What you see on your television screens from Palestine everyday and what you heard from other speakers today is not news but page after page of current history. What you saw and heard is not an unfortunate single accident not to be repeated. It is but one page of a voluminous book called the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their home in Palestine in order to build Israel on its ruins.
Never before had a foreign immigrant minority, equipped with arms, money, political clout and unwavering support of the Western colonial powers, descended upon the natural majority of people, as in Palestine, emptied the country of its people, made them homeless refugees, obliterated its physical and cultural landscape, confiscated its land and property and called their heinous crime a providential intervention and a victory for civilization.
Yet this is what happened in the Nakba of 1948 and is happening every day since then. What you see on your TV screens is this tragedy enacted every day. This is tragic and shameful to any decent person. It is also unique.
In the twentieth century, millions of people broke free from the yokes of colonialism and imperialism in Asia and Africa. The totalitarian and fascist regimes were toppled in Europe. Racism receded in America. The last vestiges of apartheid in South Africa were torn down. The occupation soldiers in many countries packed up and departed leaving the occupied people free.
Everywhere. Everywhere except in Palestine. While the world, after two ravaging world wars in Europe, started to learn the virtues of peace and justice and closed this dark chapter in its history, this chapter is opened in Palestine with vengeance.
For where else but in Palestine, the population of 774 towns and villages had been depopulated by expulsion and massacres. They comprise 87% of the Palestinians in the land of Palestine that became Israel. You can see this on the map available for distribution.
Where else but in Israel a state is built on a land where 93% does not belong to it. This is the land confiscated from the Palestinians who are refugees today.
Where else but in Israel, the land is available for the exclusive use of Jews around the world, even if they were not citizens of Israel, but denied to the Palestinians, the owners of the land, even if they were citizens of the state of Israel.
Where else but for Israel, a state admission to the UN was made conditional upon its compliance with the UN resolutions, namely Resolution-181 calling for establishing two states in Palestine: Arab and Jewish and Resolution-194 calling for the return of expelled refugees to their homes.
Here lies the crux of the matter and the substance of the conflict; expelling the people and taking over their land and homes. That was the only way the Zionists found to make the Zionist myth true: “Palestine is a land without people”.
But the international law and most people in the world are on the side of Palestinian rights. The UN affirmed the Right of Return to expelled Palestinians more than 130 times, almost annually, more than any other resolution in UN history.
We do not even need any UN resolution on that. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Article-13 calls for the return home. This was also confirmed by the European Convention on Human Rights and all other regional Conventions, the African, American and Arab.
The Right of Return for the Palestinians is affirmed also by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch and many other NGO’s. It has literally the support of most people on this planet as evidenced by the U.N. World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) in Durban, South Africa, in September 2001. In two days time, Monday 29 November is the UN Solidarity Day with the Palestinian people all over the world.
The Right of Return is an inalienable right which cannot be diminished by the passage of time, treaty, occupation or change of sovereignty.
The Right of Return is also derived from the sanctity of private ownership which should be respected regardless of any political settlement.
Only recently, in July 2004, the International Court of Justice, with complete agreement of all its member judges, except the American one, gave its verdict against the Apartheid Wall. It was not only against the wall. The judgement was a clear legal exposé of Israel’s violation of international law and affirmation of Palestinian rights. It was an extremely valuable legal documents.
One month later, the UN special rapporteur on Human Rights, Prof. John Dugard wrote a report to the UN after visiting occupied Palestine that “the apartheid regime” practised by Israel is “worse than the one that existed in South Africa”.
This is not to mention the assassinations, air raids and rocket attacks, the destruction of homes, the sieges, closures and all aspects of most brutal occupation. My colleagues in this seminar have already told you more about the life under Israeli occupation, the longest and only occupation in the world today.
How could Israel get away with all this? The answer is clear. The United States cast more vetoes in the UN in favour of Israel than in any other case. US grants annually over $5.00 billion to Israel–that is the declared part. The congress is more extremist than the Knesset in passing laws against the Palestinians. As for Bush, I need only quote Robert Fisk, who said that Ariel Sharon is George Bush’s speech writer.
