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A generous offer to the Palestinian refugees?

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    A generous offer to the Palestinian refugees? Neta Golan, IMEU Dec 5, 2007 http://imeu.net/news/article007223.shtml Anyone familiar with Israeli politics was
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 7, 2007
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      A generous offer to the Palestinian refugees?
      Neta Golan, IMEU
      Dec 5, 2007

      Anyone familiar with Israeli politics was not surprised that Israeli
      Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not acknowledge Israel's occupation in
      his speech at Annapolis. What was surprising was that short of
      mentioning the "R" word- refugees, Olmert acknowledged the Palestinian
      refugee problem.

      Referring to the Palestinians, the Israeli Prime Minister stated in
      his Annapolis speech: "your people, too, have suffered for many years;
      and there are some who still suffer. Many Palestinians have been
      living for decades in camps, disconnected from the environment in
      which they grew up, wallowing in poverty, in neglect, alienation,
      bitterness, and a deep, unrelenting sense of humiliation." Olmert's
      characterization of the refugees is only partially correct. Poverty,
      neglect, alienation, bitterness and feelings of humiliation, are only
      one component of the refugee experience. There are also other
      components, such as community, pride, generosity, and perseverance.
      This one-dimensional characterization obviously suits Olmert's
      conception of a solution. It also casts refugees as objects that will
      be acted upon (once again), rather than subjects who can genuinely
      participate in finding a solution. A recent article in the Israeli
      newspaper Ha'aretz Daily titled "Refugees and Jerusalem : A question
      of money" sheds light on Olmert's statements. The article revealed the
      outlines of the deal being cooked to sell the rights of the
      Palestinian refugees.

      In addition to oral testimonies given both by Palestinian refugees and
      Jewish combatants, many official documents describe policies and
      actions taken by Jewish militias which were designed to expel
      Palestinians from what has become the state Israel. According to
      Israeli Historian Benny Morris "In the months of April-May 1948, units
      of the Haganah [the pre-state defense force that was to become the
      IDF] were given operational orders that stated explicitly that they
      were to uproot the villagers, expel them and destroy the villages
      themselves." Yet Olmert presented the refugee issue as a humanitarian
      problem, not unlike one caused by a natural disaster, saying that "
      Israel will be part of an international mechanism that will assist in
      finding a solution to this problem." Olmert made it clear that he was
      not admitting Israel's responsibility for creating the problem by
      saying "I came here today not in order to settle historical accounts
      between us...", and by equating the Palestinian refugee problem with
      the "constant suffering of many Israelis."

      The solution Olmert suggests is "an international effort, in which we
      (Israel) will participate, to assist these Palestinians in finding a
      proper framework for their future, in the Palestinian state that will
      be established in the territories agreed upon between us." The
      suggestion that the refugees do not have the choice to return to the
      lands from which they were expelled, but instead "return" to a future
      Palestinian state, is contrary to international humanitarian law, and
      to UN resolution 194 that "Resolves that the refugees wishing to
      return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should
      be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date." Despite this,
      the United States President George Bush promised Ariel Sharon in a
      letter on the 14th of April 2004 "an agreed, just, fair and realistic
      framework for a solution to the Palestinian refugee issue as part of
      any final status agreement will need to be found through the
      establishment of a Palestinian state, and the settling of Palestinian
      refugees there, rather than in Israel." Despite the illegality of
      these promises, they were ratified on June 23, 2004 by both the United
      States House and Senate. Olmert refers to this letter in his statement
      as a point of departure for the negotiations.

