The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) in London held its inauguration panel discussion as part of ‘Return Week III’ entitled “74 Years of Israel’s Denial of UN Resolution 194”.
Chairman was Nader Ihmoud, a journalist and a licensed insurance agent (Home, Auto, Commercial & Life) in Arizona, Illinois, Indiana & Missouri. He is also the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Palestine in America-- a journalism organization with a quarterly print and digital magazine.
Ihmoud said Return Week was initially created to commemorate the anniversary of the resolution passing in the United Nations. In 1948, the UN adopted UN Resolution 194 (III) resolving that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”
For the detailed program of Return Week III click here
The first speaker was Randa Siniora, the General Director of the Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counselling (WCLAC) since 2015. She was the Senior Executive Director of the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR) from September 2007 until June 2015. She was earlier the General Director of Al-Haq, Law in the Service of Man (2001-2005), the Head of Networking and Advocacy at the Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (1997-2001) and the Legal Researcher and Coordinator of the Women's Rights Program at Al-Haq (1987-1997). Randa Siniora has an LLM in International Human Rights Law from the University of Essex/UK and an MA Degree in Sociology-Anthropology from the American University in Cairo.
“Today is the 74th anniversary of the UN General Assembly Resolution 194 which very clearly speaks about the right of Palestinian people to return to their homeland and for the right to restitution and compensation”, she said.
“If you look to the right of return as stipulated in the resolution we see very clearly this is an individual inalienable right for every refugee to return and be compensated”, said Siniora, adding that the right of return is very well-established in international law.
She said for over 74 years Palestinians have been subjected to Israeli Zionist ideological prejudice, colonial expansion, and expropriation of land by force.
“If we want to achieve our right to self-determination and of return, the UN must assume its responsibility to resolve refugee status on legal and moral grounds. Securing this right also includes the right to citizenship”, she said.
“By thinking we can sit on a table with our enemy to negotiate our right we’re going to lose because Israel is using apartheid regime trying to deprive Palestinian people of their rights whether social political or cultural rights, including the right to sovereignty, self-determination and to return”.
The second speaker was Ramzi Baroud, journalist and Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books on Palestine including, “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter”, “The Last Earth” and his latest “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University, and at the Johannesburg-based Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net.
According to Baroud, in the case of Palestinians, the right of return is not a matter of commemoration; It is an ongoing crisis that “we feel everyday as Palestinian refugees in refugee camps and the diaspora”.
“When we talk about Palestinian refugees, we are talking about the essence of the Palestinian struggle and it’s a multifaceted issue in the sense that Palestinian refugees are not victims; They are not just waiting for kindness of the international community to come to their rescue; They have been the leaders of the Palestinian resistance whether actively in Palestine itself or using other means outside of Palestine”, he said.
“Without Palestinian refugees there’s no struggle and there’s no resistance. I think it’s important when we think about UN Resolution 194 that we don’t fall into this state of romanticization; that this resolution was really meant from the start to be fair to the Palestinians”.
In Baroud’s view, Arabs and Palestinians understood that such resolutions were not meant to bring justice but to create another reality; a new status quo.
Baroud said the Oslo Accords and peace process had negative consequences on the right of return and Palestinian rights in general: “We created a new reality in Palestine in which Palestinians are divided geographically and politically”.
“We continue to talk about Palestinian refugees but we do very little to act upon that; We talk about Resolution 194 but we practically have no real mechanism to enforce Resolution 194.”
He added that hundreds of UN resolutions have aggravated the mistreatment of Palestinians, attacks on Palestinian towns and village, and disregard for international law: “It’s equally important not just to sit here and demand that the international community respect UN Resolution 104; hundreds of resolutions continue to be ignored by Israel. Arab politics should change stance on Palestine”.
“Ironically , two days ago the UN passed five resolutions on Palestine and one of them was to commemorate the Nakbah Day; Israel has never been held accountable”, he said.
