As the last two decades have shown, concession of fundamental rights is not the road to peace and reconciliation. Under Oslo Palestinian Authority compromised their inalienable rights to no avail.
At the core of Palestinian cause is justice for Palestinian refugees including the Right of Return of all refugees who were forcibly expelled from their homes. Many shameful attempts were made by Israel and America to suppress the just cause of the refugees by settling them in their Diaspora or proposing to allow not more than 150,000 to return not to their original homes but the future Palestinian state in Gaza and West Bank. Previous attempts to dissolve the right of return were proposed by Mark Etheridge, at Lausanne Conference, Gordon R. Clapp and many others. But all failed and Palestinian refugees in the camps remain resolute in their desire to return.
Bluntly speaking, Palestinian Authority –through its officials- implicitly affirmed a fair and just solution to the refugee issue without any reference to the rights of the refugees as stated under international law, and without any frame of reference to suggest what justice for refugees constitutes. This misconceived position leaves an inalienable right of the Palestinian people subject to a process of unequal and unfair negotiations.
BDS Movement and Mission Statement Change
Contrastingly, civil organisations and solidarity movements are closer to Palestinian rights. However few have adopted the PA track of two-state solution based on 1967 borders, which in my view has damaged the – one state solution, is the most appropriate way out for peace– cause of peace and justice in Palestine. It should be clear to any movement or active organisations that their struggle should be built only on the basic rights of Palestinian people. There should be no wavering of rights of the Palestinian people by organizations claiming to stand up for justice for the Palestinians.
It is noticeable that the BDS movement is achieving a resounding success in isolating Israeli apartheid. The movement is drawing assimilation between Israeli apartheid and the South Africa which is totally valid.
Looking at the BDS website, the movement seems to have compromised the most fundamental of Palestinian rights: In an entirely underhanded way the BDS National Committee had changed the wording of its mission statement from
The interpretation of the change is very essential. Without doubt, the un-amended version seeks to end occupation and colonization of all Arab lands, which explicitly include the 1948 lands and by extension includes the plight of Palestinians refugees expelled from their lands in 1948. However this dramatic change positions the BDS movement closer to Israel without bridging the gap between current reality and future peace. The change is also contradicting facts on the ground. Limiting the struggle to 1967 aims to achieving a two-state solution which is already lifeless! The BDS struggle should be based on the principals of inalienable rights of the Palestinians without compromising them through an imagined political end.
The movement also stated it is founded on, “Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.”
UN Resolution 194 which appears encouraging and favorable to many is, as interpreted by Israel, vague on the issue of return other. The resolution states, in article 11, “Resolves that 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”
Resolution 194 and the Right of Return
The mechanism of the return of refugees here seems to be very broad. Stating, “should be permitted to do so” can be interpreted in various way. There is no clear indication to which party belongs the power of permitting them back. Is it Israel? Israelis interpret the resolution as non-binding and that it doesn’t oblige them to allow refugees to return. Here you can read more on how Israel blank read the resolution
Resolution 194 cannot be read in isolation as Israel does but must be taken in consideration with all other related declarations and the whole body of International law which includes Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
A popular resistance like the BDS should not be advocating such ambiguity but instead should be absolutely clear about justice and human rights and at the least position itself closer to the Palestinian people. The BDS movement should match the aspirations of us, the Palestinians and not cower to outside pressure. As a Palestinian, I think Palestinian refugees will only be satisfied with BDS if it repositions itself to the inalienable rights of Palestinians instead of wilting under pressure.
A better formulation of the BDS movement’s position stated unambiguously would be to change from “Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties” as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in article 13(b) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which states: "Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country."
There should be a clear position from those who are leading the BDS movement. They should be explicit and unequivocal in their position regarding Palestinian refugees. On what basis has this change been made? More shockingly, the Arabic and Palestinian public are not aware of this dramatic shift. The change had been made on the English language and for Western audiences only. This raises a number of questions, why? Why now? Under what pressure has this change been made? And what mandate you have to do so?
This article is meant to clarify the misunderstanding around this topic. BDS should be clear about its mission statement. It is not meant as an attack against BDS, as I’m a firm believer of its actions and performance. It’s the only way to expose Israel and show its real apartheid nature.
by Sameh Habeeb