For English,  please see below.

Størstedelen af de palæstinensiske flygtninge lever i dag i overfyldte enklaver og lejre hovedsageligt i Gazastriben, på Vestbredden og i nabolandene Jordan, Syrien og Libanon. Mange har stadig skøder og nøgler til de hjem, de er blevet fordrevet fra i 1948.

Som Eman Abdelhadi, en palæstinensisk flygtning fra den palæstinensiske diaspora fortæller fra sine barndomsminder: “Mine bedsteforældre boede i Jerusalem indtil 1948. De blev tvunget til at flygte. De troede virkelig, at de ville vende tilbage. Min bedstemor havde nøglen til hendes hus igennem hele hendes liv.” En anden palæstinensisk flygtning, Ramzy Baroud, mindes, hvordan hans bedstefar efter at være blevet fordrevet fra sin landsby, ville bære rundt på en lille håndholdt radio, lytte og vente på, at radioværten ville komme med den længe ventede meddelelse: “Til folket fra Beit Daras: Jeres land er befriet, gå tilbage til jeres landsby.” Den dag bedstefaren døde, lå den lille radio trofast på puden tæt ved hans øre.

Allerede i 1949 oprettede FN’s Generalforsamling i resolution 302 den såkaldte Hjælpe-agentur for palæstinensiske flygtninge, (UNRWA) med mandat til at beskytte og bistå palæstinensiske flygtninge fra krigen i 1948. Agenturet varetager serviceydelser som eksempelvis uddannelse, sundhedspleje, nødhjælp, samt infrastruktur og generelle forbedringer af flygtningelejre.

En palæstinensisk flygtning defineres ifølge UNRWA således: “en flygtning fra Palæstina er en person, hvis oprindelige opholdssted var Palæstina mellem juni 1946 og maj 1948, og som mistede både sit hjem og sin næringsvej på grund af den arabisk-israelske konflikt i 1948.” Efterkommere af mandlige palæstinensiske flygtninge, herunder lovligt adopterede børn, kan også registreres som palæstinensiske flygtninge under ovenstående definition.

Da agenturet begyndte sit virke i 1950 bistod det med hjælp til omkring 750.000 palæstinensiske flygtninge. I dag er ca. 5 millioner palæstinensiske flygtninge berettiget til UNRWA-tjenesteydelser. FN’s Generalforsamling har gentagne gange fornyet Agenturets mandat og for nylig forlænget det til juni 2020 på grund af en manglende løsning på det nu 70-årige flygtningeproblem.

Agenturet finansieres hovedsageligt gennem frivillige bidrag fra FNs medlemslande. I september 2018 annoncerede USA, agenturets største bidragyder, at landet ville stoppe alle økonomiske bidrag med den forklaring, at Agenturet var “uigenkaldeligt fejlbehæftet.” En talsmand fra agenturet, Chris Gunness afviste på det kraftigste kritikken og bemærkede, at UNRWA har vist sig at have skabt en af de mest succesfulde menneskelige udviklingsprocesser og resultater i Mellemøsten. Ifølge Ramzy Baroud, en palæstinensisk flygtning, der voksede op i Gaza og som har været elev på en af UNRWA-skolerne, fortsætter UNRWA på trods af sine utætte tage og andre mangler med både at være afgørende og uerstattelig for palæstinenserne.

Nøglen er med tiden blevet et symbol på palæstinensernes ret til at vende tilbage – en ret som bl.a. er stadfæstet i FN’s menneskerettighedserklæring, Artikel 13, som foreskriver: “Enhver har ret til at forlade et hvilket som helst land, herunder sit eget, og til at vende tilbage til sit eget land.”

Også i FN’s Generalforsamlings resolution 194, der blev vedtaget i 1948, giver verdenssamfundet udtryk for følgende: “flygtninge, der ønsker at vende tilbage til deres hjem og leve i fred med deres naboer, skal have lov til at gøre dette så tidligt som muligt.” Derudover havde de, de valgte ikke at vende tilbage desuden krav på erstatning fra de ansvarlige regeringer eller myndigheder for tab af eller skade på deres ejendom.

Ifølge den humanitære folkeret, helt specifikt den fjerde Genève-konventions artikel 49, erklæres det desuden, at evakuerede personer “skal føres tilbage til deres hjem, så snart fjendtlighederne i det pågældende område er ophørt.”

Selv besøg til Palæstina forhindres imidlertid af Israel. Ifølge det danske udenrigsministeriums rejsevejledning får danske statsborgere af palæstinensisk oprindelse, som er registreret hos de palæstinensiske myndigheder og derfor har et palæstinensisk rejsedokument eller et palæstinensisk ID-nummer normalt ikke lov til at rejse ind og ud via Ben Gurion lufthavnen. Dette gælder også, hvis danske palæstinensere forsøger at rejse ind i Israel på et dansk pas eller rejsedokument.

Det er imidlertid ikke kun dansk-palæstinensiske statsborgere, der kan risikere at blive nægtet indrejse. Hvis en studerende har udvist interesse i Mellemøsten og evt. tidligere besøgt et land i regionen, er det heller ikke sikkert, at Israel vil byde én velkommen. Sidst men ikke mindst, vil individer der har støttet eller fortsat støtter en form for boykot af Israel formentlig efter ny lovgivning vedtaget i marts i år, desuden blive nægtet indrejse.

Det er påfaldende, hvordan den israelske lov om ret til tilbagevenden fra 1950 giver hver jødisk person i verden ret til at opnå statsborgerskab i Israel – og dermed vende tilbage til et land, de måske endda aldrig har haft nogen form for tilknytning til.

77% af de 536 palæstinensiske landsbyer, som folk blev fordrevet fra i 1948, skulle aldrig være blevet bygget på og står således fortsat tomme – men palæstinenserne har endnu ikke fået lov til at vende tilbage – end ikke på besøg. Kardinal Renato Martino, formand for pavedømmets råd for migranter udtalte i 2007, at palæstinensiske flygtninge, “ligesom alle andre flygtninge har ret til at vende tilbage til deres hjemland.”

Retten til at vende tilbage afvises af israelerne af flere årsager. Hvis alle palæstinensiske flygtninge ville vælge at vende tilbage til deres hjemland, ville det skubbe den demografiske balance inden for Israels nuværende grænser, således at israelerne ville være i mindretal i deres egen stat. Desuden anses det at lukke “fjendtligt-sindede” palæstinensere ind som en sikkerhedstrussel. Ifølge den tidligere israelske justitsminister, Daniel Friedmann, udgør retten til at vende tilbage et eksistentielt problem for Israel: “Hvis disse ‘flygtninge’ vender tilbage til deres landområder, vil det føre til Israels ødelæggelse som en jødisk stat.” Et andet argument Israel fremfører er, at resolutioner udstedt af FN’s generalforsamlings, til trods for at de rigtignok afspejler det internationale samfunds vilje og syn, ikke udgør bindende juridiske dokumenter.

En ud af fire unge israelske jøder støtter imidlertid palæstinensernes ret til at vende tilbage – forudsat, at flygtningene vender tilbage under fredelige forhold. I en ny meningsmåling foretaget i 2018 responderede 25,9% af de adspurgte israelere mellem 18 og 34 år, at de støttede palæstinensernes ret til at vende tilbage. Meningsmålingen, som inkluderede 500 jødisk-israelske respondenter, viste desuden, at opbakningen blandt sekulære jøder var fire gange højere end den, man fandt blandt ultra-ortodokse jøder – 22,3 % af de sekulære jøder støttede palæstinensernes ret til at vende tilbage i modsætning til 5,2 % af de ultra-ortodokse jødiske respondenter.

Til trods for uoverensstemmelser blandt den palæstinensiske diaspora, bekræftede 5000 palæstinensere i Tyrkiet sidste år retten til at vende tilbage ved den første diaspora- konference, der har fundet sted nogensinde. Ved samme lejlighed blev der desuden oprettet en ny gruppe, der har til formål at repræsentere diaspora-samfundet.

Som Baroud afslutter: “For flygtningene er Palæstina så meget mere end et stykke jord; det er en evig kamp for retfærdighed – for dem, der døde langs eksilets støvede stier og for dem, der endnu ikke er født.”

