This section includes recent statements from refugee community organizations, human rights organizations, and other relevant documents related to Palestinian refugee rights.

1. National Lawyers Guild, Resolution Affirming the Individual and Collective Palestinian Right of Return
2. Fatah Statement on the Geneva Understandings
3. Final Statement and Recommendations – 4th Annual Meeting of the Palestine Right of Return Coalition
4. Statement by Unions, Syndicates, National and Popular Organizations in the Gaza Strip, Concerning the Geneva Understandings

1. National Lawyers Guild, Resolution Affirming the Individual and Collective Palestinian Right of Return

Whereas, the Palestinian Right of Return and Compensations is sacred and enshrined in international law and political practice, especially UN Resolution 194;

Whereas, the Right of Return is an individual and collective right of the Palestinians that is not negotiable and may not be postponed or subsumed under other issues;

Whereas, UN Resolution 194 instructs the Conciliation Commission to render progress reports periodically to the Secretary General for transmission to the Security Council and to the Members of the United Nations;

Whereas, UN Resolution 194 calls upon all Governments and authorities concerned to co-operate with the Conciliation Commission and to take all possible steps to assist in the implementation of this resolution;

Whereas, UN Resolution 194 has been reaffirmed over 130 times and more than any other UN resolution;

Therefore be it Resolved that,

The National Lawyers Guild recognizes the inalienable, individual and collective Palestinian Right of Return;

Resolves, that the Palestinian refugees wishing to return to their homes should be permitted to do so immediately and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for the loss of or damage that, under principles of internatioanl law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments;

Resolves to submit a written request to the UN for a progress report on the implementation of Resolution 194;

And, further Resolves, that the National Lawyers Guild will initiate an education campaign to promote and implement fully UN Resolution 194.

2. Fatah Statement on the Geneva Understandings

The following is an unofficial translation of a statement from Fateh issued 1 December with its views on the Geneva initiative:

In the Name of God

Our Freedom Fighting People, Our People in Palestine and in Exile

Initiatives and proposals for solving the Arab-Israeli Conflict appear from time to time. Whether Israeli or Israeli-Palestinian, regional, or international, these proposals are based on the premise that the Palestinian refugee issue can be resolved within the framework of a future Palestinian State.

Of even greater danger is the fact that the current Palestinian regime has opened the door for such initiatives without having a clear vision that is consistent with our people’s aspirations! The current regime has encouraged and participated in these initiatives, justifying their position by saying that they are searching for a political breakthrough with the Israeli and international community. Oblivious to the harm being done to the unity of the Palestinian people, this regime includes those who initiate and direct and those who reject such initiatives. This situation is pushing the Palestinian people towards an internal conflict that could lead to a “civil war” just to maintain the interests of the Palestinian elite currently in power. This elite – guided by their own self-interests – threatens the unity and steadfastness of the Palestinian people and the right to return of the Palestinian refugees, which is the core of the Palestinian issue.

Concerned about a unified Palestinian position that is consistent with the national consensus, we affirm the following:

First: Taking into consideration that the Right of Return is the foundation of the Palestinian consensus; the core of the Palestinian struggle; the justification for the current revolution; and the dream of two-thirds of the Palestinian people, we strongly reject all initiatives, agreements, and understandings, whether formal or informal – including Beilin-Abu Mazen, Nusseibeh-Ayalon, the Geneva agreement, among others – that compromise this sacred right. We see such initiatives and agreements as a dangerous trend that transforms the national consensus into a bargaining chip for negotiations.

Second: We do not place responsibility only on those who participated in such initiatives. We also blame the Palestinian regime which plays with the fate of the people and contributes to the damage done to the people’s aspirations. For the last three months, this regime has been consumed with petty internal conflicts over the formation of a government rather than the concerns of our people and the critical issues. The regime, which has placed the most corrupt persons in positions of responsibility in ministries, security and civil organizations, has persisted in playing with and harming the unity of our people and the national consensus – foremost being the right of return – in an unprecedented manner, in order to maintain Palestinian sovereignty over any square meter.

Third: We remind those who play with the future of our people that an independent Palestinian State on the 1967 occupied land is not part of the strategic consensus, but only a transition program adopted by the PLO at the 1974 meeting of the Palestinian National Council (PNC). The right of return is a key element of the Palestinian National Charter and the primary reason for the beginning of the Palestinian revolution. If there was a need for tactical measures it is the Palestinian State which should be used as a bargaining chip in order to achieve the return. The Palestinian State is no longer a priority nor in the popular interest of the Palestinian people. It has become an Israeli security interest that also happens to serve some in the current Palestinian regime, who see the Palestinian State as a means to increase their own illegitimate profits. Sacrificing the Palestinian State for the sake of achieving the return, therefore, serves the comprehensive Palestinian strategy, while sacrificing the right of return for the sake of a pseudo State with limited sovereignty sacrifices the people’s rights, dreams and aspirations.

