Palestinian refugees long for homeland

Ahmad Jizawi, a Palestinian refugee forced out of his village by Israelis in 1948, is determined not to abandon his homeland.

    There are more than six million Palestinian refugees

    Jizawi, nicknamed Abu Firas,

    unveiled a key for his lost house and said: "We will never give up our homeland regardless of understandings, accords and initiatives."

    He was reacting to the Geneva document, which was recently signed in Switzerland by Palestinian and Israeli politicians and intellectuals.

    He talked to at his modest house at the refugee camp of Baqaa, about 10km north of the capital, Amman.
    "They want to kill our dream that we have lived with for 55 years. But we tell them all their money and wealth will not sway us to dispense with our homeland, Palestine," Jizawi, 72, said.
    "This key will pass from generation to generation of my family until the Almighty decides the time when we return to our village of Beit Jibrine."

    Anti-accord rally
    Non-government bodies in Jizawi's camp had decided to arrange a rally to express "total rejection" of the Geneva pact, according to camp activist Nimr Abu Ghunaim.
    "We are going to condemn the defeatist document, reject any substitutes for our homeland and declare our determination to return to the land, where our fathers and ancestors lived for ages," said the teacher who worked at a camp school run by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
    He echoed Jizawi's rejection of the Geneva plan and warned against "serious repercussions" over the initiative. 

    Yossi Beilin (L) and Yasir Abd
    Rabbu penned the Geneva pact 

    "It is true we are experiencing very harsh living conditions at the camp, but nevertheless, we are not prepared to accept the annulment of our identity. The right of return is a sacred right that we stick to," he said.
    The Geneva plan envisages settling Palestinians mainly in a demilitarised Palestinian state to be set up in the West Bank and the Gaza strip.

    However, the blueprint also allows a trade-off of land between the two sides and the inclusion of key Jewish settlements in the Israeli state.

    Palestinian refugees can also be settled in countries where they currently live, in other states or in Israel, "but the number to be settled in Israel will be subject to the Israeli political thinking".

    The plan also entitles Palestinian refugees who do not return to their homes to receive compensation.
    Representatives of Palestinian refugees in Jordan dubbed the Geneva Initiative as "a sell-out" that ran counter to the Palestinian people's interests.
    "Certainly there is consensus among Palestinians in Jordan to reject this document, which is widely considered here as a sell-out to the Jews," said Ahmad Yusuf, head of the Committee for Defence of Palestinians' Right of Return.

    "They want to kill our dream that we have lived with for 55 years. But we tell them all their money and wealth will not sway us to dispense with our homeland, Palestine"

    Ahmad Jizawi,
    Palestinian refugee

    "The accord clearly dashes the right of return as enshrined in the UN General Assembly resolution 194, and allows Israel discretion in accepting a symbolic number of Palestinian refugees."
    UN resolution 194, passed in 1948, upholds the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and provides for compensating those who opt not to go back.

    Surrender to Israel
    "All refugees reject this accord because it is tantamount to ending the Arab-Israeli conflict according to Israel's terms, and considers any subsequent claims under the relevant UN resolutions as illegal," Yusuf said.
    He put the number of Palestinians in the world at 9.25 million, including 6.25 million registered as refugees at UNRWA.
    He said 1.7 million of them lived in Jordan in 15 camps and formed 33% of the country's population.
    Abu Ghunaim and Yusuf reported plans to arrange a series of rallies throughout Jordan to express rejection of the Geneva document.
    Official backing

    The UN has provided support for
    efforts on the Geneva plan

    The Jordanian government has supported the Geneva plan, but asserted its adherence to the refugees' right of return as provided for in resolution 194.


    "Jordan backs all efforts aimed at helping the Palestinian people to regain their rights and establish Middle East peace," Minister of State and government spokesperson Asma Khadir said.


    "But, we will continue to stick to relevant UN resolutions that back the Palestinians' right of return," she added.

    Khadir did not elaborate, but a Jordanian official, who asked for anonymity, explained what could be perceived as a dual stand by saying "the government welcomed the general reconciliatory trend of the Geneva document, but retained the right to express reservations on specific points at the opportune time".

    However, the country's Islamic-led opposition and trade unions seemed at loggerheads with the government on this issue.

    "No party has the authority to waive Palestinians' right to their homeland, and anyone who signs off a grain of Palestinian sand to the Jews and usurpers is an enemy of the Almighty and Prophet Muhammad, and is damned in this life and hereafter," the Muslim Brotherhood Movement said.
    The influential movement demanded that those who authored and signed the document should "be tried in public", and called on all Arabs to join in condemning the initiative.

    "The accord clearly dashes the right of return as enshrined in the UN General Assembly resolution 194, and allows Israel discretion in accepting a symbolic number of Palestinian refugees"

    Ahmad Yusuf,
    Committee for Defence of Palestinians' Right of Return.

    Criticism of the Geneva Accord in Jordan has also focused on sharing sovereignty with Israel over occupied Arab East Jerusalem, and accepting Israel's right to annex a number of Jewish settlements.
    "The Geneva document plays havoc with international legitimacy and turns Palestinian rights supported by UN resolutions into a negotiable issue," said Said Diab, Secretary General of the opposition Public Unity Party.
    "It also talks about a non-sovereign Palestinian state, gives up the right of return and compromises on Palestinian rights in Jerusalem."

    Israel-Jordan pact
    The pact also drew sharp reaction from Jordan's 14 trade unions and professional associations, which declared their "total rejection of all treaties that compromise Palestinians right of return".

    "Any attempt at settlement of Palestinian refugees outside their homeland or compensating them is unacceptable," they said.
    They also called on all Arab countries "to scrap any peace treaties they have concluded with Israel and reject all deals that seek to liquidate the Palestinian cause".

    Jordanian trade unions said they had launched a signature collection campaign, expressing Jordan's rejection of the Geneva initiative, and decided to organise a public event for that purpose.
    Jordan and Egypt are the only Arab countries that have so far concluded formal peace pacts with Israel.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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