Federal News Service
March 3, 2000, Friday
SECTION: STATE DEPARTMENT BRIEFING
LENGTH: 7911 words
HEADLINE: COUNCIL FOR PALESTINIAN RESTITUTION AND REPARATION NEWS CONFERENCE
RE: PALESTINIAN REFUGEES
PARTICIPANTS: HANAN ASHRAWI, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL FOR JERUSALEM;
FRANCIS BOYLE, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS, AND JAWDAT HINDI, PALESTINIAN REFUGEE
LOCATION: NATIONAL PRESS CLUB, WASHINGTON, D.C.
TIME: 10:10 A.M. DATE: FRIDAY, MARCH 31, 2000
MR. HINDI: Ladies and gentlemen, I present myself as one of the few
lucky persons who had a chance to live after Kantura (ph), the massacre that
is now documented by an Israeli professor. And I hope that you got your
copies of that.
I was born in Kantura (ph). Kantura is a small village 24 kilometers
south of Haifa, a coastal village with inhabitants not more than 2,000. I
was born in 1926. The people lived happily and with good relations with
their neighbors, inhabitants of the old settlement, the Haron Jericho (ph),
which was not more than 14 kilometers from Kantura (ph).
In April 1948, Haifa was occupied by the Zionists. And all the people
Palestine and especially the places that were not far away from Haifa, they
tried to find something -- a solution to themselves. The people of my
village decided to keep good relations with the Jews, their neighbors, but
at the same time to protect themselves and to defend their village if they
are attacked by Zionists.
Twenty-second and 23rd of May 1948, the people had a normal day. Farmers
went to their land, came back to their homes, fishermen -- because it is a
coastal village -- came back. And everybody went to his bed, and we were
thinking that nothing will happen to us.
After 12 midnight -- I speak of myself and my family. My father had
away years before and I was the eldest, so I lived with my mother and
sisters and brothers. We walked upstairs -- explosions and the house was
shaking. Showers of rapid fire and so many things. And we didn't know what
Then we rushed out of the house. We met our neighbors coming this way
that way, and we were talking. And everybody was concerned of the 30 young
men who were guarding us, because the village had in that time only 30
rifles and 30 men were every night escorting us.
And we thought ourselves in our homes safe. Then, an old man advised
go back to our homes and to lock the door as well. We went. After one hour,
the door was broken and soldiers rushed into our house, kicking with their
boots, pointing their guns into our heads. All of us were scared. But I
am -- being the eldest, I looked at the youngest -- how they were scared.
Then they pushed us out of the house. We went out and we found that
neighbors are coming this way and that way -- the same like the soldiers did
to us. And we gathered in an open place. And we waited there, the soldiers
laughing, hugging each other. And all of a sudden, a family was coming from
out of the side. And suddenly we heard shooting and we looked there and all
the members of that family fell down -- parents and children.
And then they drove us. And we went through the roads -- bodies here
there, killed people, men, children, women -- and we were gathered in at the
seashore in front of a high building. There they separated the women from
men, and they ordered us to sit down and to raise our hands over our heads
and not to look up to but to look down.
After maybe 15 minutes, an officer came. And by signaling to us to raise
faces and to look at him. And he started pointing with his fingers: you,
you, you, you, and doing the same signal just to let them know to come out.
Ten people were gathered. Then he talked in his own language. And four
soldiers came and pointed their guns to the backs of the 10 men and they
drove them a ways -- where to we didn't know.
Another official came and the same happened. Ten people were gathered
four soldiers that drove them back. The third time.
The fourth time, I was called out. But they didn't call anybody else.
the officer talked to two soldiers. I didn't understand what did he say.
Then they pushed me and one said in a broken Arabic: "Your home, your home."
What I understood that they wanted to come to my home. So I led them there.
When we reached our home, soldiers were there, eating and drinking,
laughing. And the two soldiers came into the house. They started searching
every corner of the house. They found nothing. Then they drove me back.
We passed a narrow lane, a narrow road. The two soldiers started fighting
each other. I didn't know why. Then one of them pointed his gun into my
head. The other pushed him and said in his language -- (speaks in foreign
language). Anyway, at last they pushed me and we went back to the place
where the people are gathered. They talked to their officer.
The officer told me to sit down. I sat down. That man who had been pointing
his gun to my head -- he wanted to kill me. And he didn't. He kicked me with
his boot and spat into my face.
