A seminar entitled “Visualizing Return: Gallery Talk” was held yesterday as part of ‘Return Week II’ to discuss the significance of Palestinian refugees’ right of return to their homeland, in light of Israel’s escalating human rights violations across occupied Palestine.
The chair of the panel Batool Subeiti, a university student and human rights activist based in the UK, started the discussion by introducing the significance of the Palestinian right of return, which she said signifies a correction of the injustice inflicted not only on the Palestinians but on the whole world “because if the right to return is not realised, this justifies legitimizing the occupation of land, annexation, and murder”.
“If there’s no right of return, the value of human rights will be reduced to nothing”, said Subeiti. ‘The attempt to create a state at the expense of a people’s rights is a serious breach of human values.”
For more information about Return Week II please visit:
The next speaker Saleem Nusseibeh, student activist and president of UCL Students for Justice in Palestine Society, said that the international community “must agree on a foundational principle that there must be a reactivation of the right to return to the Palestinians outside of Palestine”.
“Here we do not speak only about those victims of ethnic cleansing, victims of the Nakba, but also Palestinians who live in the diaspora, in displacement camps in Lebanon , Syria, Egypt, Jordan, North America, Europe and other parts of the world”, said Nusseibeh.
He stressed that Palestinian refugees should be granted their right to return. “What we’re speaking about here is not a Utopian idea”, he confirmed. “When there’s a will, one can change reality”.
Nusseibeh denounced the policy of subjugation, exploitation, colonisation, and land grab perpetrated by Israel, a state he said is based on racial superiority.
“It’s an obligation to return, it’s a duty to return, Palestinians must return”, he insisted. “We have obligations that we need to fulfill amongst them is to raise awareness through education about the Palestinian refugee plight”, he said, referring to Israeli crimes, destruction of entire villages, mass displacement, and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians during the Nakba of 1948.
“This is not the story of Palestinians alone, this is the story of the whole peoples of the oppressed world, the colonized word”, he said. “Exhibitions like this, events like this, discussions like this are a gesture to recognize what’s going on, recognize that injustice is unacceptable”.
Irish parliamentarian TD Richard Boyd-Barrett spoke next. He is an Irish People Before Profit/Solidarity TD, who has been a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Dún Laoghaire constituency since the 2011 general election. Boyd-Barrett helped to organise mass protests against the war in Iraq in 2003 as chair for the Irish Anti-War movement. He has continuously politically fought for Ireland's Israeli Ambassador to be expelled, and to place sanctions on Israel, for its brutal treatment of Palestinians and its apartheid regime.
Barrett said Israel is a racist state whose existence is based on the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the suppression of anti-occupation voices. Whoever speaks up for oppressed Palestinians are systematically blacklisted as anti-Semitic, he said.
Expanding on the right of return, Barett said “racism is endemic it is part and parcel of what Israel is”. In his words, Israel uses a double-standard policy claiming Jews have the right to return to the self-proclaimed land of their forebears while denying the same right to over 7.2 million Palestinian refugees scattered across the world
He sounded the alarm over the horrendous humanitarian conditions suffered by the Palestinian diaspora in displacement camps set up in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and other parts of the world. These refugees are longing for return and for the right of citizenship.
Barrett said Israel’s denial of Palestinians’ right of return is “a crime against humanity” and called for the need to combine forces and mobilise solidarity moves in order to dismantle the regime of apartheid and the system of colonization, which he said uses sectarian division to subjugate people.
The final speaker was Mona Shtaya, a digital rights defender working in the Arab region. She is currently the Local Advocacy Manager at 7amleh- the Arab Center for the Advancement of Social Media. She joined 7amleh in 2017 as an advisory board member. Mona previously worked in the field of communications and campaigns with several civil society organizations, in addition to the community outreach coordinator of Transparency Palestine, the national chapter of Transparency International.
Mona insisted that the Palestinians have to sit together and discuss their most alarming issues, most notably the right of the refugees to return to their motherland as per international law. Mona stressed the need to make realistic distinctions between Palestinian refugee communities in the Diaspora; For example, Palestinians in Lebanon are suffering from relatively different problems than Palestinians in the West Bank. She said one mistake in discussions of this type is that “we focus on our daily life without thinking about the long-term implications of the right of return…. Today is the day where we can think together about our right of return, to understand what we want, what kind of future we as Palestinians long for”.
Mona said activists and CSOs should keep mobilizing and organizing pro-Palestinian solidarity moves until the refugees regain access to their homeland.
'Return Week', in its second edition this year, is held annually by the PRC to raise awareness amongst the international community about the inalienable right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. Every year, a plethora of activists, academics, and political commentators take part in webinars/seminars organised by PRC as part of the 'Return Week' in an attempt to underscore the Palestinian refugee plight and discuss pro-Palestine outreach policy and advocacy mechanisms seeking to enable Palestinian refugees to exercise their right of return through international laws and conventions
This year’s event is special in form and content. It gives a great deal of attention to artistic visualisations of the inalienable Palestinian right of return. In addition to the webinars that are being held as part of Return Week, a ten-day art exhibition was opened on December 2nd at P21 Gallery in London, dedicated to visualising return.
For more information about Return Week II please visit: