At a public ceremony held at Kufa Gallery in London yesterday the Palestinian Return Centre (PRC) launched its latest publication on ‘The Israeli Law of Return and its Impact on the Struggle in Palestine.'
The function was attended by a number of diplomats, students, representatives from the media, academicians and members of civic society organizations. The event was chaired by Mr Arafat Shoukri, deputy director of the PRC. The centres director Mr Majed al Zeer gave the welcome address. Other speakers were Ambassador of the League of Arab States to the UK, Mr. Ali Muhsin Hameed, the Palestinian General Delegate to the UK, Mr. Afeef Safieh, Prof. Abdulwahab el Messiri of Ayn Shams University in Egypt and Dr Daud Abdullah, senior researcher at the PRC and editor of the book.
This latest publication by the PRC is the result of an international conference held in London in the subject in April 2002. It was held under the auspices of Mr. Amru Mousa, Secretary General of the League of Arab States.
In his welcome address the PRC director said that this important event provides us all with an opportunity to focus our attention on one of the central pillars of the Zionist enterprise in Palestine. He told the gathering that the publication falls into line with the expressed mission of the Return Centre, which is to keep alive the issue of the Palestinian refugees and to support their struggle to return. ‘By supporting research and publications of this kind we hope to awaken the silent conscience of the world and spur it into assuming its moral responsibility toward a people who have suffered exile and deprivation,' he added
Al Zeer said, in the broad context of European settler colonialism, the violence unleashed against the Palestinians was by no means peculiar. Similar cruelty was meted out to the indigenous peoples of the Americas, South Africa and Zimbabwe who were also deemed marginal.
In order for a law to be respected and upheld it must be justly applied to all. The Israeli Law of Return like the Nazi Nationality Law makes provisions that are discriminatory and prejudicial. It stems from an ideology that encourages separate development and a system of rule based on notions of racial, ethnic and religious supremacy.
Ambassador Ali Muhsin Hamid affirmed the support of the League of Arab states for the Palestinian cause. He recalled that Israel was admitted to membership of the UN on condition that it implemented Resolution 194 which calls for the return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes. Ambassador Hameed said the region would remain in a state of turmoil for as along as the Palestinians are denied the right to return to their homes.
Palestinian General Delegate Afif Safieh paid tribute to the PRC for its untiring efforts to raise public awareness in the UK about the Palestinian refugees and their internationally guaranteed rights. He said the book on the Israeli Law of Return would prove to be a major contribution to the existing literature on the subject.
Mr. Safieh noted that the issue of the Israeli law of Return is one that is under-researched. He said there was great need to intensify intellectual efforts to counter the myths and distortions surrounding Palestinian history. Safieh urged the listeners to engage more actively with the British media. He said it was not enough to write letters to editors of major newspapers but it was equally vital that the truth about Palestinian is also written in the main columns of British newspapers.
Prof Abdulwahab el Messiri said one of the problems that researchers encounter when dealing with the Zionist enterprise in Palestine is that it is based on memory. That a group of people remembered they lived in Palestine 2000 years ago and claim a right purely on the basis of this memory. He asked what would happen if the Arabs suddenly remembered that they ruled Spain and wanted to regain it.
El Messiri refuted the common misunderstanding that Zionism is somehow related to Judaism. He said Israel should not be referred to as a Jewish state. It is, he said, a Zionist state. It is one of the most permissive and irreligious societies in the world with everything from pornography to prostitution.
Professor el Messiri recalled that when Theodore Herzl, the architect of the Zionist project was about to marry the Jewish rabbi in attendance refused to conduct the religious rites of marriage because he discovered the individual was totally alienated from his religion.
The value of the new book, El Messiri pointed out is that it deconstructs many of the myths surrounding the Law of Return. At the same time, he noted, the book constructed a socio-historical outlook that was more humane and just.
Editor of the book Dr. Daud Abdullah said it was long over due. He said not since Anis Fawzi Qasim wrote his dissertation on the subject in 1970 at George Washington University there has not been a major work on the subject. Although Qasim's work was later translated and published in Arabic, there has been a noticeable lack of writings in English on the subject.
Not all the articles on the book were presented at the 2002 conference. Dr Abdullah pointed out that they were two guest papers written by Prof el Messiri and another by the late Prof. Rev. Michael Prior of St. Mary's College, University of Surrey.
Dr. Abdullah gave a brief outline of the book and its contents. He noted there were some common themes that ran uniformly from one chapter to another. These were the themes of denial, injustice, racism, and illegitimacy.
The evening's ceremony closed with the presentation of an award by the PRC to Prof. Abdulwahab el Messiri in recognition and appreciation of his outstanding service to the Palestinian cause.