In the fall of 1998, I was having coffee with colleagues in Birzeit’s international conference on “Palestine Landscape” when a young woman and a young man approached me and introduced themselves and their organization.

I knew about their organization at least one year earlier and appreciated how excellent their program (Article-74) and their work was. I may even have sent them some articles and publications.

Thus started a 10-year relationship (and more to come, I hope) with Badil and Ingrid Jaradat Gassner and Terry Rempel, now very well-known to hundreds probably thousands of Al-Awda advocates around the world.

Badil distinguished itself with three areas of excellence, rarely to be combined:

  1. Research papers which are highly professional and credible, frequently quoted as a solid reference.
  2. International connections, particularly European, which made Badil a welcome and familiar participant/partner in many European fora. This naturally resulted in strong material and non-material support for Badil’s activities.
  3. Local contact with refugees in West Bank camps, the natural beneficiaries of Badil’s work. This is not surprising since practically all Badil’s board members are bona fide refugees. Thus Badil played a part in the education of the refugees about their rights and in conveying their voice to the outside world. This was done not only through publications which now culminated in publishing Haq Al Awda in Arabic in a special edition of 50,000 copies. Badil also held seminars, conferences, meetings and arranged for children to visit their villages of origin.

    But what caught my admiration particularly was Badil’s formation of LSN, a group of legal experts and advocates on legal matters from many nationalities to discuss, evaluate and activate human rights violations on a legal platform. This group did and can do a lot more if more means are available to them.

    This field of activity is open wide to a myriad of issues such as war crimes, crimes against humanity, the Apartheid Wall, forcible land acquisition, strangulation and siege, BDS, ethnic cleansing and many more.

    This activity is a “peaceful” one, in today’s parlance, although every activity to remove injustice and to defend oneself is valid and legitimate. It can be pursued in any country and it meets overwhelming approval of human rights groups and people of good conscience around the world.

    This excellent work by Badil is done by relatively small staff and even smaller research staff. Imagine how much work could be done if this is enlarged.

    I know that Badil is doing its best to recruit more, ‘homegrown’ Palestinian refugees and to engage them to speak about their rights. The factual and legal arguments are absolutely necessary and useful. But who can argue, other than a racist, against a man or woman who says “I want to return to MY home, MY land and MY village”. The human dimension has a powerful impact.

    The Right of Return Movement has acquired a great momentum in the last 15 years since Oslo. Now there are hundreds of committees, groups and centres. No body in politics, whether Palestinian or not, can ignore this movement. Although there is cooperation and coordination between these ‘hundreds’ of committees, they should have a common governing umbrella for better results. This umbrella has the unique advantage that its main reference and frame work is the Right of Return, for which there is no dispute.

    This area and many others mentioned above open the field for Badil (and indeed many other RoR groups) for much work in the next years. They all should find in Badil’s performance an act to follow.