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Thursday, April 28, 2005


Right of Return Must Not Be Compromised

Annie Annab's response to Ray Hanania's editorial repudiating Al-Awda, an organization that insists that Palestinians must be afforded what is codified in international law, the Right of Return.

RE: Palestinians must accept reality of the 'right of return'

Dear Editor,

Ray Hanania is supposed to be a comedian- but I do not find the idea of encouraging ethnic cleansing & genocide very funny at all.

Is Hanania even aware that Israel's Knesset has already openly discussed transfer of Arab Israelis, as in removing the remaining Palestinians from their homes and land inside Israel proper - for the "good" of the state of course, and "transferring" them out.

Transfer is not return. Transfer is ethnic cleansing.

Hanania is advocating what can only be called a prison camp- not a viable state- for the non-Jewish population of Israel, encouraging Israel to escalate an ethnic cleansing already started with Israel's racist refusal to respect U.N Resolution 194 from 1948, the Palestinian refugees inalienable right of return.

Israeli racism dictates that non-Jews are to be feared and hated. Imagine if instead of abolishing our own racist Jim Crow laws we had expanded them, limiting real freedom, justice and democracy to only whites.

Will Jews-only Israel stop with this? Will this insane "compromise" bring peace ? I sincerely doubt it. Once rid of all remaining Arab voices and votes, Israel will have only it most racist self to listen to... Israel will be completely free to continue demonizing Arabs and Muslims and looking for ways to make life miserable for vulnerable non-Jewish men, women and children so that mighty Israel can accuse them of being terrorists and then drop more 1 ton bombs on Palestinian apartment buildings- killing sleeping babies.

Anne Selden Annab



Palestinians must accept reality of the 'right of return'

By Ray Hanania | Special to the Sentinel
Posted April 27, 2005

In Arabic, the term "Al-Awda" means "the return," and it symbolizes the dreams and hopes of millions of Christian and Muslim Palestinians forced into exile as refugees by Israel in 1948.

It's the essence of the Palestine-Israel conflict.

In order to create a Jewish state, Jews had to increase their population through immigration. When the notion of a Jewish homeland was embraced in 1917, there were about 85,000 Jews and 650,000 Christian and Muslim Palestinians. That changed 30 years later to 614,000 Jews and 1.4 million Palestinians.

They were still short of what they needed. The United Nations proposed a partition plan to create a "Jewish state" and an "Arab state." But the "Jewish state" had as many non-Jews as Jews. The proposed "Arab state" was overwhelmingly non-Jewish.

Israel was faced with a harsh reality. It had to forcibly expel the non-Jews. The 1947 war sent more than 700,000 Palestinians into exile. Israel also occupied half of the "Arab state," leaving Arabs with the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, about 22 percent of the original land.

That population change has stymied all progress toward peace.

To remain a Jewish state, Israel cannot take the refugees back. Yet how do you reconcile refugee rights, which are supported by clear and irrefutable international laws?

It is such a difficult issue that Palestinian President Yasser Arafat could not accept Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's plan because it brushed off refugee rights and failed to provide a real sharing of Jerusalem.

For years, Palestinian refugees have been fed endless empty promises from the Arab countries that they will someday return. It's the main reason most have lived and died in refugee camps rather than relocate and assimilate into the Arab world.

The problem has also created a powerful movement called Al-Awda, which is run by uncompromising ideologues and extremists who use the right of return as a political bludgeon to prevent Palestinian moderates from compromise with Israel.

The newly formed American Task Force on Palestine, an advocacy group based in the nation's capital, became one of the first Palestinian organizations to publicly define a moderate approach, writing:

"Implementation of the right of return cannot obviate the logic of a resolution based on two states. The challenge for the Israeli and Palestinian national leaderships is to arrive at a formula that recognizes refugee rights but which does not contradict the basis of a two-state solution and an end to the conflict."

The ATFP was immediately denounced as "traitors" by the Al-Awda movement, even though compromising on the right of return is fundamental to achieving a two-state solution. The Palestinian refugees have a legal and moral right to return to their lands. But the reality of the world today is not the reality of 1947, when the conflict forced the refugees into camps.

More than a half-century later, Palestinians have no choice but to accept a compromise, which Israel has yet to embrace. That compromise must include compensation and, more important, Israel's acknowledgment of its role in causing their plight.

Surveys show that despite the uncompromising Al-Awda movement, most refugees do not expect to return to their original homes or lands. So what's the real problem?

The Al-Awda movement's rejection of compromise is based on generations of suffering that are easy to exploit. But it is the height of irresponsibility for any Arab group to tell the refugees that they should sit tight because one day they will return to the hills and valleys of 1947 Palestine.

It is never going to happen.

The Al-Awda activists, who rallied this past week at the University of California in Los Angeles, insist no one has a right to negotiate away the right of return.

That is not true. In fact, when a people turn to democracy and elect a government, as Palestinians have done twice, the government has a greater right to act above the individual interest and preserve the more important national interest.

The refugees deserve the truth, not more lies. Some may be able to return as a part of a negotiated deal with Israel. The rest will live in a smaller Palestine, compensated by their memories.

To save Palestine, the bulk of the refugees must accept that reality. A negotiated Palestine state will be their final homeland.

Organizations like Al-Awda are well intentioned but are doing a great national disservice to Palestinians by insisting on the "legal right of return" while irresponsibly ignoring the reality of the return.

Ray Hanania is an author and former national President of the Palestinian American Congress. He is managing editor of TheArabStreet.com. He can be reached at RayHanania@aol.com.

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