Palestine Refugees: More than 50 years of injustice
Nader Abuljebain
Feb. 23, 2000

 The Palestine refugee problem is the oldest and largest refugee problem. It
has been on the agenda of the United Nations since its inception. For five
decades the Palestine refugees have endured great injustice and hardships
after having been uprooted from their homes and forced to live in Diaspora,
deprived of minimum human and national rights. Their plight is considered to
be one of the most difficult and complex issues. Clearly, a just solution to
the question of Palestine cannot be achieved without a just solution to the
issue of the Palestinian refugees.
The question of Palestine refugees involves a number of complex interrelated
elements of great importance, including historical, political, moral,
emotional and socio-economic elements, which cannot be ignored and must be
Following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, approximately
750,000 Palestinians (almost half of the Palestinian population) were forced
to leave their homes. Among the main reasons for this huge exodus of
Palestinians from their homes, lands, properties and livelihood were the
outbreak of war, the forced eviction of Palestinians and the violent campaign
of terror and fear waged by Zionist terrorist groups.
The value of refugee movable property plus land owned by Arabs taken over by
the Israeli government was estimated at approximately 120 million 1947 pounds
sterling, or about 18.5 billion 1990 U.S dollars.

After the outbreak of the war in 1967, another 325,000 Palestinians from the
West Bank and Gaza Strip were forced to flee their homes, many for the second
time. A systematic policy of deportation and forced migration continued for
several years after the war with an annual average of 21,000 Palestinians
leaving the occupied Palestinian territories, prevented from returning.
Today the number of Palestinian refugees totals approximately 4.9 million
persons, of which 3.6 million are registered with the United Nations Relief
and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). The largest
concentration of Palestinian refugees is in Jordan, representing more than
40% of those refugees registered with UNRWA, and the refugees in the Occupied
Palestinian Territories, including Jerusalem, represent 38% of UNRWA's
registration. Lebanon and Syria each host about 10% of the registered
refugees and the remainder live in Egypt and other Arab countries, while
others have migrated to Europe, the United States, Canada and South America.
Israel has systematically blocked the return of the Palestinian refugees in
blatant violation of early United Nations resolutions and despite the
commitments it made before the U.N. when it was admitted as a State Member of
that world body. In fact, Israel's intentions were clearly manifested from
the very beginning. When the new Jewish State enacted a number of laws
blocking any possible return of the Palestinian refugees, including, the
"Abandoned Areas Ordinance" (1948), "Emergency Regulations concerning the
Cultivation of Waste Lands" (1949), "The Absentees' Property Law" (1950) and
"Land Acquisition Law" (1953). Under such laws, Israel "legalized" the
expropriation of Arab land property, some of which even belonged to several
Palestinians who had remained in their homes.
At the same time, Israel had enacted the "Law of Return", allowing any Jewish
person, regardless of place of birth, origin or nationality to immigrate to
Israel and to acquire automatic Israeli citizenship. Since then, Jewish
immigrants have continued to come to Israel and have been living on the land
and property of the Palestinian refugees. According to the U.N. Conciliation
Commission for Palestine, over 80% of Israel's total area represent abandoned
Arab lands. Most of the Jewish communities established between 1948 and 1953
were established on former Arab property. Further over 500 villages and large
parts of 94 other towns and cities, including most of their shops and
businesses, were taken under Jewish control.
There have been numerous U.N. resolutions regarding the Palestine refugees,
two of which are fundamental resolutions considered to be the basis for any
just and lasting solution of the plight of the 1948 refugees and the 1967
displaced Palestinians. The first is General Assembly resolution 194 (III),
which was adopted on 11 December 1948 and has been endorsed annually since
then. Resolution 194 (III), inter alia, "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 authorities responsible."
The second is Security Council resolution 237 (1967), adopted on 14 June
1967, which calls upon the Government of Israel " to facilitate the return of
those inhabitants who have fled the areas since the outbreak of hostilities."
Since then the Security Council has adopted numerous resolutions reaffirming
the basic and inalienable right of the Palestinian refugees to return to
their homes. Affirming the applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention of
1949 to the terrorizes occupied since 1967, including Jerusalem, as well as
resolutions condemning Israel's expulsion and deportations of Palestinians,
such as resolution 799 (1992). Another important Security Council resolution
is resolution 242 (1967), since it has been the basis of all Arab-Israeli
peace talks and agreements. Resolution 242, adopted on 22 November 1967,
emphasizes " the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" and
affirms the necessity for achieving a just settlement of the refugee problem."
Every year the international community, through the United Nations General
Assembly, reaffirms its call for the implementation of resolutions 194 (III)
and 237 (1967). These resolutions should form the legal and political basis
for any solution of the problem of the 1948 refugees and the 1967 displaced
The General Assembly Resolutions Reaffirming G.A.Res194 (III) and confirming
32/40A              02 DEC 1977
33/28a              07 DEC 1978
34/65A              29 NOV 1979
35/69A              15 DEC 1980
36/120              10 DEC 1981
37/86A              10 DEC 1982
37/86F              10 DEC 1982
38/58C              13 DEC 1983
39/49A              11 DEC 1984
40/96A              12 DEC 1985
41/43               02 DEC 1986
42/66A              02 DEC 1987
43/167              15 DEC 1988
43/177              15 DEC 1988
44/41A              06 DEC  1989
44/42               06 DEC  1989
45/67               06 DEC 1990
46/47A              11 DEC 1991
47/64A              11 DEC 1992
48/158A         20 DEC 1993
49/62A              14 DEC 1994
50/12A              15 DEC 1995
51/82               16 DEC 1996
52/114              12 DEC 1997
53/136              09 DEC 1998
54/115              01 DEC 1999
The General Assembly Resolutions Reaffirming the RESTITUTION OF THE RIGHTS OF
 302/4              08 DEC 1949
 303/4              09 DEC 1949
 393/5              10 DEC 1950
 394/5              14 DEC 1950
512/6               26 JAN 1952
513/6               26 JAN 1952
 614/7              06 NOV 1952
 20A/8              27 NOV 1953
 818/9              04 DEC 1954
 16/10                  03 DEC 1955
1018/12             28 FEB 1957
1191/12             12 DEC 1957
1315/13             12 DEC 1958
1456/14             09 DEC 1959
1604/15             21 APR 1961
1725/16             20 DEC 1961
1856/17             20 DEC 1962
1912/18             03 DEC 1963
2052/20             15 DEC 1965
2154/21             17 NOV 1966
2341A/22            19 DEC 1967
2452A/23            19 DEC 1968
2452B/23            19 DEC 1968
2535A/24            10 DEC 1969
2672A/25            08 DEC 1970
2792A/26            06 DEC 1971
2963A/27            13 DEC 1972
3089B/28            03 DEC 1973
3331A/29            17 SEP 1974
3419B/30            08 DEC 1975
31/15A              23 NOV 1976
32/90A              13 DEC 1977
33/112A         18 DEC 1978
34/52A              23 NOV 1979
35/13               03 NOV 1980
36/146C         16 DEC 1981
37/120K         16 DEC 1982
38/83A              15 DEC 1983
39/99A              14 DEC 1984
40/165A         16 DEC 1985
41/69A              16 DEC 1986
42/69A              02 DEC 1987
43/57A              06 DEC 1988
44/47A              08 DEC  1989
45/73A              11 DEC 1990
46/46               09 DEC 1991
47/69A              14 DEC 1992
48/40A              10 DEC 1993
49/35A              09 DEC 1994
50/26A              06 DEC 1995
51/120              13 DEC 1996
52/62               10 DEC 1997
53/51               03 DEC 1998
54/74               06 DEC 1999