From: Gershon Baskin, Ph.D.
To: Recipient list suppressed
Sent: Sunday, November 18, 2001 3:32 AM
Subject: Right of Return

Dear Friends

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 settlements).

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 readers.

Please feel free to send your comments directly to Ahlam (
with a copy to IPCRI.

Thank you.
                                                           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 undermined
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 the
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 nature of
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 labourers
could be useful for both and could be  achieved  through agreement  to
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 states
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. Frankly,
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  such
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 as Mr.
Nusseibeh  said, or we grant the refugees themselves a referendum that gives
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  million
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 of
poverty… want the choice  eighter  to join as full citizens  in our new
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   UN 242 
with the emphasis  on the way Palestine will be perceived in the world .. A
Such an initiative would be more acceptable and would win not only 
International blessing, but also the blessing of  majority of Israeli people
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  mostly needed

Yours Truly,
Ahlam Amira  Akram


----- Original Message -----
From: Henry N. Lowi, Advocate
To: ; ;
Sent: Sunday, November 18, 2001 3:33 PM
Subject: [AL-AWDA-Canada] Fw: Right of Return

Dear Friends:
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.
Henry Lowi
----- Original Message -----

From: Ismail Zayid
To: Al-Awda
Sent: Sunday, November 18, 2001 6:26 PM
Subject: Fw: [AL-AWDA-Canada] Fw: Right of Return

Dear Friends:
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 Geneva Convention.
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 Authority [PA].
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. Akram?
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 justice.
Without this modicum of justice, I am afraid there will be no peace for Arab or Jew in the Middle East.
Yours Sincerely,
Ismail Zayid, MD.
C.C. President Arafat.