from letters
written by refugees in Arabic newspapers, there are many diffferent voices.
Some express nothing less than the dream of returning to places from which
they were forced to leave. Yet others are realistic due to circumstances
full of despair express the desire to free their children from the curse
poverty… want the choice eighter to join as full citizens in
democratic state or the ability to be citizens of the world.
And in all
cases, they deserve full compensation.
Therfore, a referendum conducted by UNRWA within a limited time frame,
along with a declaration of our sovereign Palestine, based on
with the emphasis on the way Palestine will be perceived in the world .. A
FREE DEMOCRATIC STATE FOR ALL ITS CITIZENS .
Such an initiative would be more acceptable and would win not only
International blessing, but also the blessing of majority of Israeli
who look for peace..
Sir, sometimes in a severe injury, the doctor finds himself having to take
the most drastic measure, of amputating a leg, or an arm, to save a
patient. In our case, we need to amputate a piece of our hearts to enable us
to live, and to guarantee a future for our loved ones.
I believe that what Dr. Nusseibeh said is correct .
And I add, It is time to live and heal and look forward.
Sir, me and thousands like me, can afford to wait and demand with full
knowledge that we know in our hearts is impossible. It is not our children
who have no future. It is not them who are being killed on daily basis…
Sir, it is the strong men of history, who dared to take powerful decisions
to save their own people … HONESTY AND TRANSPARENCY is
Ahlam Amira Akram
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, November 18, 2001 3:33 PM
Subject: [AL-AWDA-Canada] Fw: Right of
Here is another example of how the bantustan
mentality is taking hold within the Palestinian camp, with the call
for "complete separation". Either 242 or 194. As if the
choice is: either an independent Palestine, OR return of the refugees.
The only good thing in this piece is the proposal that the refugees be given
the real, unfettered choice about the exercise of the right of return.
We must come out and say that the problem is the partition of Palestine and
its effects on the lives of the people. We must be clear that the old
leadership has led the people nowhere.
We in al-awda have to come forward with a proposal
that integrates the demand for the right of return with the demand for the
right to national self-determination, and with the defence of democratic
rights. It is not sufficient to hold onto "international
legality". It is necessary to put forward the positive features of
a new, secular and democratic Palestine, to which the refugees can return and
rebuild their lives, and in which Arabs and Jews can live as equals.
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Sunday, November 18, 2001 6:26 PM
Subject: Fw: [AL-AWDA-Canada] Fw: Right
I find some illogic in Ms. Ahlam Akram's argument.
Complete Israeli withdrawal, from
West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip and dismantlement of ALL
Jewish settlements from these ares, is a basic requirement in
compliance with international law, Security Council resolutions and the Fourth
Similarly the Right of Return is
a fundamental right for all refugees, as confirmed in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and UN Resolution # 194[iii]. As
Ms. Akram states, this is an individual right to be
determined by every refugee, and cannot be bargained away by
Dr, Nusseibeh or Dr. Shaath or even the Palestinian
Implementation of these rights is not an
act of concession or generosity on Israel's part. The
only concession, and it is a massive one, that
has come about in this long conflict , is the one that has already
been made by the PLO/PA, which gave Israel undeservedly
78% of hisoric Palestine.
Ms. Akram's statement that compliance with the Right
of Return for the refugees, as per. resolution #194: "does
present a threat to the nature of the Jewish state." That is truly
strange, coming from any body, or Ms. Akram who claims to want
" a free democratic state for all its citizens [in the
Palestinian state]." We are ,I thought, being continuously bombarded by
Israel as being not only a democratic state but the only democratic
state in the Middle East[M.E.], the oasis of democracy.
Why should not ALL citizens of this democratic state of
Israel have equal rights? How can you have a democratic state that defines
itself as a "Jewish state' withall rights
for its Jewish citizens, and rights gor Jews outside Israel,
but unequal rights for its non-Jewish citizens? And to
compound this illegitimacy, we have Ms. Akram asking us to
forego our rights so that this illegitimacy can
be maintained and enshrined.
Ms. Akram speaks of " our rejection of Jewish
suffering." This is bizarre. Since when have we rejected or brought about
Jewish suffering? Let me remind her, and others, that Muslims and Arabs have
throughout history, until the Zionist movement came about, treated the Jews
with extreme tolerance. The testimony of Chaim Weizmann, Israel's
first president can testify to that. He stated before the Anglo-American
Commission, in 1946 in Jerusalem : " I would not like to do any
injustice. The Muslim world has treated the Jews with considerable tolerance.
The Ottoman Empire[ of which the Arabs were a part] received the Jews with
open arms when they were driven out of Spain and Europe, and the Jews should
never forget that." It appears that Ms. Akram has forgotten that. This
statement about Jewish suffering reminds me of an important and very relevant
statement By the noted British historian, Professor Arnold Toynbee. In
a lecture at McGill University, in Montreal, Canada, Professor Toynbee said,
before a largely Jewish audience : " The Jewish treatment of the Arabs in
1948 was as morally indefensible as the slaughter by the Nazis of six million
Jews....The most tragic thing in human life is when people who have suffered
impose suffering in their turn." So who is rejecting whose suffering, Ms.
Ms. Akram states that the space in Israel may not
be available for the refugees. Do we understand that she thinks there is
available space for them in the Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza,
which constitutes only 22% of Palestine?
Ms. Akram's statement that our demand for the
implementation of reolutions #242 and 194[thr right of return] "does
not reflect a true intention of peace", on our part. Contrary to this,
The Palestinian people are calling for peace, but peace with a modicum
of justice only. They are not calling for complete
Without this modicum of justice, I am afraid there
will be no peace for Arab or Jew in the Middle East.
Ismail Zayid, MD.
C.C. President Arafat.