Palestinians Commemorate 59th Anniversary of Al Nakba

May 14, 2007 – By MIFTAH

Like each year since 1948, on May 15, Palestinians everywhere commemorate the Catastrophe, or Al Nakba, which marked the expulsion and dispossession of over 800,000 Palestinians from their homes and thus created the largest and most longstanding refugee problem in modern history.

Today, an estimated 7-8 million Palestinians are either refugees or their descendents, living in scattered locations throughout the world, primarily in sprawling refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

During the exodus of 1948, refugees were forced out or fled their homes with little more than the clothes on their backs, their children at their sides and a few personal belongings flung across their shoulders. Following Zionist perpetrated massacres in Palestinian villages and towns and fierce fighting throughout Palestine, it has been documented that 85 percent of the Palestinian population in the area that is now Israel became refugees (Badil). They believed they would be able to return to their homes in a matter of days – weeks at most, something which obviously never happened. Today, many of the first-generation refugees who remain still hold fast to the keys to their homes as a symbol of their determination to return.

The Palestinian refugee right of return is a right enshrined in international law, which has yet to be implemented, unlike other resolutions on refugees in other parts of the world. UN Resolution 194 issued in December, 1948 stipulates, “…that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.”

Following the 1967 War, another 400,000 Palestinians were displaced, approximately half for the second time. Security Council Resolution 237 issued on June 4 of that year called on the government of Israel “to facilitate the return of those inhabitants [of the areas where military operations have taken place] who have fled the areas since the outbreak of hostilities.”

In addition, approximately 30,000-40,000 Palestinians were internally displaced inside Israel during the 1948 War and were not allowed to return to their original homes or villages, many of which were destroyed and replaced with new Jewish immigrants.

Today, the Palestinian refugee issue remains one of the thorniest points of contention between the Palestinian leadership and Israel. While the Palestinians maintain that the refugee right of return is an inalienable right that cannot be canceled no matter how many years transpire, Israel rejects the principle of return given its demographic ramifications on the Jewish state.

While the Palestinian leadership continues to insist that the refugees have the right to return to their homes and receive compensation for the losses they incurred during their expulsion, Israel is not only refusing this claim but is creating new facts on the ground that will guarantee that no large number of refugees will ever return. This includes its ever-expanding settlement policy, the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank and its refusal to reach any final settlement on the creation of a Palestinian state.


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