Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Right of Return Statement

A few weeks ago, the Forward newspaper published an article on Dr. Asali, founder and head of the American Task Force on Palestine, ATFP

The article quoted Asali as publicly calling on the Palestinians to abandon the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their original towns and villages in historic Palestine because it is unrealizable." He then proceeded to insult young Palestinian activists and their supporters in the US.

"I understand the young [pro-Palestinian] students who scream on university campuses. I know what they are talking about. And I also know that they don't know what they are talking about.

"Dr. Asali's statements prompted a large number of Palestinian grassroots, community-based organizations and associations created and run by refugees, in Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Europe and the US to issue a statement of their own, denouncing Asali's proclamations.

Statement to the Public Regarding Ziyad al-Assali's Statements on the Right of Return for Palestinian Refugees

The Global Palestine Right of Return Coalition (and its constituent organizations in historic Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Europe and North America, including Al-Awda), and in conjunction with the Right of Return Congress and the listed signatory popular organizations and committees representing various Palestinian refugee communities, join the Arab-American community in declaring that various statements and false representations by the president of the Washington-based "American Task Force on Palestine" (ATFP) Dr. Ziad Asali nullifying the Palestinian right to return and demeaning the Palestinian and Arab people are reprehensible and entirely outside the consensus of our people.

The Right of Return is an inalienable right affirmed by the international community annually since 1948. No single person, group or government have the authority or mandate to forfeit this individual and national right.

In reality, voices such as Asali's are part of a larger concerted effort to introduce a false veneer of moderation as a replacement for the legitimate inalienable rights of the Palestinian and Arab people, represented by their right to return, sovereignty and self-determination. Through organizations like ATFP, Asali has gone even beyond the Geneva Accords, the Nusseibeh-Ayalon Agreement and other such attempts that violate fundamental, inalienable and natural rights that are enshrined in international law.

From under the garb of hollow US democratization, Asali has in effect been diligently advancing the neo-conservative plan for the "New Middle East", where nations and people are reconstituted against their will.

Of particular concern is the concerted attempt by Asali and a few others to normalize efforts leading to self-defeat and the nullification of the right to return. Asali made a statement to Forward recently that "we (Palestinians) must now separate the right from the return, " and that "there is really nothing to return to. It is Israel now". Instantly Asali became a celebrity in Zionist circles. Dr. Asali is free to forfeit his right to return to his home in Jerusalem, but he has no right to dismiss, hurt or forfeit the rights of 6 million Palestinian refugees.

Asali's position is consistent with the Bush administration's political construct and is based on the erroneous notion that Palestinian refugees will merely accept dictates from others after decades of struggle. In reality, the Palestinian people, particularly the refugee and exiled communities worldwide, are the sole makers of their destiny through their own grassroots participatory institutions and cumulative political consensus produced by decades in struggle. These institutions have collectively made it clear that the individual and collective right to return is a fundamental prerequisite for any peace, as guaranteed by international law, and will not be compromised nor offered away.

As a reflection of the Bush administration's policies against a targeted community, Asali, not unlike Fouad Ajami, by design or default, seems to have taken on the task of trying to fracture consensus and, through mockery, instill in the community a subservient value of self. Yet, as history continues to demonstrate, such a voice will always remain an intruder threatening the well-being and cohesiveness of their people and communities throughout the world. Asali does not represent the aspirations of our people or the wide base of the Arab American community despite his attempts to claim the contrary. He remains outside the overwhelming consensus and the stipulations of international law.

All such detractors of the natural and legitimate Right of Return have failed miserably in their attempts to dismantle human rights. The Palestinian people have repeatedly demonstrated for nearly 57 years that they are determined to exercise their Right of Return. In this they are supported by all people of good and free conscience. No doubt justice will prevail.

Signatories, [The following signatories represent the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian right of return movement worldwide and a great sector of the Palestinian people.]
*Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, North America
*The Global Palestine Right of Return Coalition, including: Right of Return Committee-Denmark Right of Return Committee-Sweden Right of Return Committee-Netherlands Arab Culture Society--Poland Palestinian Community - France Right of Return Committee - Germany Al-Awda, United Kingdom
*The Palestinian Right of Return Congress (Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Malaysia, Morocco, Europe, North America)
*BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights--Palestine
*European Confederation for the Right of Return (Germany, France, Denmark, Holland, Poland, Sweden, Norway, United Kingdom and Italy)
*Aidoun Group-Syria
*Aidoun Group-Lebanon
*The Higher Committee for the Defense of the Right of Return--Jordan
*Fateh Youth Movement-Province of Bethlehem--Palestine
*Families of Deportees of the Church of the Nativity-Palestine
*The Vocational Training Association-Dheisheh Refugee Camp, Palestine
*Dheisheh Philanthropic Association-Dheisheh Refugee Camp, Palestine
*Popular Committee-Al-Izza Refugee Camp, Beit Jibreen, Palestine
*Union of Women Activity Centers-West Bank refugee camps, Palestine
*Union of Youth Social Centers-Palestine
*Committee for the Defense of the Right of Return-Balata Refugee Camp, Palestine
*Yafa Cultural Center-Balata Refugee Camp, Palestine
*Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced-Shafa Amer, Palestine
*Popular Committee-Dheisheh Refugee Camp, Palestine
*Popular Service Committees (PLO) -West Bank refugee camps, Palestine
*Popular Coalition for the Defense of the Right of Return-Palestine
*Beit Awla Cultural Center-Hebron, Palestine
*Beit Awla Municipality-Hebron, Palestine, Palestine
*Fateh Movement-Beit Awla, Hebron, Palestine
*Beit Awla's Women Club-Hebron, Palestine
*Beit Jibreen Association-Adhna, Hebron, Palestine
*Association of Residents of Villages and towns Destroyed and Occupied in1948-Ramallah Province, Palestine
*Coordinating Committee for West Bank Vocational Training Associations in the West Bank-Palestine
*Gaza Popular Committees, Executive Office-Gaza Strip, Palestine
*Committee for the Defense of the Right of Return-Ramallah Province, Palestine
*Popular Committee for the Defense of the Right of Return-Nablus, Palestine
*Yazour Philanthropic Association-Nablus, Palestine
*Kafar Saba Philanthropic Association-Nablus, Palestine
*Palestinian Return Center-Nablus, Palestine
*Hawaa' Cultural Center-Nablus, Palestine
*Popular Services Committee of Dheisheh Refugee Camp -Bethlehem, Palestine
*Popular Services Committee of 'Aida Refugee Camp-Bethlehem, Palestine
*Laji' Center/Return is the Key-'Aida Refugee Camp, Bethlehem, Palestine
*The Coordination Forum of NGOs Working Among the Palestinian Community-Lebanon
*Arab Resource Center for Popular Arts/Al-Jana--Lebanon
*Association Najdeh--Lebanon
*Health Care Society--Lebanon
*KG Resource & Training Center --Lebanon
*Palestine Martyrs Works Society/Samed--Lebanon
*Association for the Development of Palestinian Camps (Ina'ash)--Lebanon
*Ghassan Kanafani Cultural Foundation--Lebanon
*Handicapped Social Association--Lebanon
*National Association for Social Medical Care & Vocational Training--Lebanon
*National Association for Vocational Training and Social Services--Lebanon
*National Foundation for Health, Social and Educational Services--Lebanon
*National Institution for Social Care & Vocational Training--Lebanon
*Palestinian Arab Women League--Lebanon
*Popular Aid for Relief and Development--Lebanon


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