December 11 marks the 63rd anniversary of UN Resolution 194, mandating that:
"the (Palestinian) refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should 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 which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible."
International law enshrines this right, including:
- Article 13(2) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
- Article 5(d)(ii) of the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination;
- Article 12(4) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; and
- the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (the Apartheid Convention).
Denying this right constitutes apartheid. Nonetheless, Israel refuses to let diaspora Palestinians return home. It calls doing so an "act of suicide," disruptive of its tenuous majority.
It cites UN Resolutions 242 and 338. They mandate political solutions for Palestine's refugee problem, exclusive of international law, human rights, equity and justice. As a result, durable solutions are blocked.
Israel calls right of return issues a privilege, not a right. Palestinian self-determination is thus severely compromised. Millions are left unprotected.
An October BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights Working Paper No. 12 headlined, "Applying International Criminal Law to Israel's Treatment of the Palestinian People," saying:
Since established in 1948, Israel institutionalized land theft and Palestinian dispossessions. Through 2009, "displaced Palestinians amounted to at least 7.1 million."
About 70% of West Bank land (including East Jerusalem) has been confiscated or subjected to restricted use. In addition, Israel's Gaza buffer zone prevents Palestinians from using 17% of their land and 35% of its arable portion.
Within Israel, 94% of land is exclusively Jewish. "The Israeli domination over the Palestinian people continues unabated and the policy of displacement, illegal acquisition of land and denial of return, repatriation, restitution and compensation has intensified recently in various areas, for example in East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank."
Israel displaces Palestinians violently. Indiscriminate force is used. Home demolitions and dispossessions happen regularly. Residency rights are revoked. Closure, segregation, collective punishment, expropriation, discriminatory land distribution, attacks, arrests, detentions, assassinations, torture, and settlement expansions are policy.
"Palestinian displacement and dispossession are caused by a policy of forced population transfer which has been employed by the Zionist movement and the state of Israel with the aim to colonize Palestinian land and establish a Jewish demographic majority in it."
It persists despite international law prohibitions against colonialism and apartheid because world community leaders with authority to stop it don't act.
Nor do they mourn victims like Mustafa Tamimi. On December 11, thousands of Palestinians protested his killing. On December 9, a-Nabi Saleh demonstrators turned out against settlers taking their land.
A soldier fired a tear-gas canister directly at his head, critically wounding him. Evacuated to Israel's Beilinson Hospital, he died the next day. About 2,000 mourners turned out. PLC committee against settlements head Walif Assaf told them:
"They want to turn our unarmed struggle into an armed struggle. But this will not change our policy of peaceful struggle against settlements and against the occupation."
After his burial, clashes broke out as hundreds of mourners marched toward Israeli soldiers near the funeral proceeding. Some threw stones. Tear gas was fired in response.
Tamimi was the 20th person killed this way in the past eight years. B'Tselem spokeswoman Sarit Michaeli said the organization called for a full military probe into who fired the canister, who ordered it, and why it was aimed at Tamimi's head at point blank range.
Earlier in response to B'Tselem's demands, then Judea and Samaria legal advisor Col. Sharon Afek said "direct firing (of tear gas canisters) at persons is prohibited," and that "very soon, a explicit and broad directive will be issued" to prohibit it.
Later after other incidents occurred, Judea and Samaria legal advisor Major Uri Sagi told B'Tselem that "following your letter, we have again clarified to the forces operating in Central Command the rules relating to firing of tear-gas canisters at persons, including the prohibition on directly firing" them at anyone.
Other senior military officials said such firings don't occur. However, B'Tselem documented more cases in which security forces targeted protesters illegally. No one was prosecuted. Investigations were whitewashed. Soldiers literally get away with murder. Israel denies free expression and assembly violently.
On December 9, the UN General Assembly passed nine resolutions related to Palestine among 24 and two texts related to human rights and decolonization.
Several resolutions passed near unanimously. Only Israel voted against them. One called for accelerating the right of return and asked donor countries to help the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) cover costs.
Another urged Israel to reimburse UNRWA for transit charges and other financial losses sustained by delays and restrictions on movement and access.
Five resolutions referred to a report from the Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories. They related to Israeli practices and obligations under Fourth Geneva.
Others dealt with the impact of Israeli settlement policies, decisions and activities related to peace process negotiations. Since 1947, Israel voted against dozens of resolutions related to its lawless policies.
A Final Comment
In a December 10 Republican candidate debate, Newt Gingrich called Palestinians "terrorists. They teach terrorism in their schools. They have textbooks that say, if there are 13 Jews and nine Jews are killed, how many Jews are left? We pay for those textbooks through our aid money."
"It's fundamentally time for somebody to have the guts to stand up and say, enough lying about the Middle East."
Gingrich also told the Jewish cable channel, "Remember there was no Palestine as a state. It was part of the Ottoman empire. (Palestinians were) an invented people who are in fact Arabs."
Except for Ron Paul on sound money, returning it to public hands, ending America's imperial wars, drug ones also, opposing police state laws, and promoting real economic growth, Republican presidential aspirants look more like a police lineup than legitimate candidates for any office.
Gingrich is one of the worst. Comments like those above show it. PLO Executive Committee Hanan Ashrawi called him out of "touch with reality."
Other Palestinian officials demanded he apologize. Inflammatory comments further damage America's tattered credibility. Gingrich's is beyond repair.
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