The Palestinian communities in Europe, their organisations and societies condemned all proposals that annulled the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland and homes. They published a document affirming that they were not abandoning this right.
The Palestinians in Europe issued a historic document, in which they emphasised their absolute resolve to hold fast to the right to return to their land and homes in Palestine, and rejecting absolutely any bargaining over this right or its circumvention.
The conference of Palestinians in Europe held in the German capital, attended by the Quds Press agency, resulted in the publishing of the "Berlin document resolving to hold fast to the Right to Return", which coincided with the 56th anniversary of the Nakba of Palestine.
A mass people's conference
Under the title of "we shall never surrender the right of return and we mandate no one to compromise it", Saturday 15 May saw the gathering of more than two thousand Palestinians coming from all over Europe, representing the Palestinian communities and organisations on the continent, in the conference organised by the Palestinian Return Centre - London, and the Association of the Palestinian community in Berlin. Tens of organisations and communities from all parts of the continent participated in the conference, and their representatives made speeches that gave single voice to strong resolve in holding firm to the right of return.
In addition to delegations from all over Europe participating in the conference "We shall not surrender the Right to Return", also involved in the conference proceedings were Mohammed Khaleel ‘Aql, MP in the Jordanian Parliament for Al-Buq'a refugee camp in Jordan, Jamal Shaati head of the Refugees committee in the Palestinian Legislative Council, Dr. ‘Azmi Bishara, the Palestinian leader coming from the Palestinian lands occupied in 1948, and Khaled Tira'ani director of the Islamic American Organisation for Al-Quds in Washington.
The delegates at the conference sent strong condemnations of the attempts to circumvent the Palestinian right of return, expressing their absolute rejection of all solutions and initiatives that cancelled their right to return, and emphasising that these did not represent them and that they had not given anyone any mandate to surrender their right.
The Berlin Document counters the Geneva Accord
The conference delegates in the Berlin document they issued, valued very much "the great efforts of the civil organisations working for the refugee issue and the right to return from within the occupied homeland and abroad", and called for support of these organisations, so allowing them to accomplish their mission in the best manner, and emphasised the mutual bond of the Palestinian people in all the places where they are found.
Part of the Particpants estimated of thousands
In this respect, the Berlin document contained "the conference delegates emphasise their steadfast resolve to adhere to their right to return to their homes, from which they had been expelled, as this is one of the fundamental rights of individual and collective, ratified and preserved by divine texts and international laws and treaties, and further emphasised by a large number of UN resolutions. Also as return is an individual's right where representation or proxy are not permissible, where no person or organisation can surrender this for any reason or under any pretext or agreement. This is a right that does not expire with time, nor reduced or affected by establishment of a Palestinian state on any part of the land of Palestine"
Rejection of all that leads to squandering the Right to Return
The document declared "no acceptance of any negotiations or solutions that result in compromise or jeopardy of the right to return", the delegates said in the important document that "they reject the resettlement or compensation projects, and demand simultaneous compensation and return as the two necessary rights. As compensation would only be for the distress and harm they had suffered as a result of the Zionist occupation of Palestine and expulsion of its people. Compensation was not a substitute for the right of return in any way.
The document added "the delegates reject considering partial "return" to the territories of the Palestinian Authority or the individual return of first generation to the 1948 Palestinian territories as humanitarian solutions within the framework of what is called family reunion and consider these as circumvention of the right of return" as stated in the Berlin document.
The conference delegates called upon the Arab states hosting Palestinian refugees to improve living conditions and reduce their suffering, while reaffirming rejection of resettlement, and adherence to their historical right to return. The delegates also urged the European countries to "avoid blindly following the American policies. Policies that were totally biased in favour of the Zionist occupation of Palestine. The delegates call upon them to adopt more balanced polices leading to implementation of international resolutions pertaining Palestine".
The conference delegates stressed very strongly "that the implementation of the right of return and its full, just and practical realization necessitates the end of the Zionist occupation of the land of Palestine, as this is the real obstacle standing in the way of the return of the Palestinian people to their homeland".
Particpants in the event of Berlin...
Birawi: Dangers threatening the right of return
Zaher Birawi, head of the board of trustees of the Palestinian Return Centre - London, caught the attention of the mass conference of Palestinians in Europe held in Berlin by saying " Your conference is held in circumstances where the dangers threatening your right to return are multiplied, and the attack on the right to return more ferocious, and isolated foreign voices are raised attempting to throw fear into the hearts of those selfless stalwarts who work for this right". He added: "and Bush's ill-fated promise and Sharon's plan are but translation of this attack. A matter that places greater responsibility on your shoulders, and requires redoubled effort to repel this pressing danger" in his words.
Birawi said: "the Palestinian people who since the Nakba have made many sacrifices and continue to do so, are the owners of this right, and not those with private agendas who fall by the wayside", adding " the time has come for the policy of preventing the people from participating in decision-making to go, for the heroic Palestinian people are not incapable of reading into the events of each stage and taking the suitable decisions".
Bishara: How can we surrender a right and an international resolution?
