Monday, 6 April 2009

Paris hosts second conference on Palestinian right of return

Paris hosts second conference on Palestinian right of return

Date: 06 / 04 / 2009 Time: 11:41
Paris – Ma’an Report – The French capital hosted a second international conference on the right of return of Palestinian refugees on 28 and 29 March, organized by a twinning committee for refugee camps and French towns.

Palestinian refugees from camps in the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria attended the conference. A delegation representing Gaza's camps was invited, but failed to attend the conference due to the Israeli siege on the coastal strip.

Several parliamentarians from France and other European countries took part in the conference, as well as mayors of French cities that have twinning agreements with refugee camps in Palestine and in the Diaspora.

Head of the twinning committee Fernand Tuil and his Palestinian counterpart Ahmad Muheisin delivered speeches opening the conference in the Seine-Saint-Denis suburb of Paris, which was followed by remarks from the Palestinian ambassador to France, Hind Khouri, and a French lawmaker representing Seine-Saint-Denis, Patrick Braouezec.

One of the events during the first day was a lecture by Safwat Bregheith, a professor of international law and consultant within the Palestinian Embassy to France. He discussed the legal status of Palestinian refugees, as well as international resolutions that guarantee refugees’ right to return to their villages and cities from which they were forcibly displaced.

Head of the Committee for True Peace in the Middle East Mauruce Buttin gave a legal interposition in which he compared the case of Palestinian refugees to other similar cases in the world, such as in Kosovo, highlighting that "the world was willing to focus on that issue when pressed." He thus demanded a similar attitude toward Palestinian refugees and their just cause. He explained that the case of Palestinian refugees is humanitarian and that it cannot "be changed or forgotten through imposing de facto force, as Israel has been doing." He compared Israel to a "thief" who has stolen something, and must eventually "return the property he stole to its legal owner, sooner or later."

The evening session was opened with a speech by Bosion, the mayor of Montataire, which was the first French commune to establish a twinning agreement with a Palestinian refugee camp, Ad-Duheisha camp near Bethlehem, 20 years ago. The speaker emphasized that the right of return is an "inalienable right for Palestinian refugees," and that France and Europe should continue to move in that direction and support refugees inside Palestine and in the Diaspora. He maintained that new twinning agreements should be established between French cities and Palestinian refugee camps.

Another speech was delivered by Pascal Boniface, a doctor of international law and director of the International Strategic Relations Institute in Paris. He tackled western countries' participation in the "tyranny against the Palestinians committed in the name of law." Then, representatives of refugee camps in the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan gave interpositions explaining their understanding of the right of return before they discussed with the audience life conditions in refugee camps.

The first day was concluded by dialogue on refugees with French parliamentarians. European Union members Fracis Wurtz and Luisa Morgantini from Italy took part in the discussion, as well as Halima Boumediene, member of the French House of Commons, and the mayor of Chaby, Michel Francaix.

The second day of the conference included discussions about twinning between French communes and Palestinian refugee camps. Mayors of communes who had twinning agreements and representatives of refugee camps discussed their experiences in that field.

The conference closed by tackling a new experience for solidarity with the Palestinian people. Chief editor of French newspaper La Monité, Patrick Le Hyaric, talked about the newspaper’s experience in showing solidarity with the Palestinian people. Other speakers also shared their experiences.

The last event at the conference was a speech by Palestinian Ambassador to France Hind Khouri, who asserted "the inalienability of the Palestinian right to resist occupation and liberate Palestinian lands," as well as the right of return of refugees forcibly displaced from their villages and cities.

***Fouad Al-Lahham is a journalist and Hebrew translator at Ma'an News Agency in Bethlehem. His article was originally written in Arabic and translated into English by Ma'an's English Department.


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