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Qatar Hosts Israeli-Palestinian Debate

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    Bassem Eid, Dr Yossi Belin, Tim Sebastian, Ali Abunimah and Dr Ilan Pappe at the Doha Debates yesterday. (Salim Matramkot) Should the Palestinians give up
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 5, 2007
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      Bassem Eid, Dr Yossi Belin, Tim Sebastian, Ali Abunimah and Dr Ilan
      Pappe at the Doha Debates yesterday. (Salim Matramkot) Should the
      Palestinians give up their right to return to their homeland after
      decades of misery and sufferings in refugee camps across the world?

      Doha Debates backs Palestinian refugees' right to return
      The Peninsula

      A huge majority of the participants at Qatar Foundation's Doha Debates
      yesterday rejected the idea when they overwhelmingly defeated the
      motion that suggested Palestinians should give up their full right to
      return. Only 18.4 per cent of the participants voted for the motion.

      The debate was marked with the presence of two prominent Jewish
      personalities from Israel, opposing each other. Equally interesting
      was the presence of two Palestinians facing each other on the two
      sides of the panel.

      Speaking for the motion were Bassem Eid, founder and director of the
      Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group and Yossi Belin, currently a
      member of the Israeli Knesset and Chairman of the Meretz, Yachad
      Party. He has been a leading proponent of the peace process with
      Israel's neighbours and especially the Palestinians.

      Dr Ilan Pappe, a noted Jewish author and historian and senior lecturer
      of political science at the Haifa University spoke against the motion.
      He was joined by Ali Abunimah, son of a Palestinian refugee and
      co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, an Internet gateway about
      Palestine and the Palestine-Israel conflict. Tim Sebastian was the
      moderator of the Debates.

      Bassem opened the discussion by arguing that the Palestinians living
      in miserable situations in refugee camps are fed up with their 60
      years long suffering.

      They can no more pin their hopes on the corrupt and inefficient
      Palestinian political leadership and the only option left for them is
      to comprise their right of return to Palestine to get a decent living

      'Having spent 40 years in a refugee camp I have lost all hope and
      energy to fight. If any Palestinian still maintain that spirit, he is
      most welcome to continue fighting," said Bassem.

      His views, however, found only a few supporters among the audience,
      which included several Palestinian students, who are children of
      refugees. One student participant at the question-answer session went
      to the extend of questioning his right to call himself a human rights
      activist. "What role model you are presenting to the younger
      generation of Palestinians?," he asked Bassem.

      The view that dominated the debates was that strongly upheld by the
      panellists who opposed the motion. Right of return to the homeland is
      a fundamental right of any human being which has to be protected at
      any cost.

      It is unacceptable to say that Palestinians should give up this right
      to gain few concessions from Israel, pointed out Pappe. Abu Nimah said
      during his visits to the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and
      Jordan, he found that despite their sufferings, majority of the
      refugees are still longing to go back to Palestine.

      Both the speakers called for a solution to the Palestinian issue in
      the same way the Apartheid system in South Africa was tackled. The
      racist system in South Africa prolonged for about 300 years but now
      the Blacks and the Whites live in harmony in the country."The same
      could happen in Palestine, if there is international pressure on
      Israel to change its racist policies," said Pappe.

      Both the panelists proposed a one-state solution to the Palestinian
      issue, where Jews, Muslims and Christians can live in harmony under a
      joint government.

      Yossi Bellin said on the practical front, majority of the Jews in
      Israel will never accept the full return of the Palestinian refugees,
      which is sure to change the demographic pattern of the Israeli society.

      Israel can allow a limited return of the refugees and provide a
      compensation for those who agree to give up their claim for return. No
      peace process is going to succeed without a permanent solution to the
      refugee issue, he added.



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