After one hour -- you can say that from sunrise up till four in the
afternoon -- they started searching the women and children - - infants. And
they took all their jewelries and money. Then they drove them into trucks
and then to a nearby village called Fouradis (ph), a village which was
occupied by the Jews, and the second day -- or it might be the first week,
I'm not sure of that, but not more than days -- they took all the people,
all the women and children into the border area to Karan (ph) city, the
nearest town from a place -- Natania (ph) as I remember was the name of
Anyway, for the women after one hour they came also and drove us in
to the Throne Jacob (ph). This is the nearby settlement. There was a police
station -- a big one. And they pushed us into that station. And we stayed
the night there in the prison and in some open spaces. We stayed there that
Then they took us to a deserted Arab village called Emhalit (ph). And
houses were demolished. Some of the houses were still, and they kept us
there. Then by force -- beating us -- we put the wires around the whole
village and worked for a whole week to make our own prison. And this was
called prisoners of war camp.
Now what about those groups of 10 people who were guarded and then four
soldiers -- they were driving 10 people and so on? When we met in the Throne
Jacob (ph) that night, the first time I heard about that. The four soldiers
drove the 10 men. And they ordered them to pull the bodies of the killed
people and then ordered them to dig a big hole and to drag the bodies into
Then they ordered eight of them to stand around the opening of the hole.
then they started shooting at them and the eight fell into the same hole
that they had digged. Then they ordered the two -- (starts crying) -- excuse
me -- and then they ordered the two who were saved to cover the bodies. And
then they drove them back to where we were gathered, just to tell what
Four groups of 10 people were taken before they took me. How many did
take after that? I don't know. But for sure, there were many. And at the
same time, no weapons at all were with the people in their houses. All what
we had -- 30 guards -- and they were at the borders of the village. But they
started shooting in the roads, in the houses and so on.
So after these days, maybe last month, I heard that an Israeli professor
documenting our massacre and at the same time so many channels of the news
had reviewed that.
We stayed in there as prisoners of war for a long time. And I forgot
name. They called me in that time -- (speaks in Arabic) -- Prisoner of War
Then they started the exchange of prisoners of war with Jordan. Their
soldiers came back to them. But why did they pushed us to Jordan as
exchanging their prisoners? We were not Jordanians, but they pushed us to
Jordan. Why they didn't let us go back to our homes, our mothers, wives,
children -- they were expelled before us and we were pushed out.
Really when I came Kantura (ph) -- I met the people of Kantura -- most
them are refugees still in camps in Syria. Me and my brother, when we went
out, direct we went to Syria, and then we found that -- for my good luck,
for we were fortunate -- an uncle who was in Lebanon, in Beirut. He
studied -- he was a physician after studying in American University there.
And he stayed in Lebanon. He came to Damascus and took his sister, my
mother, brothers and sisters and lived with them.
So we came to Beirut, lived four months and then we went to Syria and
there. And then I worked in Kuwait and I came 1888 (sic) to the United
States and I am now a United States citizen. And thank you very much.
MR. BOYLE: Thank you, Mr. Hindi, for that very moving story. Having
with the Palestinian people for the last 20 years, I can assure you there
are enormous numbers of stories that are just as tragic and compelling as
the one we heard from Mr. Hindi.
As you know, the final status negotiations have now begun in theory
respect to the Middle East. And the right of Palestinian refugees to return
to their home is a critical issue. There are over five million Palestinian
refugees around the world, as well as internally displaced people. Before I
introduce our keynote speaker, I've been asked to say a few words about
their legal rights.
As a condition for its admission to the United Nations Organization,
formally agreed to accept General Assembly Resolution 181 of 1947, dealing
with the partition of the mandate for Palestine into two states, a Jewish
state and a Palestinian state, as well as an international trusteeship for
the city of Jerusalem.
And Israel also expressly agreed to accept Resolution 194 of 1948 --
Palestinian Right of Return. And let me just read you the critical
paragraph. Again, this is what Israel accepted as a condition for its
admission to the United Nations Organization, and I quote: "Resolves that
the 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
Now, Prime Minister Barak has recently stated that he would not tolerate
return of any Palestinian refugees to their homes. What do we say to Prime
Minister Barak? That if he carries out that illegal policy, he jeopardizes
Israel's continued participation in the activities of the United Nations
If Prime Minister Barak is going to deny the right of the Palestinian
refugees return to their home, he will abrogate and violate one of the most
important conditions for Israel's admission to the United Nations. And this
could produce the most severe consequences for Israel. They could be
suspended from participation in the United Nations by the General
Assembly -- exactly what the General Assembly did to the former Yugoslavia
and to the South African government under the apartheid regime.
Now, we've spent a lot of time here in the United States for many years
arguing that Soviet Jews had a right of family reunification, and that those
Soviet Jews being kept in the Soviet Union against their wishes had a right
to leave and join their families. And that was the correct position to take,
and the United States government repeatedly invoked Article XIII, Paragraph
2 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights on behalf of Soviet
Well, I am invoking that same provision of Universal Declaration of
Rights on behalf of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. And
it says quite clearly, quote: "Everyone has the right to return to his
country," unquote. That was as of 1948. And that supplements Resolution 194.