Kilder:

  1. “Mellemøstkonflikten: Flygtningeproblemet, TV2 Nyheder, 17. november 2005, tilgængelig her.
  2. “12-year old dreams about being executed”, Institute for Middle East Understanding, 24. juni 2017, video tilgængelig her.
  3. “My Palestinian right to return is sacred”, Al Jazeera, 15. maj 2018, tilgængelig her.
  4. “Who we are?”, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, tilgængelig her.
  5. “US ends aid to Palestinian refugee agency UNWRA”, BBC News, 1. september 2018, tilgængelig her.
  6. “Palestine: Diary of an UNRWA kid”, by Ramzy Baroud, Al Jazeera, 22. september 2018, tilgængelig her.
  7. “Rejsevejledning – Israel”, det Danske Udenrigsministerium’s officielle hjemmeside, tilgængelig her.
  8. “Danmark rejser spørgsmål om afviste rejsende over for Israel”, Politiken, 13. september 2014, tilgængelig her.
  9. “Palestinian Citizens of Israel- A Primer”, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, tilgængelig her.
  10. “Return is possible”, Visualizing Palestine, infograf tilgængelig her.
  11. “Kardinal: Palæstinensiske flygtninge har ret til at vende tilbage”, Kristeligt Dagblad, 29. november 2007, tilgængelig her.
  12. “Ex-Mossad chief warns of ‘demographic threat’”, Times of Israel, 2016, tilgængelig her.
  13. “The only solution to the ‘right of return’”, by Daniel Friedmann, Ynetnews, 6. december 2017, tilgængelig her.
  14. “1 in 4 young Jewish Israelis support Palestinian right of return, new poll finds”, The Middle East Monitor, 20. april 2018, tilgængelig her.
  15. “Palestinian diaspora divided over right to return”, Al Jazeera, 16. marts 2017, tilgængelig her.
  16. “Palestinian diaspora creates new political entity”, Al Jazeera, 27. februar 2017, tilgængelig her.

  

Even as they deny me the right to return to my home country

The majority of Palestinian refugees live today in crowded enclaves and camps mainly in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and in the neighbouring countries of Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Many still hold the deeds and keys to their respective homes.

As Eman Abdelhadi, a Palestinian refugee living in the diaspora, recounts from her childhood memories: “My grandparents lived in Jerusalem up until 1948. They were forced to flee. They really thought they were going to go back. My grandmother had the key to her house for the rest of her life.’’ Another Palestinian refugee, Ramzy Baroud recalls how his grandfather after the displacement would carry around a small hand-held radio, listening and waiting for the announcer to issue that long-awaited call: “To the people of Beit Daras: your lands have been liberated, go back to your village.” The day Baroud’s grandfather died, his faithful radio was lying on the pillow close to his ear.

In 1949, the UN General Assembly created in resolution 302 the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees in the near East (UNRWA) with a mandate to protect and assist Palestinian refugees. The Agency provides services, among others, on education, health care, emergency assistance, camp infrastructure and improvement.

Palestinian refugees are defined as “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948, and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” The descendants of Palestinian refugee males, including legally adopted children, are also eligible for registration.

When the Agency began its operations in 1950, it was responding to the needs of about 750,000 Palestine refugees. Today, some 5 million Palestinian refugees are eligible for UNRWA services. The UN General Assembly has repeatedly renewed its mandate, most recently extending it to June 2020, due to the lack of a solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.

UNRWA is funded mainly through the voluntary contributions from UN member states. In September 2018 however, its funding prospects took a big hit as its largest contributor, the USA, announced it would cut all funds amounting to $364 million in 2017, claiming the UNWRA was “irredeemably flawed”. A spokesman from the Agency, Chris Gunness rejected in the strongest possible terms the criticism, noting that UNRWA has a proven track record in creating one of the most successful human development processes and results in the Middle East. According to Ramzy Baroud, a Palestinian refugee, who grew up in Gaza and attended UNRWA schools; “despite its leaky school roofs and stale bread, UNRWA was and remains essential and irreplaceable.”

With time, the key has become a symbol of the Palestinians’ right to return to their homeland – a right, which amongst others are to be found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 13, para. 2, which declares: “Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”

Also in the UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which was adopted in 1948, the world community declares: “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, 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.”

Even under international humanitarian law, specifically in Geneva Convention IV, Article 49, it is declared that evacuated persons “shall be transferred back to their homes as soon as hostilities in the area in question have ceased.”