Fourth: We believe that we can reach a comprehensive and just peace, a peace in which this land accommodates both peoples within a democratic secular state; a peace that recognizes the rights and duties of both Palestinians and Israelis; a peace that removes borders, walls and checkpoints; a peace that is not based on displacement and the separation of cities, but rather one that is based on the return of Palestinian refugees; a peace in which everyone is a winner and not a compromiser; and, a peace in which both parties triumph and no one loses.

Fifth: In order to maintain the unity of our people; build democratic Palestinian institutions; and, facilitate each person’s right to contribute and participate in the building of civil society and the formation of policy, we call for transparent democratic elections on all levels, starting with the FATEH Central Committee, through Municipal Councils, the Palestinian Legislative Council, the Presidency and the Palestinian National Council. The purpose of these elections is to reorganize the Palestinian house and protect it from ongoing administrative, financial, and political corruption, and stop the process of collapse and division.

Based on the abovementioned concepts, and without hesitation, we will start a Popular Campaign in Palestine and in Exile under the Title: “Return First, and Peace for Two Nations in One State”.

With this slogan, we will be faithful to our people’s dreams and ambitions. We will be faithful to the blood of our martyrs. We will adopt a more realistic approach to achieve a comprehensive and just peace that does not impose painful compromises on anyone. A solution to the conflict that ignores the interests of two-thirds of the Palestinian people can only be considered as a ceasefire between two parties.

Unified and together until achieving Return, Liberation, and Peace

FATEH - Palestinian Liberation Movement
Palestine, 1/12/2003

3. Final Statement and Recommendations – 4th Annual Meeting of the Palestine Right of Return Coalition

The Palestine Right-of-Return Coalition held its fourth annual coordination meeting in London 5-10 November 2003.

The meeting was convened in a period characterized by growing challenges and threats to the Palestinian national question accompanied by more suffering inflicted on the Palestinian people by the Israeli occupation, state terrorism and the denial of basic human and national rights.

Palestinians, however, remain determined to preserve and defend their basic national rights. They clearly reject all initiatives by some Israelis and Palestinians to take advantage of the siege imposed on our people and their national issue to distort the significance of these rights. The recent “Geneva Understandings” is yet another manoeuvre aimed at shaking the steadfastness of the Palestinian people and is an extension of previous initiatives, all of which were totally rejected. We Palestinians have responded by continuing the Intifada and upholding with even more determination our basic national rights foremost among them the right of return to our cities and villages of origin in historic Palestine.

In the context of the forced dispersal and exile of our people, national unity remains sacred and the key to attaining our national rights. The Right-of-Return Coalition is an expression and a voice of this unity as it includes among its members the Association of the Internally Displaced Palestinians inside Israel as well as refugee initiatives from the West Bank, Gaza Strip and the wider diaspora. The Coalition makes major efforts to strengthen unity on the refugee question, challenge the isolation and marginalization of Palestinian refugees in the host countries and coordinate refugee initiatives within historic Palestine and outside. It encourages and supports refugee actions to build a solid community base able to pressure all relevant parties to implement the right of return in accordance with UN Resolution 194.

In relation to current political developments the Coalition emphasizes that:

1- The right of return is a basic, non-negotiable and indivisible right; it cannot be bartered away by any Palestinian body. Thus the Coalition rejects all such political initiatives regardless of their source.
2- The right of return is an individual and a collective right as well as an historical and a legal right recognized by all international humanitarian and human rights law. This is the basis for our legitimate claims and our endeavors to attain this right.
3- The Palestine Right of Return Coalition is a body that speaks for the interests of the refugees. It has no political ambitions believing that PLO is the sole representative of all Palestinians.
4- The Coalition is part of the broader refugee movement in general, and the right of return movement in particular. It supports and aims to cooperate and coordinate with other supporters of this movement as long as this does not contradict its objectives.
5- Peace and stability in our region cannot be achieved without a just solution of the Palestinian refugee question. Such a solution must be based on all relevant international conventions, treaties and other international law that guarantee the right of return for the Palestinian refugees according to UN Resolution 194.

Based on an evaluation of its work over the past year, participants in the 4th annual meeting discussed working papers presented by delegates from various regions. The papers dealt with the Coalition’s internal organizational structure with the aim of improving its capacity to undertake its commitments, foremost of these, the defense of the right of return of the Palestinian refugees.

As a result, the Coalition approved new bylaws and established a nine-member executive: three from Palestine and one each from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the United States and Canada. This is in addition to the secretary, a position entrusted temporarily to BADIL. Four regional offices, one in Palestine, one for the Arab host countries and one each in Europe and North America will handle coordination and follow up.

