No right to return?

THE main problem facing Israel is its demand the world accept its racial discrimination against the Palestinian people, and on the other hand that the Palestinians, like any other people, are not going to relinquish their legitimate rights and accept racial discrimination against them, no matter how long it takes nor how great the sacrifice.

By Ali Kazak

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Published: Sun 5 Dec 2004, 11:16 AM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 1:55 AM

I was born in Haifa, Palestine, in 1947 and was a few months old when the Jewish underground terrorist groups — the Haganah, Irgun and the Stern Gang, launched Plan Dalet on 1 April 1948 aiming to occupy as much as possible of Palestine and ethnically-cleanse as many Palestinians as possible in order to turn the non-Jewish majority into a minority and the Jewish minority into a majority. Tens of massacres were committed, including the infamous Deir Yassin massacre, resulting in the ethnic cleansing of over 70 percent of the Palestinian Christians and Muslims and the occupation of 78 percent of Palestine on which they declared the establishment of Israel on 14 May 1948.

At the time, I was with my mother in Damascus visiting my dying grandfather. My father had remained in Haifa and was among the 30 percent of the Palestinians who were not ethnically cleansed, and became second-class Israeli citizens.

Following numerous futile attempts by my parents to reunite through the International Red Cross, and Israel’s refusal, my mother, at great risk, crossed the border at night thinking that when she is back home with her husband, she could not be legally deported. Following the Israelis discovery of her return, she was arrested the next morning, thrown in prison for 47 days and then thrown at the border and asked to leave and never return.

In 1948 the UN passed resolution 194 which called for those ‘refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours to 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.’ Israel refused, and continues to refuse until today, to allow the Palestinian refugees to return to their country just because they are not Jews while under its racist Law of Return it accepts any Jew from anywhere in the world to immigrate to Israel and be granted citizenship on arrival. Even converts to Judaism such as Elizabeth Taylor can immigrate to my country and enjoy citizenship, yet I am denied my right to do so because I am not a Jew. If this is not racial discrimination in its ugliest form, then the word has lost its meaning.

During my meeting along with an Australian parliamentary delegation with Israel’s opposition leader, Shimon Peres, I pointed out the importance of resolving the central point of the conflict, the right of the refugees to return and be paid compensation for a just peace to be achieved. Peres became very emotional and worked up and said that this is ‘suicide’ for Israel, meaning that Muslim and Christian Israelis may become a majority, and ‘Israel will not commit suicide’.

To this I responded "You, Mr Peres, came to our country uninvited from Poland. I was born in Haifa. It is neither logical nor acceptable for you to come here and deny me my right to live in my country and refuse to live with me on an equal footing on the pretext that this would be suicide! You don’t need to commit suicide."

Jews cannot deny others what they demand for themselves. If Jews have any account to settle because of the Holocaust, they should settle it with the Germans and not the Palestinians. Instituting another racism cannot defeat Anti-Semitism. It will have to be fought against in total as is now the case.

If Jews demanded to have special rights and sovereignty, let’s say in Melbourne, Sydney or New York, surely this would be utterly rejected no matter what the excuse. Similarly, if a city council refused the right of Jews to live in their district, Jews, would be outraged and the first to object. Both of these examples are practised by Israel today against Palestinians.

It is not acceptable for one law to be applied to the whole world and another to Israel. Nor is it acceptable for Israel to continue to be treated above international law, especially by the countries like the US and Australia that claim to value the respect of international law, UN resolutions, democracy and human rights.

The Israeli lobby often repeats the lie that the Palestinians and Arabs never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. The fact is it is the Palestinians, and not Israel, who have put forward the peace proposals starting in 1968 from the creation of one democratic state for all, Jews, Christians and Muslims, to the acceptance of the two-state solution in 1988, which was sealed in the Oslo accords signed on the lawns of the White House in 1993. The Palestinians then made their historic, huge and generous compromise for the sake of peace by compromising 78 percent of their country and accepting to establish a state on the remaining 22 percent of their homeland, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, occupied by Israel in 1967, with a just solution to the refugee question in accordance with UN resolution 194.

On the other hand, Israel continues to demand that Palestinians make more compromises even as it builds ‘facts on the ground’ (as Bush would put it) such as more Jewish colonies and now the Apartheid Wall deep inside the occupied West Bank.

Israel should stop delaying justice, losing opportunities, wasting time and lives, and prolonging the misery and suffering. They have to recognise the fact that 10 million Palestinians are there to stay. Five wars have failed to force the Palestinians and Arabs to surrender. Israel cannot have peace and security while denying the Palestinians their inalienable rights including their right to live in their own country without discrimination, in peace and security.

Equality, democracy and co-existence, whether in one bi-national and multi-religious state or two states, living side by side, are the answer. The sooner the better for everyone.

Ali Kazak is head of the General Palestinian Delegation to Australia & New Zealand, and Palestinian ambassador to East Timor and Vanuatu

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