Many often express solidarity with Palestinians speaking only about ending the occupation that started in 1967, ignoring the root of the problem: the ethnic cleansing of 78% of historic Palestine in 1948. The occupation in 1967 was simply a completion of the plan.
Palestinian refugees (5.3 million) along with the internally displaced Palestinians, citizens of Israel who are not allowed to go back to their villages (250, 000), compose about half of the Palestinian nation (11.6 million). Does it make sense to be in solidarity with a nation by ignoring rights of half of them?
In discussing the Right of Return, which stands at the core of the Palestinian struggle for liberation, many often argue that the return is not a “realistic” option; there is no room for everyone.
In the early 1990s, the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency brought more than a million Jewish (and Christian) Russian immigrants, who have never been to Palestine and many of whom did not even have Jewish ties. The Jewish Agency’s main global goal until today is to recruit Jewish immigrants to be used as a “demographic” weapon. So apparently there is always room for Jews, but not to the displaced natives.
Many of the Palestinian villages that were uprooted by the Zionist militias are still empty. Israeli authorities have planted pine trees to cover up sights of their crimes and hide the history of the place. Organizations such as the Association for the Rights of the Internally Displaced and Zochrot are working with groups who are envisioning and planning the implementation of the Return.
The return is nothing but possible.
Some argue the Right of Return will put an end to a Jewish state. Those who use this argument, especially supporters of Zionism and the colonialist nature of Israel, often mix between the Jewish state and the Jewish people. They want people to believe that opposition to a Jewish state means destruction of Jews. This is not what Palestinians advocate.
Palestinians are tired of being asked to calm down the colonizers’ “fears”. It is the duty of Israelis to revolt against the manipulation of their government that is reproducing fear among their people in order to keep controlling their lives in a manner that serves their Zionist-colonialist agenda. If they seek real “peace”, it is their duty to prove their willing to give up their colonialist privileges. Palestinians have known Jewish and Arab joint living before 1948, a possibility that can be returned to when justice is guaranteed.
Some also claim that Palestinian leadership has given up the right of return by accepting the term of “just and agreed upon” solution to the refugee issue. This formula was also accepted by the Arab Initiative. This basically means that they granted Israel the right to veto the natural right of people to go back to their home. A leadership that more than half of the Palestinian people have not voted for yet is making historical and life-changing decisions in their name. The Palestinian Authority, which hijacked the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), does not represent Palestinians living in 1948 and refugees, both of whom compose about 60% of the Palestinian people. Let alone that Fatah and Hamas’s terms in West Bank and Gaza was ended long time ago, so neither of them can claim representing Palestinians in Occupied Territories since 1967. The National Palestinian Council (PNC) held its last meeting in 1996. Its members are appointed and are not democratically and directly elected by the 11.6 Palestinians, therefore it doesn’t represent them and its decisions do not reflect their will.
Furthermore, the absurdity here is that the same Arab countries that supported the Arab Initiative that gave up on the Right of Return are discriminating against the Palestinian refugees living in their borders and denying them dignity and equal rights in the name of protecting their Right of Return!
The Right of Return is, first and foremost, a natural right. Every person who was expelled or escaped from her/his home should be allowed back. Furthermore, it is guaranteed by international laws, UN resolution 194 and Human Rights Conventions. In addition, no one can decide in the name of a single refugee (or as a collective). It is a choice they have to make on their own regarding their desires to return, or not.
The right of Return is at the core of the Palestinian struggle for liberation. The Nakba (The Palestinian catastrophe in 1948) is what unifies Palestinians; this is where injustice and colonization of Palestine began, not in 1967. The issue of return is a collective issue; the dream of return is present in every Palestinian. This is something no one can take away.
The meaning of liberation of Palestine is not a narrow one of ending a military regime in the West Bank and the military siege on Gaza. It is a broader one that includes decolonizing Palestine, and implementing the return. Supporting justice in Palestine would mean understanding that without return, Palestine won’t be free.