And the United States government has consistently taken the position that
that is a binding requirement of public international law. The same
principle applies to the Palestinian refugees.
Just recently, historically, we've had two instances where the United
government has stood up for the rights of refugees to return to their homes.
In the Dayton Agreement that was drafted by the United States government
under the supervision of Richard Holbrooke, it says quite clearly that
Bosnian refugees have a right to return to their home. And of course, they
The same principle can and must be applied to the Palestinian refugees.
just recently, a year ago, NATO intervened in Kosovo to guarantee the right
of Kosovar Albanian Muslim refugees to return to their homes. And the same
principle must be applied to the Palestinian refugees.
There will no peace in the Middle East unless the right of the Palestinian
refugees, as recognized by Resolution 194, is implemented. In the future
course of these final status negotiations, they must be conducted on the
basis of Resolution 181, Resolution 194, subsequent General Assembly
resolutions and Security Council resolutions, the Third and Fourth Geneva
Convention of 1949, the 1907 Hague Regulations and other relevant principles
of public international law.
There is a remarkable opportunity for peace in the Middle East today
comprehensive peace settlement. But what is needed now from the Clinton
administration -- which I regret to report we are not seeing, for whatever
reason -- is the same type of dynamic leadership and will for peace that was
demonstrated by President Jimmy Carter over two decades ago.
The governments of Israel and the United States must seize this historic
moment for peace. Otherwise, I doubt very seriously history will give any of
us a second chance for obtaining peace with justice for all people in the
It is now my honor and pleasure to introduce our keynote speaker, Dr.
Ashrawi. It was my great distinction to have served as the legal adviser to
the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East Peace Negotiations from 1991
to 1993. That delegation was headed by Dr. Haidar Abdul-Shafi (ph). Dr.
Abdul-Shafi (ph) was not able to attend our session today because of a prior
commitment. But he is on our board of directors.
The Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace negotiations was
people's delegation. These were not professional politicians, diplomats and
bureaucrats. These were people who represented the Palestinian people living
under occupation. They were the best and the brightest that the Palestinian
people, living under one of the most brutal occupations in the modern world,
could offer and send to Washington, D.C.
And of them all, of course, Dr. Ashrawi was selected to be the official
spokesperson for the entire delegation. And in this capacity, she really
became the official spokesperson for all of the Palestinian people -- not
only living in occupied Palestine but also in the Palestinian diaspora.
Before this, she was a professor in her own right -- like me, an honorable
profession -- but then selected to be come a diplomat and come and fight and
do battle for her people, which she did most effectively, as we all know.
Eventually, Dr. Ashrawi returned home. She rose to become Minister of
Education in the Palestinian Authority, served for a period of time, and
then decided to return to private life, where she has established her own
human rights organization dedicated to the proposition of pursuing peace
with justice for all in the Middle East.
It's my great honor and pleasure to introduce Dr. Hanan Ashrawi.
MS. ASHRAWI: Thank you, Francis. Thank you, Jawdat. I am very glad to
here among you today. I've always maintained that spokespeople are never
appointed. They are the ones who in a sense strive to represent the fullness
of the humanity and existence and identity and aspirations, as well as
history, of their own people.
And this is the source, I believe, of anybody's credibility. But what
heard today this morning, to me, is exactly what is needed, in terms of a
corrective force on a terribly flawed process. We need first the human
narratives. We need to identify the victims and to recognize our humanity.
And we need to correct a version of history that has constantly suffered
from exclusion and denial. Because historically, when the victim speaks out,
even with some personal experience and as an eyewitness and as an
advocate -- especially when the adversary is so powerful -- the victim's
narrative is often denied or distorted or confiscated or misrepresented.
And ironically, the Palestinians, like many victims, became doubly
victimized because they were blamed for their victimization. So to get the
narrative out and the individual identification of the human reality of what
probably would have been called nowadays ethnic cleansing -- one of the most
tragic I wouldn't even say "incidents" but an ongoing injustice perpetrated
against a whole people -- a human tragedy whose extensions, repercussions,
consequences we are still witnessing that has often been denied, has in many
ways to be validated by an audience, by an acceptance, and most importantly,
to be incorporated in any means, any attempt at solving the conflict. If we
do not have a firm grasp not only of the facts and the truths and the human
reality, but also the causes of the conflict itself, and if we do not
attempt courageously to solve these causes, to address them directly in a
candid and forthright and courageous manner, there can be no solution.
