Sunday, 11 September 2011

The UN bid through the eyes of a Palestinian refugee


Palestinian refugee Mudalala Akel, 86, still holds the keys to her family's
home in what is now Israel.
[MaanImages/Wissam Nasser, File]By Nizar El Laz

Published Wednesday 07/09/2011 (updated) 08/09/2011 01:49

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon living in and outside the camps have always dreamt of being a part of the state of Palestine.

I have dreamed of participating in the first and the second intifada, in the peaceful protests against the apartheid wall, and in the daily struggle against the occupation in the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza as much as I have dreamed of being raised in my homeland and as much as I’ve continuously been hoping for a chance to visit Palestine.

I have also wished that President Abbas would visit some of the camps to see the drastic situation refugees are living in Lebanon instead of only looking to raise the Palestinian flag on the embassy of the state newly recognized by Lebanon. A major question is being raised amongst the refugees’ population in Lebanon: What will be our future?

The major and primary concern a refugee like myself has, faced with the formulation and declaration of the state of Palestine, is the drastic dilemma which will soon face the six million refugees around the world; leaving them with a state that shares the same name as their place of origin but to which they neither legally or physically belong to.

In 2009, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad declared the two-year plan for the establishment of the state of Palestine on the 1967 territories. Since then, as a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon, my doubts for being a part of the new order have increased. Lately, an additional reason for my concern was added to the Oslo Accords, Camp David, Road map, Geneva Accords, and many other leaks: the request of recognition of the state of Palestine in the UN.

Although strategies and plans have already been implemented by Fayyad on the Palestinian ground to prepare institutions to take over the occupied territories from a public governance perspective, little emphasis has been placed on the Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

Countries around the globe are recognizing the state of Palestine within the borders of the June 4, 1967, but where does this leave the 7.5 million Palestinian outside the 1967 territories including the approximate 1.4 million Arab Israelis? How will they be represented? Will they be naturalized in their hosting countries? How will their host countries treat them?

And how will the seven points of the final agreement be solved between the state of Palestine and the state of Israel?

Those are but a few of the questions that have remained unanswered, leaving Palestinians all over the world questioning their status quo, and wondering what will become of their current identity. Apart from the refugees in Gaza and the West Bank, the rest of the Palestinian refugees will not enjoy the right to citizenship in the future state of Palestine, and will therefore be deprived of all rights to their land and state protection which they used to legally enjoy under the PLO.

We as the Palestinian diaspora are certainly heading towards the unknown, approaching the strand of hope we had of claiming the rights the Palestinian National Movement had given us. Everything the movement has established over the history of the Palestinian struggle will most certainly be lost by demolishing the PLO which has long been the only representative of the whole Palestinian population.

Many other questions also arise in light of the current events. What will happen to the PLO? Although it is corrupt and requires urgent restructuring and organizational development, and does not actually protect the rights of the Palestinian refugees or Arab Israelis as it should, it still does hold legitimacy since it is an organization that has been recognized by the UN since 1974.

Why should this historical backbone be taken away from the Palestinians? How will my family in Akka be represented by the Palestinian state?

In return, what will their legal position and commitment be towards the state of Palestine knowing that they hold Israeli citizenship, which is not guaranteed because their citizenships can and might be revoked any day by the Israeli government which openly discriminates between Arab-Israelis and Jewish-Israelis.

What gave the Palestinian leadership the right to decide on behalf of all Palestinian refugees around the world what will be happening to us and to our futures? How will the people exert the right to self determination granted to the PLO if it is replaced by the State of Palestine?
As a Palestinian refugee, who has only ever been represented by the corrupt Palestine Liberation Organization, which has never given me as a refugee the chance to vote, audit or evaluate its governance or decision making strategies, I still prefer to be recognized by it rather than becoming naturalized in another country and losing the right to return to my land of origin.

We as refugees in Lebanon proved on May 15, when we marched to the Lebanon -historical Palestine borders, that nothing will stand between us and our rights in our homeland.

It took me a long time to reach a stand from the plans of a new Palestinian state, but by now I am sure it is a trap to dissolve the Palestinian people and the Palestinian cause.

As a refugee in Lebanon, I don’t want a state that does not associate me as a Palestinian refugee in its future plans. I don’t want a state that does not protect my right of presentation. I don’t want a diplomatic step that attempts to solve a complicated conflict from the shallow end of the conflict, ignoring the source and the main core of the problem.

I don’t accept to be driven to a deeper unknown and a deeper sense of isolation from my Palestinian roots.

From the Arab spring, the Palestinian leadership should learn the right lesson; the lesson that the will of the people and the right of the people should be respected and preserved or the continuity of their positions will not be guaranteed.

President Abbas, do you hold a fair, convincing and just answer for our worries?

Nizar El Laz is a human rights activist in the Palestinian community in Lebanon

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