Yet, even visits to Palestine is oftentimes denied by the Israeli authorities. According to the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Danish citizens of Palestinian origin, who are registered with the Palestinian authorities and thus have a Palestinian travel document or a Palestinian ID number, are usually not allowed to travel in and out via Ben Gurion airport. This also applies if Danish-Palestinian citizens try to travel to Israel on a Danish passport or travel document.

That being said, it is not only Danish-Palestinian citizens who may be denied entry. If a student with no affiliations to Palestine has shown interest in the Middle East and has previously visited a country in the region, it is likewise uncertain whether the Israeli authorities will allow the individual entry into the country. Last but not least, as we have already covered, individuals who have publicly supported a boycott of Israel will most likely be denied entry as well.

Strikingly, the Israeli law entitled “The Law of Return” from 1950 gives every Jewish person in the world the right to obtain citizenship in Israel – and thus “return” or perhaps more accurately, move to a country, they may never have had any connection to.

77% of 536 Palestinian villages should never have been built on and therefore to this day, remain empty – but the Palestinians are still waiting for permission to return. Cardinal Renato Martino, chairman of the papacy council for migrants, stated at in 2007 that Palestinian refugees, “like all other refugees, have the right to return to their homeland.”

The right to return is rejected by the Israeli government for several reasons. First, it would push the demographic balance within Israel’s current borders so that the Israelis would be a minority in their own state. Moreover, it is viewed as a security threat to allow “hostile” Palestinians inside of Israel. In the view of the former Israeli Minister of Justice, Daniel Friedmann, the right to return represents an existential problem to Israel: ”If these “refugees” return into its boundaries, it will lead to Israel’s destruction as a Jewish state.” Another argument is that the UN General Assembly resolutions, although reflecting the will and view of the international community, does not constitute binding legal documents.

Yet, one in four young Israeli Jews actually support the Palestinians’ right to return, provided the refugees return in peaceful conditions. In a new poll, Israelis between the ages of 18 and 34 were found to support the right of return at a particularly high rate: 25.9 per cent. The poll, which included 500 Jewish Israeli respondents, found that support by secular Jews for the right of return was four times higher than that by ultra-Orthodox Jews – 22.3 per cent as opposed to 5.2 per cent.

Amid disagreements within the Palestinian diaspora, 5000 Palestinians nevertheless asserted the right to return at the first ever diaspora conference, which was held in Istanbul, Turkey last year. At the same event, a new group was established to represent diaspora communities and strive for greater Palestinian rights.

As Baroud, the Palestinian refugee residing in Gaza points out: “For the refugees, Palestine is so much more than a piece of earth; it is a perpetual fight for justice – in the name of those who died along the dusty trails of exile and those who are yet to be born.”

Sources:

  1. “Mellemøstkonflikten: Flygtningeproblemet, TV2 Nyheder, 17 November 2005, available here (only in Danish).
  2. “12-year old dreams about being executed”, Institute for Middle East Understanding, 24 June 2017, available here.
  3. “My Palestinian right to return is sacred”, Al Jazeera, 15 May 2018, available here.
  4. “Who we are?”, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, available here.
  5. “US ends aid to Palestinian refugee agency UNWRA”, BBC News, 1 September 2018, available here.
  6. “Palestine: Diary of an UNRWA kid”, by Ramzy Baroud, Al Jazeera, 22 September 2018, available here.
  7. “Rejsevejledning – Israel”, det Danske Udenrigsministerium’s officielle hjemmeside, available here (only in Danish).
  8. “Danmark rejser spørgsmål om afviste rejsende over for Israel”, Politiken, 13 September 2014, available here (only in Danish).
  9. “Palestinian Citizens of Israel- A Primer”, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, available here.
  10. “Return is possible”, Visualizing Palestine, infographic available here.
  11. “Vatican Official: Palestinian Refugees Have Right To Return”, The Jerusalem Post, 28 November 2007, available here.
  12. “Ex-Mossad chief warns of ‘demographic threat’”, Times of Israel, available here.
  13. “The only solution to the ‘right of return’”, by Daniel Friedmann, Ynetnews, 6 December 2017, available here.
  14. “1 in 4 young Jewish Israelis support Palestinian right of return, new poll finds”, The Middle East Monitor, 20 April 2018, available here.
  15. “Palestinian diaspora divided over right to return”, Al Jazeera, 16 March 2017, available here.
  16. “Palestinian diaspora creates new political entity”, Al Jazeera, 27 February 2017, available here.