And the second most important aspect, of course, is the legal aspect.
witnessing now attempts at negating international law to apply to the
Palestinians. We are witnessing attempts, Israeli and American, to sort of
make temporary transitional arrangements as the terms of reference for any
solution, and thereby to bring the Palestinians to relinquish those rights
which were guaranteed to them by law, and foremost of which is the right of
The essence of the human tragedy, of the Palestinian tragedy, is, of
the human dimension; the fact that there was a systematic attempt at the
negation, dispossession, dispersion of a whole nation and a denial of those
people of their rights to natural continuity and life on their own land, of
the right to their own identity, of the right to their own history, of the
right to their own homes and lands.
So any solution to the Palestinian question and any attempt at achieving
genuine peace has to address that core human issue from, first of all, a
recognition of the facts and the identity and also firmly based on
international law and legality.
We are not going to relinquish our right of return. Many of you may
"Well, you are not a refugee. Why do you speak out?" I'm speaking out
because we are all firmly committed, first of all, to the human unity of the
Palestinian people and nation. We are one people, one nation, and a solution
has to address all people.
Two, as you were told, there are Palestinian refugees who are dispersed
in exile throughout the world, but there are also Palestinian refugees
within Palestine. In the West Bank and Gaza we have over 1.1 million
refugees, but also Palestinian refugees within what has become Israel. And
these are not just displaced persons, but these are people who were
forcibly, forcefully evicted from their homes. Their villages were among the
418 villages entirely demolished by Israel. And even though there were not
just U.N. resolutions but even decisions within Israel to have them go back
to their homes and lands, they have not been allowed to return to their
We are seeing multiple dimensions and compound aspects of this human
tragedy. And we are witnessing at the same time a resurgence of official
denial of this tragedy, and ironically, within the context of the peace
process. We are being told that issues on permanent status agenda, which are
the core issues that determine not just the justice or injustice of any
solution, but whether there can be a genuine peace that can lay claim to
legality and to permanence, that these issues can be unilaterally prejudged
and concluded by Israel, with U.S. collusion, very frankly, and at the same
time with a distortion of the law.
So when we look at permanent status agenda, we have the issue of Palestinian
refugees. We have the issue of Jerusalem. We have the issue of boundaries,
core settlements that are illegally built on Palestinian land, and then
other issues pertaining to worker rights and external relations and
Without something addressing and recognizing the Palestinian refugee
question, there can be no solution. We are not interested in appeasement. We
are not interested in a temporary truce. We are interested in a historical
reconciliation. For that to take place, every individual narrative, not just
Jawdat's narratives, has to be validated, acknowledged and affirmed, and the
instruments for the solution of this very human tragedy have to be put in
This is the historical redemptive part. If we ignore that, we won't
making peace with less than half or with one-third of the Palestinian
people. It's that one-third who are not refugees, who will not accept any
peace that fragments them or that denies the rights of the refugees. In a
sense, we are all refugees. We have all been alienated and painfully
separated from our rights, from our history, from our most basic rights.
So what we need is, first of all, a genuine recognition, an admission
guilt and culpability by Israel; the real authentic narrative of the
Palestinians to come out, to be acknowledged, to be recognized. And it is
ironic that only when Israeli historians like Benny Morris (sp), Tom Sager
(sp), Finkelstein (sp), -- (inaudible) -- and others have the courage to try
to set the historical record straight, to explore through the very scholarly
work examining the archives, intelligence archives of Israel, the documents
of the British mandate and so on, that the real story began to come out,
because it was not being told by the victim but by the oppressor, by the
perpetrators of the act. So it began to gain an audience.
It's being fought, I know. There are many people who don't want their
to come out. They don't want to tarnish it. They don't want to have reality
intrude on the myth and the image and the legend of the heroic creation of
the state of Israel. People don't want to face the tremendous pain and
suffering, the incredible cost that establishment of the state of Israel
involved, particularly with the Palestinian people.
And so once these historians started speaking out, some others, who
also part of the act of commission, who were in the armed Jewish gangs in
1947-'48, whether in the Haganah or Stern started speaking out, actually;
whether it is the historical guilt or whether it is a recognition that now
people can face the truth. But they started speaking out and they started,
in a sense, a public confession of their role in the ethnic cleansing of
Palestine, which included systematic, brutal, cold-blooded murder, like
(Tantudah ?), which just finally came out only this year, a few months back,
or massacres like those of (Daryassin ?) as well and later massacres of
(Urkasa ?) and many unknown massacres.
