The Palestinian right to return home might soon be signed away and the world thinks this is a perfectly logical “compromise” for the Palestinian leadership to make. The Clinton-Barak team might as well ask Arafat to sign away the Palestinian right to freedom, liberty, education, or even life.
Indeed, the right of refugees to return is a fundamental human right guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and enshrined in UN Resolution 194. International law is very clear and uncompromising on all refugees, including Palestinians: Those made refugees by war have the right to return to their homes regardless of who come to power. In basic terms, evicting one people for the sole purpose of replacing them with another people is not a legitimate act in the 20th century, regardless of how much rhetoric and propaganda pollute reality.
No one has the authority to “compromise” on basic human rights. Only individual refugees themselves can give up their right to reclaim their stolen property. But when it comes to Israel, the paper on which those treaties, covenants and laws are written might as well be toilet paper.
Time and time again, the US has held Israel above the law while Palestinians are pushed to teeter on the brink of humanity. At the same time the US leads the world in ensuring that other refugees, like Kosovars and East Timorese, are allowed to return. Yet millions of Palestinian refugees are forced to wait in squalor for the same right. And now they might learn that even their right, not to mention its fulfillment, will soon be demolished by Israeli “peace”, like their homes were demolished by Israeli bulldozers.
I think of Manar. I never spoke to her, but I watched her at the podium of the Palestine Right to Return March in Washington, DC in September of 1999. She stood there with the determination of a 12-year-old refugee, held up the large iron key to her grandfather’s old home and said “Sanaoud! Sanaoud! Sanaoud!” meaning “we will return, we will return, we will return. How she must ache with fear today.
Another refugee, a middle aged intelligent man named Ziad, took a moment at the podium and pleaded: “I was born a refugee, I don’t want to die a refugee.”
I think of 9-year-old Salma, a child of the Shatila camp, who, confident that her family would return home and prosper, said that she wanted to be a pediatrician when she grew up. “Haram” she said, sympathetic to helpless babies, “[I want to take care of them.]” Stateless and without the right “papers” to work outside the camps, her mother listened to her child’s dreams that fall well outside of a refugees options, and contorted her face to hold back the tears.
“the … refugees wishing to return to their homes* should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date… compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return:” UN Resolution 194. We know all the relevant articles by heart, a kind of proof to show others that we are worthy of human rights. UN Resolution 3236, Subsection 2: “the inalienable right of the Palestinians to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced and uprooted, and calls for their return”.
But none of that matters. The river of Palestinian blood floating property deeds doesn’t matter. The millions festering in the squalor of refugee camps don’t matter. Centuries of Palestinian history and family memories don’t matter. What matter is that Hitler’s victims are happy and President Clinton gets a shot at the Nobel Peace Prize. The world simply cannot allow the “Jewish character” of Israel to be diluted with the natives, the only people with legitimate claims to the land.
‘Project ethnic cleansing of Palestinians’ complete on the eve of the 21st century. Someday you can tell your children that you witnessed it. Americans can say that billions of their tax dollars financed it. Arabs of other nations can say that they painfully stood by and watched, but did nothing. Palestinians will die protesting or will die a thousand deaths when they tell their children that in the year 2000, the world ceased to recognize, even on paper, that they are humans worthy of basic human rights and freedoms. As for Manar, Ahmed and Salma, I imagine, at the least, they will lose their last iota of faith in humanity.