Palestinians who were dispossessed of their homes and land are still dispossessed today. They represent the largest, biggest and most important refugee problem in the world today.
The refugees returned to their homes in accordance with international law and through the enforcement of the western powers in Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, Rwanda, Abkhazia, Guatemala, Cyprus and South Africa. Every where except in Palestine.
Why not? Because the US–an Israeli occupied territory–is against it.
The European Union is generous with aid money, clever in the choice of suitable words on Israeli crimes in Palestine, but it is unfortunately hypocritical. Publicly it stands for international law, actually it yields to and applies the US foreign policy.
There is not a single legal or legitimate reason why Palestinians cannot return home.
European politicians tell us: ‘Yes, you have an absolute right to return home. But this will change the character of Israel’. I am amazed that any one would use this argument. Every racist regime can use it. De Klerk could have said: ‘We cannot dismantle apartheid. This will change the character of South Africa’. So this is a false contention.
But let us for a moment ask: What is the meaning of the Jewish character of Israel?
- Is it religious? We have no problem with that. The Jews lived in Arab and Islamic countries in peace for centuries. Is it social? Who could say that Israel is a homogenous society where people immigrated from 110 countries and speak 82 languages. Who could say Palestinians are the odd party?
- Is it demographic? The Jews in Israel will never be a majority in Palestine in the long run. If they insist on remaining a majority, they will have to exterminate the Palestinians. Do we give them a licence for that?
- Is it legal? Yes, it is. Its laws are based on decidedly discriminatory and racist laws condemned regularly by the UN Committee for Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the UN Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
Would any decent person support such laws?
Where do we go from here? We cannot continue to weep. We must take action.
First we take a leaf from the Palestinians’ book. For 56 years, the Palestinians suffered through seven wars, hundreds of raids, assassinations, destruction, oppression, occupation and exile. Not once they surrendered. Not once they gave up. They were and are determined to hold on to their inalienable rights as long as it takes. We must learn from this lesson, support it and make it our ideal: Never forfeit your human rights.
Second, the voice of the people around the world is now gaining more importance. Thanks to the internet and satellite communications, the people of the world continue to unite in defending our world against injustice, racism, apartheid and warmongering in pursuit of new imperialism. In the nineties’ decade, the NGO’s increased from 2,000 to 6,000 according to UN records. They acted as parallel, genuine and free-world parliaments.
This is where we, all of us, can make a difference. This is where you, in Europe, can make a big difference.
European politicians made the Palestinians pay twice for their misdeeds. Once when they approved Balfour Declaration, the false promissory note, where those who did not own a country gave it to those who are not entitled to it behind the back of those who own it and lived on it for centuries. Another time, after the Nazi horrors in WWII in Europe, when they helped to build Israel in another place, on the ruins of Palestine.
Europe must remedy this double-tier injustice inflicted upon the innocent Palestinians in a faraway land. Asia, Africa and most people in Europe are behind the Palestinians’ rights. America remains Israeli-occupied territory.
But a great opportunity is open for us. We must hammer away at European politicians and convince them to come out in the open and declare themselves, deed before word, that they stand in favour of international law in Palestine. No more hypocrisy. No more clandestine operations in support of Israel’s war machinery, such as building submarines for Israel, equipping its tanks and feeding its development of Weapons of Mass Destruction with scientists and know-how. No more black-out on Israeli war crimes. No more intellectual terror by branding any criticism of Israeli policies as anti-semitism.
Palestinians do not seek anything that belongs to other people. Palestinians seek what is theirs: their land, their homes, their freedom; a basic and natural human right.
They did not cross seas to Poland and Russia to occupy and kill; others did.
They did not violate every article in international law; others did.
They did not amass the largest depot of WMD from Paris to China; others did.
They did not build an institution of racist and apartheid laws in their system of government, the only one in the world today; others did.
They did not conspire with the US to implement new imperialist plans; others did.
Palestinians want their homes, land and freedom.
They simply want justice. It is the duty of every decent man to help them.
For there can be no peace in the world, for any one, without justice applied equally and to all human beings.