Two, there was a systematic attempt at the expulsion of Palestinians
fear and intimidation. There was also a very conscious expulsion where
people were herded off, were put in trucks and buses or were made to walk by
force of arms, and where they were expelled. There was also a general
atmosphere of fear, intimidation, threats of further massacres. The 418
villages that were totally demolished are still a very eloquent expression
of this type of ethnic cleansing that has gone without accountability and
with total impunity, actually.
And, of course, the worst crime, it seems to me, has been the silence
the denial of the facts and of the history and of the real human narrative
and the refusal to assume responsibility. To compound that real injustice
was also the subjugation of Palestinian rights to political convenience and
political deals. And one thing that we must not do in the peace process is
to accept such a distortion, and once again to subjugate Palestinian rights
to political convenience or to the politics of power or to strategic
Israel is not a country above the law and is not a country that should
held by different standards. There are uniform standards that govern the
behavior of all civilized nations. They should apply equally across the
board. If Israel wants to be a country, a state among states, then it has to
abide by these standards. It has to be held responsible, not just for its
past sins and crimes, but also for the ongoing, continuing violations that
it is involved in.
Israel cannot be given a priori dispensation. They cannot wipe the slate
clean and say, "Now we will deal with history in another way. The political
process is a new process and must not be taken back." Well, for the process
to have integrity and legality and credibility and to achieve results, it
has to be precisely with these issues, with this narrative, with the
Palestinian refugee question, with the unity of the Palestinian people as a
people, as a nation, who had a past and therefore should have a future.
The present is extremely painful and difficult. When Israel talks about,
legislates a law of return for any Jewish people who happens to be anywhere
in the world, to gain instant rights in Palestine and Israel, we are being
told that the right of return of the Palestinian refugees, which is not only
based on the specific resolution relevant, pertinent to the Palestinian
question, whether it is 181, 194 in particular, which has been annually
reaffirmed, actually, has never been denied, 194, but also using universal
criteria, universal instruments of human rights. The Hague regulations, the
third and -- (inaudible) -- regulations and all the precedents that we have
missed and miss, of resolutions, of precedents, of instruments of
international humanitarian law that guarantee us those rights.
And yet we are being told to show a positive attitude and to be committed
the peace process. We must not talk about issues which are delicate and
sensitive and which might upset the Israelis. Well, reality is much more
painful than even describing it. So if the victim cannot speak out and if we
cannot deal with these issues, and if we cannot resolve them, there can be
International law is there in order to protect the vulnerable and the
helpless. And the Palestinians have always been vulnerable and exposed and
helpless. But once we've decided that we do not cherish the role of victim
and that we want to sort of sake history, take the bull by the horns and
change the course of history, we are being told, "You must adopt the
narrative of the others. You must abandon or distort your history."
We are not going to do that. Every time we speak out, we get statements,
official statements about how this is extremist language and it's against
the peace process. A peace process that is not based on international law is
no peace process and no instrument of peace. A peace process that does not
recognize the essential human component on the human tragedy and does not
come to grips with it and attempt to solve it is no peace process.
We did not enter negotiations to surrender. We entered negotiations
affect an historical reconciliation. And to do that, the refugee issue,
Jerusalem, our land boundaries, our rights, resources, these have to be
recognized and these have to be solved on the basis of justice and
historical redemption, if you will. Otherwise, if these narratives continue
to be excluded, if Palestinian refugees are going to be treated by different
standards, if Israel continues to be above the law and immune from
accountability, then we certainly don't want such a rogue state as a
It is not Iraq or Iran. We believe that the real rogue state in the
is another 'I' -- Israel. Unless it abides by international law, unless it
comes to grips with its own history and unless it takes serious steps to
have this legality incorporated in the peace process, not just as a
recognition of guilt, as I said, but also as a means of rectification, we
will not be able to have peace. And anybody who tells you that the
Palestinians will be happy with a few reservations here and there (that
are?) described as Bantustans or will be happy in an apartheid system or
will accept to suffer from collective amnesia suddenly and forget their past
and forget their human reality, these people are sadly mistaken.
This is precisely the substance of peace. And people who want to make
have to have the courage to address these issues. Otherwise, we'll be
skirting the issues. We will be dealing with a temporary truce. But then the
causes of conflict will remain in place and they will erupt eventually. The
peace process is not there to prepare the ground for future conflict. It is
not the capitulation of the weak or the exploitation of the weakness of the
weak by the strong. It is the vindication of the suffering of the weak in
order to overcome it, in order to find genuine solutions, and in order to
effect historical reconciliation which will empower the weak and create a
situation of human parity based on international legality that would bring
about a peace that can lay claim to permanence and justice.
