At the heart of the Palestinian cause are the Palestinian refugees.
Solving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in all its aspects and
achieving a comprehensive peace settlement in the Middle East means
that, among other issues, the problem of the Palestinian refugees
should be addressed and solved. A fail¬ure to achieve a
satisfactory solution to this problem will continue to
threat¬en the prospects for a durable peace, stability and
security in the region.
Physical force, psychological intimidation, terror and legitimate
fear for one's own safety were behind the expulsion or exodus of
Palestinian refugees from their own homeland, Palestine, in 1948.
Even some of those who refused to leave and remained in their homes
at the risk of their lives eventually became refugees in their own
country. They had to leave their villages, emptied of their
citizens, as the Israeli army gath¬ered them and moved them
forcibly to one village. The lands and prop¬erties they left
behind came under state supervision and were declared absentee
The war of 1967 added new categories of refugees to those of 1948.
These include the Palestinians who again fled for their safety
hoping to be able to return once the bombing and shooting stopped;
those who were caught outside the country when the war broke out;
those whom Israel expelled on grounds of incitement against the
Occupation, and those who were barred from returning because their
Israeli travel documents expired before they had the chance to
renew them. All of these have hoped and expect to be able to return
home one day.
It is universally accepted that a civilian population is not
expected to stay on the battlefield, but has the right to return
once cannons calm down. The 1948 refugees, however, realize that
the current peace process will not allow all of them to return to
their homes and lands inside Israel. They know the limitation of
this process. It is for this very reason that some of them are
reluctant to support it. Others would accept a return to national
dignity and statehood barring an actual return to a specific
geo¬graphic location. But no refugee will be ready to forget
the private prop¬erty left behind. If no actual return to
homes and lands is possible, no one has the right or the authority
to give up these homes and lands on their behalf.
The different categories of 1967 refugees, on the other hand,
cannot understand why they are prevented from returning to their
homes and lands in the West Bank and Gaza. If - with a modicum of
understanding - the return of the 1948 refugees to their homes
inside Israel can be con¬sidered a threat to the Jewish
majority and demographic balance in Israel, no one can comprehend
why Israel opposes the return of the 1967 refugees or displaced
persons to their homes in the West Bank or Gaza, which has no
bearing on the demographic balance inside Israel.
If the nascent Palestinian state or entity cannot provide a
national shelter and refuge to Palestinians persecuted in Libya,
Lebanon and elsewhere, what purpose or meaning would the
establishment of such a state or entity serve?
An injustice has been committed against the Palestinian
Absolute justice cannot be achieved. Two peoples dispute the same
piece of land; both have the right to live in peace and dignity.
Deep emotions are involved. An honest and open discussion of this
very sensitive issue will help diffuse tension, create mutual
understanding and explore possibilities for achieving justice,
albeit a relative one, based on mutual recognition, mutual respect