      Working groups are now developing plans to implement Bush's promise.
      According to Ha'aretz, The Aix Group, "a semi-official
      political-economic backchannel" is developing a plan for Palestinian
      refugees. The Aix Group's members include Israeli, Palestinian and
      international economic experts, academics, members of economic
      organizations, and officials from international institutions,
      including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the
      European Union, who participate in the Aix Group in their personal

      The group is administered by a steering committee led by Prof. Gilbert
      Benhayoun, a Moroccan-born Frenchman, Prof. Arie Arnon, economics
      professor from Ben-Gurion University in Be'er Sheva, Said Bamya, the
      former deputy minister for economic affairs in the Palestinian
      Authority, Dr. Ron Pundak, director of the Peres Center and Dr. Samir
      Hazbun from DATA Studies and Consultation. Other partners include the
      European Union, French donors, the World Bank, the French Foreign
      Ministry, the International Development Research Center in Canada, the
      General Council of the Bouches du Rhone, and the Regional Council of
      Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur.

      The Aix Group's document opens with a declaration of principles
      stating that an agreed and just long-term solution to the problem of
      the 1948 refugees must be based on the relevant United Nations
      resolutions, including General Assembly Resolution 194, but then
      nullifies that statement by saying that "a literal application of this
      Resolution is no longer possible given the substantial changes on the
      ground." The document then describes an arrangement that would
      substitute for the U.N. resolution which they have deemed no longer
      applicable, stating that, "The parties would agree that the measures
      recommended in the paper implement Resolution 194."

      The reference to "substantial changes on the ground" as an obstacle
      that renders the UN resolution inapplicable perpetuates the myth that
      physical or material obstacles render return impossible. According to
      Salman Abu Sitta an expert on the Palestinian refugee issue, "90% of
      the village sites are still vacant, 7% are partially built-over, and
      only 3% are totally built over in Tel Aviv and West Jerusalem." Of
      course, there are obvious issues that would have to be addressed. But
      these problems have been dealt with in many places, such as Bosnia,
      Kosovo and Tajikistan, to name a few, and pose no obstacle in and of
      themselves to return. A hint to what the real obstacle may be lies in
      Ha'aretz correspondent Akiva Eldar's statement that "The Aix Group is
      convinced that if bold steps are not taken in the right direction, the
      vision of one state for two peoples, based on joint citizenship and
      equality before the law, will be placed on the agenda."

      The group suggests that an international committee of experts would
      determine what constitutes "fair and full" compensation for property
      claims. They estimate that the total cost of these claims will be
      between $15 billion and $30 billion.

      The group makes it clear that in cases in which "fair and full
      compensation" is offered, "restitution" (the right of return) will not
      be considered. This formulation turns the basic principle set in the
      UN Principles on Housing and Property Restitution for Refugees and
      Displaced Persons totally on end. The UN principles clearly note that
      restitution is the primary remedy, and compensation only comes into
      play if refugees themselves choose compensation, or if restitution is
      factually not possible as determined by an independent tribunal.

      "Palestinian refugees will be asked to choose a permanent place of
      residence, the group proposes that the individuals choose more than
      one alternative and rank their priorities." But the implementation of
      this choice depends on "the states concerned", including Israel. Aix
      proposes to create an International Agency for the Palestinian
      Refugees (IAPR) that will be responsible "to ensure that the final
      decisions satisfy the wishes of the refugees as much as possible and
      are in line with the overall agreements to be signed between the
      representatives of the two sides, and possibly also with the relevant
      host countries and other countries."

      The Aix group expects that a large number of refugees will choose to
      relocate to other countries at the cost of $8 billion to $19 billion,
      depending on how many refugees will choose to move from their current
      country of residence. The plan suggests that some of the Palestinian
      refugees will be rehabilitated in their current locations and will
      receive compensation "in kind or in money" at a cost of $10 billion to
      $14 billion.

      In addition, the group recommends the creation of a fourth fund, which
      will require about $22 billion, for compensation relating to
      "refugeehood" not related to property claims or the other programs.
      All the registered refugees will receive a uniform amount of about
      $5,000 each. According to Ha'aretz, the money can be attained in a
      period spread out over 10 years and with extensive, generous
      international aid.