I thank you for coming here today. And I think what Doug has said has
more eloquent than anything I can say. But I urge you to keep your ears
open, to listen carefully to the individual narrative and to the real
history, to the new historians or the post- Zionist historians, if you will,
and from those, to glean the necessary lessons and mechanisms to effect a
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
MR. BOYLE: Thank you, Dr. Ashrawi. I've been asked to chair the
question-and-answer session. So raise your hand, identify yourself, whom you
would like to answer the question, and we'll take it from there. Yes.
Q (Inaudible) -- for the neighboring countries and -- (inaudible). What
the solution that's going to -- how is the situation going to --
MS. ASHRAWI: Yes. This is really a crucial question, because the refugee
question is key to stability and to peace in the whole region. I've attended
several meetings and conferences in Europe, where they talk about, you know,
displacement, where they talk about refugees and immigrants or they talk
about political asylum. And they say this is going to disturb or upset
western demographic standards, western labor issues and so on.
And I said one country in Europe maybe has 10,000 refugees and Palestinians
who took asylum there. I said what you have is the tip of an iceberg. It's
the neighboring countries -- in any conflict, the neighboring countries are
those who suffer and those who have to accept massive demographic pressure,
shifts and distortions in their own country.
Now, the three major countries, of course, neighboring countries that
in Palestinian refugees were Jordan, Syria and Lebanon, of course. The
condition of the Palestinian refugees in these areas, the conditions are not
the same. In Lebanon, and it is no secret, the plight of the Palestinians is
particularly tragic because of internal Lebanese problems, balances,
demographic, sectarian, whatever balances. The Palestinian refugees have
been sort of living in a time warp with a total denial of their human and
civil rights. And their suffering has been compounded. They're not
recognized as human beings with full rights, and they have been treated as a
political problem, as a threat to a demographic balance, but without really
addressing the real human and political issue.
Now we hear talk openly that -- and, of course, there are movements
Lebanon and elsewhere saying that they are against absorption of Palestinian
refugees. Nobody is calling for the absorption of Palestinian refugees in
their host countries. We are calling for respect for their human and civil
rights in their host countries, to be treated as human beings, until we
solve the question on a legal and political basis, number one.
Number two, the right of return should be affirmed. It's not what we
against. Of course people don't want to be absorbed; otherwise they would
have been absorbed. They have a right to their own identity, to their own
homes, to repatriation and to restitution of their rights, which is why I
particularly like the name of CPRR. And the host countries cannot, under the
heat of the moment, in the course of the peace process, start trying to make
individual deals to solve the question of the refugee population in their
own countries. What is needed first is a unified Arab position on the right
of return. We need coordination and a unified strategy with the Arabs on
negotiating the right of return.
Three, the Palestinian leadership, the PLO, is the only body empowered
negotiate on behalf of the Palestinians and to represent all the
Palestinians, including the refugees. And the refugees have to be part of
this negotiation and the solution. They cannot be excluded. They are not
Now, we understand that there are political problems and difficulties
different countries, but that doesn't mean that the Palestinian refugees are
(game?) and it doesn't mean that bilateral agreements with Israel, with any
host country -- be it Jordan, be it Syria, be it Lebanon -- would be
acceptable to us.
The refugee question has to be solved in total as a central issue of
the Palestinian question based on the implementation of international law,
and in particular U.N. Resolution 194, and then there will be a real
solution. But no single country can negotiate the nationality, the plight,
the residency and the rights of the refugees it hosts. And until we do that,
we urge all host countries to treat the Palestinian refugees with the
dignity, the consideration and the legal rights and human rights that they
That's why it's become very, very urgent. This fragmentation of the
position will be to the detriment of everybody. And I believe it's the
Palestinians who will have to take the initiative, but we have to have a
receptive Arab world in order to coordinate that. We understood that Jordan,
for example -- there were talks about compensation of Jordan for hosting
refugees, and there were talks about future compensation for Jordan for
absorbing refugees or integrating the Palestinians in Jordan.
Now, such talk at this time would be extremely dangerous. This cannot
done, as I said, separately. The refugees are not just populations in each
country. They are a serious not just demographic but political issue, and
they affect directly the stability of the region and the security of the
whole region, because they're not going to disappear. And if there is an
abstract decision taken by big powers that the refugees will be absorbed
wherever they were, it doesn't mean that that decision can be resolved -- or
can be implemented, sorry. And it doesn't mean that the Palestinian refugees
will accept it. And I cannot separate the Palestinian refugees from the rest
of the Palestinians who are not refugees. Again, as they are two-thirds of
the Palestinian people, you have a total consensus among the Palestinians
that this is the cause of the Palestinian condition.