In his turn, Dr. Azmi Bishara, the prominent Arab leader from the Palestinian lands occupied in 1948, stressed the important moral of holding this conference, and said: "I emphasise the importance of the holding of this conference, as we are in the anniversary of the Nakba". And on the subject of the Nakba, he said referring to the role of the Zionist movement "they threw the Palestinians into the desert, while crying out that they would throw us", describing the Nakba and the expulsions of Palestinians during it and after, as "robbery" - the biggest of its kind.
Dr. Bishara fiercely attacked the attempts to give up the right to return, and on the matter of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 on the return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland and homes, he said:" Is there anyone who has a UN General Assembly Resolution, which they go ahead and yield? It is an international decision, how can we give it up?"
The assemblage showed especial regard for Bishara's participation in the conference, and the symbolism of this participation, which reflected the bonds between Palestinians behind the Green Line and the Palestinians in the Diaspora, and the mutual understanding on the right of return.
Palestinian writer and thinker, Dr. azmi Bshara
MP Aql: The Palestinian people will not be swayed from adherence to the right to return
In turn, Mohammed Khaleel Aql, MP in the Jordanian parliament for Al-Buq'a refugee camp, said: "They speak of the right of return, and some of us are fearful for this right, and I say brothers, fear not, our people have moved on past all that you think, our people have given the example in adhering to adherence to homeland, our people hold fast to Palestine, all Palestine, from sea to river, and they will not be swayed from adhering to this right, by Allah's permission".
The MP from the Jordanian parliament refreshed memories of the tragedy of Palestinian refuge, and transmitted from the Palestinian refugees in Jordan, their fierce resolve to revitalise the right to return, achieve the ambition of liberating Palestine from occupation, and resumption of Palestinian life on Palestinian soil.
Al-Shaati: Return is the central issue
Jamal Shaati, head of the Refugees committee in the PLO, reminded the conference that the "refugee issue is the central issue of the Palestinian people and the core of the struggle". He said: "no doubt there are many who try to transgress on Palestinian national unanimity, transgress on the immutable Palestinian national principles, some enjoy representative status, others official status, and some who have no status at all" according to his description.
Shaati observed that "the Geneva Accord, a document that was stillborn, and even had it been born alive, it would be our duty to slay it, because in one way or another it attempts to assassinate the Palestinian peoples' national rights, especially the right of return", stressing that "the right to return is a sacred right, heads will roll before it is touched", according to him.
Al-Tira'ani: Warns of defrauding the Palestinian people
Al-Tira'ani condemned American president George Bush's call for surrender of the right of Palestinian return, and accepting the Jewish settlements. Al-Tira'ani attacked the Geneva Accord and the Objective document, both of which gave up the right of return, and saw in these "a case of fraud and trickery played on the Palestinian people, without shame", for their omission of the right to return - "a sacred individual right, which cannot be surrendered in any shape or form".
From his jail, prisoner Ahmed Sa'daat, General Secretary of the PFLP (Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine) sent a message of greeting to the conference of Palestinian communities in Europe, in which he warned of the steps aiming to surrender the right to return and strongly condemned these.
Palestinian children in the event...
The conference also received a telegram from detainee Husam Khidr, member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, and defender of the right of return, emphasising the need to hold fast to this right.
In a message sent to the Berlin conference, Salah Salah, who was unable to come and participate in the conference, emphasised that "all the Palestinians in Lebanon confirm that they are an indivisible part of the one movement working for the right to return of all Palestinians in all parts of the Diaspora".
Al-Zeer: A collective message rejecting surrender of the right of return
Majed Al-Zeer, director of the PRC - London, affirmed that the conference carried a collective message from the Palestinian people in Europe and places of refuge, publicising their strong rejection of attempts to surrender the right to return. Ghassan Abu Samra head of the Palestinian community in Berlin gave a presentation on the development of the Nakba, the catastrophe of Palestinian refuge, stressing that adherence to the right of return was necessary. The Palestinian ambassador to Berlin Abdallah Al-Afranji gave a speech at the conference, affirming the PLO's adherence to the right of return and that it was not giving up this right.
He said: "we fight for the cause of right to return and affirm the right to return", stressing that the PLO had not surrendered this right.
Adil Abdallah, General Secretary of the Palestinian Association in Austria, welcomed the affirmation of Ambassador Abdallah Al-Afranji of adherence to the right of return, and "his stand against the Geneva Accord", and saw in this a condemnation by the ambassador of those who stood behind the accord, especially the former minister in the Palestinian National Authority Yasser Abd-Rabo.
The Palestinian popular singer Ibrahim Mohammed Saleh "Abu Arab" and his group performed song sequences extolling the return to the homeland Palestine. The participation of Palestinian delegations from the European countries in the conference confirmed the absolute rejection of both the Geneva Accord and the Objective document, as well as Bush's promise and all the attempts to neglect the right to return.
On the margins of the conference, exhibitions were held documenting the suffering of the Palestinian refugees, the longing they have for their occupied homeland and their adherence to the right of return. Large maps of Palestine dominated the conference showing the villages and towns that were destroyed by the Occupation, alongside the key that had become a symbol of the will to return and to hold fast to the homes dear to the Palestinian people.
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