      Under international humanitarian law the right of refugees to return
      to their homes is an inalienable, individual human right. Like all
      human rights, it is invaluable and cannot be bought. Under Israel and
      Bush's "solution", Palestinian refugee families who had been expelled
      from what is now Israel would be consigned to return, not to their
      homes, but to small, non-contiguous parts of less than 22% of their
      original homeland. Jews from anywhere in the world, on the other hand,
      would be free to "return" to more than 78% of historic Palestine,
      frequently to live on land seized from those same Palestinian
      refugees. Such clear discrimination against Palestinian refugees and
      privileging of Jews from anywhere in the world illustrates clearly
      that these proposals would further a separate but unequal solution
      that cannot result in peace.

      Neta Golan is an Israeli peace with justice activist living in
      Ramallah, and a founder of the International Solidarity Movement. For
      more information see: www.apartheidmasked.org


      Israeli minister cancels London trip on arrest fears
      Thu Dec 6, 2007

      JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter has
      cancelled a trip to Britain over concerns he could be arrested on war
      crimes allegations, his spokesman said on Thursday.

      "Minister Dichter has cancelled this trip following threats of him
      being arrested in Great Britain. This is an intolerable situation,"
      Barak Sari said.

      Dichter was due to travel to Britain to participate in an "after
      Annapolis" conference to focus on the aftermath of the November US
      conference at which Israeli-Palestinian peace talks were revived.

      But he cancelled the trip on the recommendation of the foreign
      ministry, which said it was possible that a leftist organisation could
      file a complaint against him that could lead to an arrest warrant, the
      Haaretz daily reported.

      As head of Israel's Shin Beth internal intelligence agency, Dichter
      was involved in the 2002 Israeli attack in Gaza in which an Israeli
      warplane dropped a one-tonne bomb on the house of the head of Hamas's
      military wing, Salah Shehade, killing him, his bodyguard and 15
      civilians, many of them children.

      Britain allows legal investigations against foreign nationals provided
      that the defendant's own country is unwilling or unable to handle such

      In May 2006 the Israeli army scrapped plans to send one of its
      generals to a course at a British military academy over fears he could
      be arrested on war crimes allegations.

      In September 2005, a retired Israeli general, Doron Almog, refused to
      leave a plane at London's Heathrow airport after learning a warrant
      had been issued for his arrest over his time commanding troops in the
      Gaza Strip.



      "Spirit the penniless population across the frontier by denying it
      employment... Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the
      poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly." Theodore
      Herzl, founder of the World Zionist Organization, speaking of the
      Arabs of Palestine, Complete Diaries, June 12, 1895 entry.

      "We will establish ourselves in Palestine whether you like it or
      not...You can hasten our arrival or you can equally retard it. It is
      however better for you to help us so as to avoid our constructive
      powers being turned into a destructive power which will overthrow the
      world." - Chaim Weizmann, Published in "Judische Rundschau," No. 4, 1920]

      Ask anyone in Washington, London or Tel Aviv if they can cite any
      phrase uttered by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the chances are high they
      will say he wants Israel "wiped off the map".

      Again it is four short words, though the distortion is worse than in
      the Khrushchev case. The remarks are not out of context. They are
      wrong, pure and simple. Ahmadinejad never said them. Farsi speakers
      have pointed out that he was mistranslated. . . .

      There was no implication that either Khomeini, when he first made the
      statement, or Ahmadinejad, in repeating it, felt it was imminent, or
      that Iran would be involved in bringing it about. --Jonathan Steele,
      "If Iran is ready to talk, the US must do so unconditionally,"
      Guardian, June 2, 2006

      The full quote translated directly to English: "The Imam said this
      regime occupying Jerusalem must vanish from the page of time". Word by
      word translation: Imam (Khomeini) ghoft (said) een (this) rezhim-e
      (regime) ishghalgar-e (occupying) qods (Jerusalem) bayad (must) az
      safheh-ye ruzgar (from page of time) mahv shavad (vanish from).--
      Arash Norouzi, "Iran's President Did Not Say 'Israel must be wiped off
      the map'," informationliberation.com, January 19 2007



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