The Palestinian refugees today number nearly 8 million from a global Palestinian population of 12 million. The first wave of refugees, numbering 750,000, comprise of those who were exepelled or fled the violence prior to, durigng and after the 1948 War to create a state for Jews in Palestine. They and their descendants are often reffered to the "1948 refugees".
In 1927, an additional 200,000 Palestinian fled their homes in West Bank and the Gaza Strip when Israel launched a war against Jordan and Egypt, capturing and occupying the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip. They and their descendents are often referred to as the "1967 displaced person".
Neither the 1948 refugees nor the 1967 displaced persons have been allowed by Israel to return to their homes in what is now Israel and the occupied Palestinian Territories.
How did they become refugees?
Like all refugees, the palestinians left their homes out of fear for their safety due to the military attacks.
Many fled due to direct military assaults on their towns and villages, others were forcibly expelled by Zionist forces.
Massacresof palestinian civilians created an atmosphere of fear that understandably caused many palestinians to seek safety arab refugee elsewhere.
The most famous massacre occurred in Deir Yassin, where, by most conservative estimates, jews murdered more than 100 palestinian men, women and children.
Israelis understandable have a difficult time accepting that the creation of Israel came at the expense of the indigenous palestinians, who were dispossessed of their homeland and properties.
Consequently,Israel perpetuates a number of myths with respect to the causes of the palestinian refugee crisis, including; Arab armies ordered the palestinian refugees to fee; Arab radio broadcasts ordered the palestinian to leave, palestinians do not originally come from palestine, and that the refugee crisis was the result of a war started by Arabs.
These myths have been debunked not only by newspaper reports, UN documents and palestinian sources, but also by Israeli historians such as llan pappe and Benny morris. most important, even if such theories were true, none negates the palestinian right of return: under international law, refugees have the right to return regardless of the circumstances by which they became refugees.
Palestinian refugees: Q and A
No settlement can be just and complete if recognition is not accorded to the right of the Arab refugee to return to the home from which he has been dislodged ... it would be an offence against the principles of elemental justice if these innocent victims of the conflict were denied the right to return to their homes while jewish immigrantes flow into palestine, offer the threat of permanent replacement of the Arab refugees who have been rooted in the land for centuries.
How many palestinian refugees are there?
Today, are the original refugees and their descendants are estimated to number nearly 8 million and constitute the world's oldest and largest refugee population, making up more than one quarter of the entire refugee population in the world.
- 4.7 million 1948 refugees who are registered with the UNRWA
- 2 million 1948 refugees who are not registered
- 1.5 million 1967 displaced persons
- 500.000 internally displaced within the borders of Israel.
Why are there palestinian refugees in Israel?
In 1948 approximately 32.000 palestinians left their homes but remained within the borders of Israel. these palestinians have never been allowed to return to their homes and villages in Israel, despite the fact that they are Israeli citizens .
Their homes like the homes of others Palestinian refugees, were either demolished or given to jews.
What happened to the property of the palestinian refugees?
Following the 1948 war,approximately 675 palestinian villages and towns were destroyed or resettled by jews in an attempt to erase any evidence of the palestinians in their land.
many destroyed palestinian villages were rebuilt as jewish towns and given hebrew names.
Where do the palestinian refugees live?
Palestinian refugees live around the world, thought most live within 100 kilometres of Israel's borders. Nearly half of the refugees, 4 million, live in jordan, 2.5 million in the occupied palestinian territories (west Bank and Gaza) and approximately 1,5 million live in Syria and Lebanon. An additional 500.000 live Israel. The remainder live scattered around the world, primarily in Arabic countries, Europe and the Americas.
Do the palestinian refugees have the right to return to their homes and lands?
Yes. Under international law, civilians fleeing a war are entitled to return to their homes. This right is embodied in:
- UN resolution 194 (passed on 11 December 1948 and reaffirmed every year since 1948):the (palestinian) refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to de so at the earliest practicable date ,and the 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 universal declaration of human rights article 13.2 (everyone has the right to leave any country ,including his own ,and to return to his country)
- The international convention on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination art. 5,d,ii, states parties undertake to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimina -tion in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distincation as to race, color, or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of the...the right to leave any country, including one's own, and to return to one's country.
The international covenant on civil and political rights:
No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country .(Article 12(4).
international practice: in Bosnia, East Timor, Kosovo, and Rwanda refugees have had their right of return honored. In Kosovo, the right of return was considered a "non-negotiable" issue.
Why are the Palestinian refugees not able to practice their right not return to their homes?
Because Israel prevents by all means Palestinian refugees from returning to their homes. In deed Israel refuses to abide by international law with respect to the rights of the indigenous population. Israel defines itself as a "Jewish state" and Palestinian refugees are Muslims and Christians. Jews from all over the world and even converts to Judaism are allowed to immigrate to Israel under the "Law of Return" but in a clear demonstration of religious/ethnic discrimination, the indigenous Palestinian Muslim and Christian populations are banned from returning to their homes.
Why can't the host countries simply absorb the Palestinian refugees ?
Because the Palestinian refugees are not from the host countries: they are from palestine and have the legal right to return to their homes. While many countries have granted Palestinian refugees full citizenship, acquiring rights in another country does not negate a refugee's right to return home.
What has the international community done about the Palestinian refugees?
From a legal point of view the international community has supported the Palestinian right of the return and a lot of resolutions and decisions were voted to confirm this right. The United Nations has also created United Nations Relief and work Agency (UNRWA) which is the primary relief organization responsible for the welfare of the refugees. Nevertheless, the international community has failed to take any concrete measures to force lsrael to abide by international law and allow the refugees to return.
Can't the Palestinian refugee crisis be resolved through financial compensation to alleviate the poverty?
The term "refugee" does not refer to economic status, it is a legal status: financially successful refugees who have obtained citizenships in other countries are still refugees and still have the right to return. In addition to their right of return, all Palestinian refugees have a right to compensation for their losses and years of suffering.
How can the 63-years of the Palestinian refugees suffering be resolved?
There can be no valid solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict without honouring the rights of Palestinian refugees. Palestinian refugees must be allowed to exercise their right of return.
How was the issue of refugees addressed in negotiations with Israel?
At the negotiations Israel continued to press for an abandonment of the right of return. Palestinians should not be the first people in the history forced to abandon their right of return.