Final Statement Issued by the Fifth Coordination Meeting for the Palestinian Coalition for the Right to Return

The Palestinian Coalition for the Right to Return convened its fifth coordination meeting in Ghent – Belgium during the period from 6 – 10 October, 2004. This meeting was convened amidst extremely critical situation at all levels regarding the Palestinian problem in general and the refugee problem in particular. In Palestine, the Zionist’s are escalating their repression against the Palestinian people especially in camps such as; Jabalia, Rafah, Jenin, Balata, Ayda, and Tulkarem, in addition to other camps in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

This is done in the midst of a shameful and official Arabic failure, a complete International silence, in addition to the obvious American adaptation to Sharon’s policy and his terrorist government. This government that aims at eliminating the legitimate Palestinian national rights by means of terminating any real possibility for establishing a sovereign Palestinian state, and by means of expanding settlements and the confiscation of lands in order to create new political facts on the ground, thus, turning the issue into a de-facto matter.

The attendees discussed throughout the meeting the general situation of the coalition during the interlude of the two annual meetings. They also discussed the reality and the working environment of the coalition members in the different fields. At the same time, the Coalition held a joint meeting with the Legal Support Network at Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights in order to raise the coordination level, thus, provide the necessary legal basis, which will ultimately advance the Coalition’s level of performance and enhance the legal approach for the refugees’ problem on the local and international levels.

The meeting paid special attention to the Coalition’s internal affairs. The meeting discussed the Coalition’s internal bylaw and made certain modifications on it in light of past years experiences and recommendations presented by members. In this respect, the fifth annual meeting endorsed the formation of a coordination committee consisting of four members as representatives for all the areas where the Coalition is present (Palestine, Europe, Arab Host countries, and North America), in addition to Badil Resource Center as a coordinator for the Coalition until it convenes its next regular meeting.

As a result of the many discussions and deliberations which took place during the meeting regarding all aspects of the right to return and the current threats before it, members of the Coalition would like to affirm the following:

1. The Palestinian people’s right to return to their homeland and property, and their right to compensation for their material loss and psychological suffering as a result of the 1948 Nakba, is a historical and legal right that is based on international law principles before it became based on the United Nation’s resolutions. Among the most important resolutions is resolution (194), which consists of three comprehensive rights “Return, restitution and compensation”. The fact that compensation is being addressed as an alternative to the right to return is considered a deformation of the essence of the (194) resolution, and is intended to pass projects concerning settlements, displacement, integration and melting that aim for closing the refugee file and abandoning their case forever.

2. The right to return is firmly connected to the Palestinian’s right to self determination. This right is considered an obligatory basis in international law, since the Palestinian people, until today, were unable to exercise their right to self determination because of the absence of an essential provision, which is the actual presence of Palestinian people on their land. This is impossible unless we exercise the right to return. The Palestinian people’s situation is considered unique from an international law perspective due to the present gap between the people’s geographical dispersion and their legal unity. This gap can not be eliminated except by the establishment of the land and people unity thru the implementation of the right to return as a national right.

3. The adherence to the integrity of the refugee problem within the framework of the integrity of the land and people in historic Palestine and in exile. The rejection of all attempts to breakdown this problem into “refugee” or “displaced” or “uprooted”; under all circumstances.

4. The importance of uniting the right to return message on the basis of the Palestinian people’s irrevocable and fixed national rights. The standard of this must also be advanced in order to make it a united massage capable of mobilizing the Palestinian people’s energies, including all its apparatuses, political and social organizations. In addition, this message must be broadened to include cultural and educational dimensions related to the different aspects of the life of the Palestinian society, and for reasons of not keeping the message limited to the political and legal dimensions, which will limit the right to return movement’s scope of work.

5. It is important to maintain the popular nature of the right to return movement since it is a popular movement that reflect the interest of refuges and express their rights, especially their right to return. There is no need for political representation since the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) is the sole legitimate representative for the Palestinian people. This, of course, should not rule out the importance of coordination and cooperation with all Palestinian national struggle movements on activities related to the right to return. The right to return movement is not an alternative for the Palestinian national movement concerning in the sense of taking upon itself the burden of the Palestinian and refugee problems. Furthermore, it is not a replacement for the program carried by the Palestinian national movements within the Palestine Liberation Organization and the national consensus program.

6. The importance of strengthening the organizational structures of the right to return committees in their fields and expanding the level of popular participation in its activities, especially among the youth. Also, committees must initiate dialogue and exchange ideas and information among themselves in order to develop and formulate an inclusive organizational formula capable of confronting the many challenges that face the problem of return.

7. The need to extend further organized efforts related to addressing the problems that Palestinian refugees face in some host countries. These problems include attempts to grant them temporary protection capable of guaranteeing their civic and human basic rights until they return to their homeland. Here, we can notice the importance of linking the official and popular Arab message regarding their rejection to the settlement issue, with the Palestinian refugees’ civic rights in host countries, such as Lebanon; so that this message does not become an objective equivalent to displacement.

8. The need to extend all efforts to introduce the protection gaps that the Palestinian refugees face to the international community, in addition to introducing the different remedies to these gaps. In this context, we affirm the importance of expanding the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s role, and activating the role of the United Nations Committee for the Conciliation in Palestine in order to provide an effective international protection for Palestinian refugees who live within and outside UNRWA’s places of operations. International protection for refugees must adhere to international law standards and should not be affected by political situations and changes.

Members of the Coalition also discussed next year’s working plan, and affirmed execute a group of activities, most importantly:

1. Enhancing the belonging to the land and the Palestinian national identity among the members of the right to return by conducting summer camps on the Palestinian land for the different youth who live in historic Palestine and in exile.

2. Commemorating the International Refugee Day in order to highlight the Palestinian refugees’ rights; those refugees that form the highest and oldest percentage among other refugees worldwide.

3. Introducing the Palestinian Coalition for the Right to Return to the international arena, in addition to introducing its goals and working strategies. This will enhance the international campaign for defending the refugees’ rights to return, restitution and compensation.

4. Enhancing the educational and cultural dimensions of the right to return message thru the production of educational materials directly aimed at children and youth. This should be done in coordination with the specialized authorities.

5. Continuing the production of informational materials that support the right to return culture, in addition to commemorating national occasions especially the Nakba and the Israeli massacres since 1948.

While the attendees halt before our people’s daily sacrifices and bravery, we all rise in honor, respect and favor of souls of our devoted martyrs, and we salute Palestinian and Arab brave prisoners who remain in Israeli jails.

Glory to the Intifada
Glory and Eternity for our devoted martyrs
We Shall Return