The meeting also agreed on a set of recommendations on how the Coalition should function internally and relate to the political environment:

A: Internal Organization
· BADIL will act as the secretariat of the Coalition’s Executive Office and will be responsible for preparation of a Coalition brochure and logo;
· The Coalition will organize an annual summer camp for Palestinian youth in exile, as well as visits to their towns and villages of origin in Palestine;
· The regional Coordination Office-Europe is responsible for registration of the Coalition as an international non-governmental organization with the European Union; and
· The Coalition and its members will individually and collectively publish information materials to widen the return culture.

B: Political Environment
· Continue advocacy and lobbying in the international community for protection of Palestinian refugees according to international conventions, treaties and commonly applied standards;
· Call upon UNRWA donor countries to fulfill their funding obligations and commitments, especially since UNRWA embodies the moral and political responsibility of the international community for the creation of the Palestinian refugee question;
· Encourage international participation in anniversaries such as Palestinian Land Day, Nakba Day, Balfour Declaration, UN Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, UN Resolution 194, and days of remembrance of Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people.
· Raise the issue of Palestinian refugees in Iraq to the international community, in order to pressure UNHCR to carry out its proper functions and alleviate the suffering of these refugees in the new Iraqi context.
· Call on the Lebanese government to endow Palestinian refugees in Lebanon with civil rights according to standards set by international conventions and Arab League resolutions.

In conclusion, the Coalition salutes the courageous Intifada and the Palestinian people, including their leaders imprisoned by Israel, with special recognition of Hussam Khader, head of the Committee for the Defense of Refugee Rights in Palestine.

Long live the Intifada
Eternal glory for our pious martyrs
The right of return is the real road map for Palestine

Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced
Right of Return Committee-Denmark
BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights
Right of Return Committee-Sweden.
Popular Service Committees-West Bank Refugee Camps
Right of Return Committee-Netherlands
Union of Youth Activity Centers - Palestine Refugee Camps
Arab Culture Society, Poland
Committee for the Defense of Palestinian Refugee Rights, Palestine
Palestinian Community - France
Palestinian NGO Forum, Lebanon
Right of Return Committee - Germany
Aidun Group- Lebanon
Aidun Group-Syria
Al-Awda Coalition, North America
Al-Awda U.K.

4. Statement by Unions, Syndicates, National and Popular Organizations in the Gaza Strip, Concerning the Geneva Understandings

Unions, Syndicates, National and Popular Organizations in the Gaza Strip consider that the act of signing the Geneva 'Understandings' has caused serious harm to the Palestinian national consensus, especially in the shadow of Israel's brutal attacks against our Palestinian people, including assassinations, collective arrests, house demolitions, land sweeping, uprooting of trees, and the confiscation of thousands of dunums of land to build the apartheid separation wall. We affirm the following:

--Rejection of the Geneva 'Understandings', the process and its substance, in general and in detail, because of its harmful consequences to our national consensus;
--The national consensus, represented by the right of return, self-determination, and the establishment of a fully sovereign Palestinian state are not subject to interpretation, but goals that everyone must work hard at to achieve. This is the last will and testament of the Martyrs and the principles of the PLO;
--The Right of Return is sacred. No one can compromise this right. It is an individual and collective right embodied in international law (UNGA Resolution 194) which Israel pledged to implement as a condition for its acceptance as a member of the United Nations;
--Participation in the signing ceremony for the Geneva 'Understandings' or participation in any of its activities is to be considered as normalization with the Israeli occupation, which is a violation of the resolutions of the relevant unions and syndicates. All members are requested to carry out their legal obligations concerning this issue;

We support a comprehensive and just peace that is based on international law and UN resolutions. We take upon ourselves and promise to our people, the Martyrs, the injured, and our heroic prisoners to uphold the national consensus and remain faithful to our struggle until full liberation.

Union of Palestinian Contractors
Syndicate of Dentists - Palestine
Syndicate of Veterinarians
Syndicate of Supportive Engineering Professions
Syndicate of Supportive Medical Professions
League of Palestinian Journalists
Society of Palestinian Social Workers
General Union of Palestinian Teachers
Society of Palestinian Artists
Syndicate of Palestinian Physicians
General Union of Palestinian Workers Syndicate
Syndicate of Palestine Lawyers
Syndicate of Palestinian Agricultural Engineers
Society of Accountants and Legal Audits
Syndicate of Palestinian Pharmacists
Society of University Graduates
Union of Palestinian Writers
General Union of Palestinian Women
Palestinian Nursery Syndicate
Syndicate of Palestine Engineers

23 November 2003


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