The third speaker was Dr Oroub EL-Abed, who is a lead researcher in Jordan and co- investigator at the Centre for Lebanese Studies on several research projects studying several communities (locals and refugees) with intersectional approaches in the Middle East. She is currently the regional research coordinator of a project studying the Refugee -Led Initiatives in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, a project held in partnership with LERRN- Carleton University. Oroub completed her PhD in Political Economy of Development Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Her research work has been focused on refugees and vulnerable minorities in the Middle East. She has taught several courses on development, livelihood and forced Migration issues at AUC/Egypt, SOAS/London and Jordan University and Study abroad programmes/Amman. She has consulted for several UN and international NGOs and published articles in the area of development ( education and employment) and forced migration in the Middle East. She has published a study on the socioeconomic community development surrounding neolithic sites in southern Jordan (2019) and has few articles in the pipeline on refugees added to her thesis-book on refugee-citizens of Jordan and their access to rights. She is the author of Unprotected: Palestinians in Egypt since 1948 (2009).
The speaker tackled the denial of Palestinian right of return and their forced expulsion from their homes and land . She started her presentation with a historical overview of the Nakbah of 1948, which she referred to as the emergence of the State of Israel on what was occupied of historical Palestine and the destruction of Palestinian society.
Ouroub said the Nakbah gave birth to the refugee problem.
She undescored Israel’s transfer plan which was materialized in Ben Gorion’s words: “The transfer of Arabs is easier than the transfer of any other people. There are Arab states around”.
“Resolution 194 (III) has enabled the Palestinians to believe, as a matter of right and justice, they should be permitted to return to their homes, their farms. They are encouraged to believe this remedy is open to them because the General Assembly of the United Nations said so in its resolution of 11 December 1948”, said Ouroub.
The fourth speaker was Lara Elborno, a Palestinian-American international lawyer and activist based in Paris though her family originally hails from Gaza and Yaffa. She dedicates a large part of her legal practice to human rights work including accompanying asylum seekers in asylum proceedings before French jurisdictions. She is also co-host to a weekly English-language podcast called the Palestine Pod which aims to support the Palestinian struggle for liberation against Israeli settler-colonialism and apartheid.
According to Lara, settler colonialism is the driving force and the key element behind Israel’s apartheid regime, discrimination, and injustice against the Palestinian people.
“The right of return is not only enshrined in Resolution 194 but in other international law instruments”, she confirmed.
In her view, the consequences of Israel’s violations of Resolution 194 are astounding: “Today generations of Palestinians are being born stateless. My SIDO died stateless. He is one of millions of Palestinians who remain stateless and give birth to stateless children due to this injustice.”
She also referred to the case of Palestinians who fled Syria after they were made into refugees in 1948.
“We have to keep in mind that is the essence of our struggle and we must continue to demand what has been unjustly taken away from us”, she concluded.
Download the Return Week’s brochure here
The final speaker—Majeed Shihade—said we should think about other ways of doing politics outside of the international system and outside of the official system, particularly in the US and UK, “where the law is always against us, not just Palestinians but as indigenous people subjected to oppression.”
“We need to find different ways to tackle the question of Palestine; not just about refugees; Israel is not only about Palestine; Israel is a global question, a European settler colony like in the US , Australia and Canada.”
“We need to think about ways to engage local communities to liberate all communities that are facing issues related to housing, education, healthcare, displacement, occupation, silencing, and marginalization”, he added.
The Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) in London invites you to follow its long-awaited “Return Week III” which was launched on Monday December 05th.
Stay tuned to get the latest updates on this year’s Return Week, which is exceptional in form and content as it is loaded with positive implications for the Palestinians and their supporters.
With more than 26 speakers of researchers, thinkers and activists supporting the Palestinian right from the UK, Europe, the United States, South Africa and Palestine, this year’s version of the Return Week sends a message to the entire world that the Palestinians will never ever forfeit their inalienable rights, particularly their right to return to their motherland and establish an independent Palestinian State on the 1967 borders. Until this dream comes true, the longest and most legitimate struggle in the world shall not come to an end.
Pluck up your courage and speak up for Palestine and Palestinian refugees’ right to return to their motherland!