Q My name is Khalid Jhashan. I'm with N-triple-A-ADC. I'd like to commend
CPRR for undertaking this worthy campaign that fills a huge vacuum in the
continuing struggle of the Palestinians to achieve justice and lasting
peace. My question is actually addressed to Francis with regards to the
legal background of this issue. You mentioned two precedents with regard to
this case. You forgot to mention possibly a third one. Would you care to
comment on the recent proactive role that the U.S. administration has taken
in securing compensation for victims of the Holocaust and making several
countries in Europe pay for their sins of the past, if you will? Is this
applicable? Is this also a third kind of precedent that might be applicable
to the case of the Palestinians?
MR. BOYLE: It is a precedent, yes, although in the case of the Palestinians,
of course, we want them all to go home, whereas many of these Jewish
refugees from the Nazi Holocaust have decided voluntarily to settle in other
countries. And I can certainly understand why Jewish refugees from the Nazi
Holocaust would not want to go back to Germany or Austria or whatever.
But the critical point to keep in mind under Resolution 194, this is
individual right that each Palestinian refugee has. Do they want to go back
to their home or, like the Jewish refugees from the Nazi Holocaust, do they
want to stay where they are and accept reparations for the property and
other things that have been taken from them? So it is a precedent in the
sense of the either/or of Resolution 194, yes.
Q My name is -- (inaudible). The (arguments?) of time so many times
thrown back in our faces when we discuss the aspects of return of
refugees -- (inaudible). How do you -- (inaudible)?
MS. ASHRAWI: Well, since, by international law -- and I'm sure Francis
answer that better -- war crimes are not subject to -- what do they call it
when -- MR. BOYLE: Statute of limitations.
MS. ASHRAWI: Yes, statute of limitations. And I believe what happened
Palestinians is a form of ethnic cleansing, which is a war crime par
excellence. And the right of Palestinian refugees has never been
relinquished in any way or modified, because 194 has been affirmed annually
in the U.N. by member states, and then it has become even more pressing.
So the fact that suffering has been extended over such a long period
doesn't mean that now we will modify or relinquish those rights that they
have because they've suffered longer than other refugees. It's the fault of
the international community that Israel was not made to comply with the law,
was not made to implement U.N. resolutions. But to make the Palestinians pay
the price again because Israel did not comply would be another serious
And I believe the question of time can be answered not just in legal
and in human rights terms, but also can be answered in terms of political
necessity if there is to be peace. The Palestinians, who have long been
waiting for their right to return to their homes, should have that right not
just acknowledged, but should be made possible to exercise.
Now, if you want to start discussing the implementation, if your home
been demolished, your village razed and obliterated from existence and so
on, it doesn't mean that you don't want to go back. You may want to go back,
but you will also have to have compensation and you will have to be
repatriated and compensated for your loss for the use of your land that
others have used, for the disruption in your life, as well as for the
So it's not an impossible issue. And I think, using the yardstick that
is sensitive for Israel or that this will upset the demographic balance in
Israel or this will not be in conformity with Zionism, we as Palestinians do
not view our job to safeguard Zionism. It is our job to safeguard our
Q (Off mike.)
MS. ASHRAWI: Yes. Well, I have with me here the documents pertaining
refugee question, both in negotiating talks and strategic documents from the
Palestinian negotiation affairs department. And it's not the Palestinian
Authority that's negotiating; it's the PLO that is negotiating. There is a
consensus among all Palestinians, which is an issue not subject to
manipulation by a government, to say, "I have the right or I have been given
the mandate to undermine or modify the rights of Palestinian refugees."
Therefore, this consensus exists at the public level, at the popular level,
at the official level.
I was telling friends here that we have meetings almost every day, at
once a week, public meetings, discussions, seminars -- (inaudible) --
specialized talks, expert papers and so on, on permanent status issues, and
in particular on the refugees. And there is a strong drive and will among
the people that this issue has to be resolved by implementing 194 and that
nobody has the right to abandon 194 or to find alternative solutions.
And I think the PLO is quite aware that this is one area that we cannot
any way give concessions or abandon rights and stay in power as a
representative of the Palestinian people as a whole, because if you have the
majority of the people who are sending you a very clear message and who have
taken a very clear, decisive, firm stance on this issue, your legitimacy,
your legality would be in serious doubt if you stopped representing those
So the legality and the legitimacy of any representative authority has
come from the people, and this is the people's position. And no leadership,
PLO or otherwise, can change that. And I believe firmly, from all the people
I've talked to -- and I am in touch daily with them -- that there is no
inclination to attempt to sell short the Palestinian right of return.
MR. BOYLE: I do want to emphasize for the news media the one point Dr.
