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Until Return - Issue 1

September 13, 2007

Palestine, the Right to Return, and Justice
by Dr. Jess Ghannam
Al Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition

There are over 5 million Palestinian refugees scattered all over the world today. Forced from their homes and villages from 1947 through 1949, they represent the largest and oldest refugee population in the modern era. Forced expulsion of indigenous populations is not a new phenomenon and we have witnessed many recent examples, including Kosovo, Sudan, and East Timor. What is unique about the massive forced expulsion of Palestinians, however, is
that they have been denied their basic lawful and human right to return to their homes and villages. The right of displaced peoples to return to their homes of origin is guaranteed under international law and by UN resolutions. While all other refugee communities are afforded this right, Palestinian refugees have been denied this basic freedom for close to 60 years.

Consequently, Palestinian refugees languish in refugee camps and are resisting attempts to deny their dignity, self-determination, and existence. Justice in Palestine and solutions to the question of Palestine are predicated on the Right to Return of all Palestinian refugees to their original homes and villages with compensation. The central force precluding justice and self-determination for all Palestinians is the Zionist belief that Palestine should be a Jewish-only state. Clearly this is a deeply racist formulation as it seeks to privilege one group, Jews, over another group, indigenous Palestinians. The indigenous Palestinian population is denied freedom, self-determination, and the Right to Return to their homes because they are not Jewish. A Jewish-only state is de-facto racist and its existence precludes any just solution to the question of Palestine. We cannot tolerate racism in any form and must confront this specter wherever it exists.

The struggle for a Free Palestine is an anti-racist struggle that is rooted in de-colonizing Palestine from the ravages of 20th century European colonizing projects. Palestine is also at the center of the current anti-imperial struggle, a struggle that is resisting U.S. support both for Zionism, and for other client states to manage and control the Middle East.

Our goals and beliefs are clear: Palestinian refugees should be afforded their right to return to
Palestine, historic Palestine should be free of racist, apartheid-like formations, and there should be one state with one vote per person within the context of a democracy for all. Only then can we foresee a Free Palestine, self-determination for all, and a just solution to the question of Palestine.


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