Ashrawi made. The Palestinian Authority does not have any legal right to
represent the Palestinian people as a whole for any reason whatsoever. That
authority is in the hands of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which
has an executive committee that currently serves as the provisional
government of the state of Palestine.
The state of Palestine today now has a de jure diplomatic recognition
about 127 or 128 states. That's more than have diplomatic recognition, the
last time I looked, with Israel. That's de jure diplomatic recognition as a
state. They also now have the state of Palestine de facto membership at the
United Nations organization. We would have de jure U.N. membership at the
United Nations organization if not for the clearly illegal threat of a veto
by the United States government.
We have de facto recognition as a state by most of Europe. And the only
thing that has kept Europe from recognizing the Palestinian state de jure
has been massive pressure applied by the United States government. Now, last
spring the European Union adopted a position that they are prepared to give
de jure recognition to the Palestinian state within a year. And I believe
that this will come to pass.
And certainly I believe that Palestine will be admitted de jure to the
United Nations organization. It's only fair under Resolution 181 -- one
state for the Jewish people, one state for the Palestinian people, U.N.
membership for Israel, U.N. membership for Palestine. It is inevitable. It
will happen. The longer it takes, the more difficult negotiating peace will
But again, the critical point to keep in mind is that the Palestinian
Authority does not have the right to negotiate on behalf of the Palestinian
people. That's in the PLO, its executive committee. And the PLO represents
all the Palestinian people, not just those living in occupied Palestine.
Another question, please. Yes.
Q (Off mike.)
MR. BOYLE: All I can say is this to the Israeli people and their supporters
here in the United States. it was my job, as the legal adviser to the
Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace negotiations -- my
instructions were to figure out a way to do this in good faith. My client is
the Palestinian people, all of them. But, of course, in doing this, I had to
take into account the reasonable good-faith expectations of the Israeli
people for peace with justice. I can assure you the will is there on the
part of the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership for peace with
justice. But there will be no peace if the United States and the Israeli
government attempt to impose a Bantustan on the Palestinian people. It will
Hanan, why don't you make the final conclusion? We're about out of time.
MS. ASHRAWI: Okay. To respond to that question, I think the PLO has
been a sort of national representative body, because in a sense it
represented Palestinians everywhere, not just in one location. The
Palestinian National Authority represents the Palestinians on the West Bank
and Gaza, where we had direct elections. But it emerged from the interim
phase agreements. So we say that the PNA is temporary for part of the people
or part of the land for some of the time, until we end up with statehood.
And now what we have to do is really work on embodying statehood in
Palestine, and that's another issue which takes a long time to respond. And
I think this year, we will see the Palestinian state officially sort of
being declared and accepted. The important thing is to make sure that we
have the constitution and the institutions of state and the separation of
powers and the democratic principles implemented, as well as the sovereignty
over all of the territories occupied in '67. That's the real question,
because Israel wants to dictate its own terms on what the Palestinian state
should be, its territorial domain, as well as the degree of sovereignty or
As far as Israeli public opinion is concerned, of course you don't have
consensus and of course you have many opinions. And I think it's split down
the middle. There are many anti-peace forces in Israel. There are extreme
fundamentalist elements in Israel who think that they have the power of life
and death over the Palestinians and should continue to do that. It's these
forces who assassinated Rabin, these forces who assassinated many others,
the many massacres of Palestinians killed daily by people who don't react to
them with the sort of tragic dimension that accompanies the killing of an
Israeli because of this double-standard assessment of human life, and, of
course, the desensitization and inurement when it comes to Palestinian life
What has to be done is to form a force for peace in Israel by having
public discourse and strategy and policy that would validate peace, that
would not, on the one hand, maintain the mentality of the occupier and the
racist mentality of control and domination, and at the same time claim that
they want to make peace and then try to distort the peace process to fit
conditions of occupation or conditions of control. This isn't going to
So while we have contributed to the formation of an Israeli public opinion
towards a peace strategy or a peace movement and we have been in dialogue
for a long time, at the same time there is a tremendous gap between the
decision-making, on the one hand, and public opinion on the other. And there
are serious internal fragmentations within Israeli public opinion.
To influence public opinion, you have to have the courage and the openness
to clearly state, as an Israeli leadership, what is needed to make peace.
You cannot, as they say, have your cake and eat it, too. You have to state
clearly that all territory occupied in '67 has to be restored to its owners,
that the substantive issues on permanent status agenda have to be resolved
on the basis of legality, foremost among which is the right of return, and
you have to be truthful with your constituency. You cannot mislead them into
And that is one of the serious shortcomings of the Israeli leadership.
is a crisis in leadership, and generally we find that both parties in
Israeli, both main parties -- there are many other parties -- generally are
competing on the terrain of extremism rather than on the language of peace.